- But even as the proposed law has angered the NRM leadership in Parliament, particularly with clauses that affect the election of commissioners, it will be the major Opposition party that will be most affected by changes in the new law.
- lucrative. Right through Dr Kizza Besigye to Gen Mugisha Muntu and Patrick Amuriat, FDC presidents have used the privilege to send their trusted lieutenants to coveted positions while keeping away MPs that do not tow in their direction.
A portent mix of a clash of egos, jostling for positions and a fractured Opposition has birthed a controversial amendment to the Administration of Parliament Act, 2019, that has kicked up a storm at the House and set Opposition MPs against each other.
Talk about the amendment started gathering storm in December when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) re-appointed MPs Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers), Peter Ogwang (Usuk County) and Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro District) as back-bench members of the Parliamentary Commission.
The trio were selected by NRM’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) with Parliament not having any influence in the process, as has always been the case, only that this time the script had changed.
Although it has always been the tradition that the party’s CEC decides who the commissioners should be, it has been an accident waiting to happen, as MPs have often quietly voiced misgivings about the process that gives the party power to appoint commissioners with no room left for Parliament to have a say in the entire process.
Typically, the appointment of commissioners has always been straightforward and it was expected that Speaker Rebecca Kadaga would automatically make an announcement in the House endorsing the changes, but that declaration was never made and that was the first signal that all is not well.
MPs have been clandestinely campaigning against the appointments of commissioners by CEC on grounds that it is not democratic and though Kadaga made the decision not to endorse their reappointment premised on legal grounds, there was more to it than the legal gymnastics.
MPs familiar with the process that led to cancellation of the reappointment of NRM’s choice of commissioners say bad blood has been brewing between some commissioners and Speaker Kadaga over disparate issues.
During one heated Parliament Commission meeting, Ms Kadaga was not amused when two commissioners strongly opposed her proposal to reprimand a director at Parliament whom she wanted punished apparently for offending the Public Service Standing Orders.
With the NRM commissioners refusing to back her, it was perfect payback time when Busiiro East MP Medard Ssegona questioned the legality of the appointing commissioners, rather than electing them.
Commissioners are lucrative positions that come with additional perks like consolidated allowances running into Shs10m per month, a vehicle, a secretariat and furnished offices.
Commissioners are also very influential in the recruitment processes at Parliament where jobs are some of the most sought after postings in the country; making such appointments more powerful.
Kadaga’s ruling that Parliament Commissioners will be elected, annoyed both Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Betty Aol and the Opposition Chief Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda.
Ms Nankabirwa, who is unhappy with the Bill, has insinuated that the new law seems to be “targeting” the ongoing process by NRM to re-appoint commissioners.
“This Bill concerns how parties are going to be administered in Parliament. It concerns the running of parties in Parliament. When we rush, it will be like we are targeting the current exercise in this Parliament,” Ms Nankabirwa said in Parliament, referring to the ongoing process of reshuffling commissioners and advising the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to carefully handle the Bill, without unnecessary haste.
This Bill will also further test the delicate relationship between Ms Kadaga and Ms Nankabirwa, with the two principals having publicly clashed over special sittings at Parliament that saw the Speaker warn the Government Chief Whip not to direct Parliament.
But even as the proposed law has angered the NRM leadership in Parliament, particularly with clauses that affect the election of commissioners, it will be the major Opposition party that will be most affected by changes in the new law.
The Bill will remove the powers of appointing a Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Opposition Chief Whip, and Deputy Opposition Chief Whip from FDC and to open the processes to elections where all Opposition MPs will participate as voters.
There are also new grounds of removing a Leader of Opposition. These are the sections that have angered the FDC leadership in Parliament.
Appointments to these lucrative positions in Parliament have since 2005 been used by successive FDC party presidents to reward allies and punish dissenters and attempts to prise away this privilege have not gone down well with officials in Najjanakumbi.
Right through Dr Kizza Besigye to Gen Mugisha Muntu and Patrick Amuriat, FDC presidents have used privilege to send their trusted lieutenants to coveted positions while keeping away MPs that do not tow the line.
Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ocan says under the current arrangement, the party president of the major party in Opposition is empowered; as the president has to make appointments to these rewarding positions, a privilege that will be stripped by the new Bill.
“There is need to empower the party president to have a bit of power through the LoP. Already Opposition has challenges as the space is very restricted. They can’t now want to restrict the space even in Parliament,” Ms Ocan says.
MP Ssegona, the architect behind the Bill, says FDC should not be concerned because the Bill will affect the next Parliament but insists that it is meant to enhance democracy.
“If you have a Speaker elected, Deputy Speaker elected. Why wouldn’t you have a Leader of Opposition elected by those concerned? It’s all about enhancing democracy in the country. Pupils as early as Primary One elect class leaders and you tell me that Parliament, which is at the highest level of democracy, can’t elect its leaders,” Mr Ssegona says.
KEY CONTROVERSIAL SECTIONS
1.The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition shall be elected by MPs of the parties in Opposition to the government.
2.The party in opposition to government having the greatest numerical strength in Parliament shall nominate at least three Members for the Leader of the Opposition and at least three Members for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from whom the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Opposition shall be elected.