Inside Parliament’s move to reject extension of term of office

A recommendation by the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to have the tenure of all elective offices extended to seven years has met stiff resistance from Members of Parliament.

In its report on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 sponsored by Hon Wilfred Niwagaba (Independent, Ndorwa East), the Committee had sought to interest government in considering the idea of extending terms from five to seven years, a proposal that has since rattled the public.

“It is the considered opinion of the Committee that the term of five years is insufficient for the implementation of the manifesto in order to have a meaningful impact on the development of the country,” notes the Committee report in part.

It continues: “we recommend that the government commences the process of increasing the term of all political offices from five years to seven years, which is in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and should not apply to the Parliament in which the proposal is effected.”

The proposal excited a section of the media and civil society, which took to social media to maul the Committee with severe criticism, saying it is a ploy to extend the term of Parliament for seven years.

Committee Chairperson, Hon Jacob Marksons Oboth has faced stern criticism from MPs opposed to the proposal.

But MP Francis Mwijukye (FDC, Buhweju), was unmoved.

“What you are seeing are attempts to lead us into temptation (sic); we should not be led into temptation by the Committee led by Oboth Oboth,” he said.

West Budama North MP, Hon Richard Othieno said the proposal should be rejected, but Oboth Oboth was quick to rejoinder, saying there is no such proposal in the Bill, except that the Committee, in line with tradition, is making broad recommendations for the consideration of government and Parliament.

Oboth Oboth says it is unfortunate that the proposal is being used to distort debate on the actual contents of the Bill.

Othieno supported a proposal to make the army representatives in Parliament ex-Officios, which comes from Niwagaba’s position to have the UPDF altogether removed from Parliament.

“By law, the army is not supposed to be partisan; what we do in Parliament here is partisan politics; there is no way the army can continue in the house and remain non-partisan,” he said.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu attempted to stop the debate on grounds of lack of quorum and some of the contents of the Bill having elements that place a charge on the Consolidated Fund-which cannot be fronted by a private member-but his plea was rejected.

Kamuntu termed the Bill as “an attempt to overthrow a Constitution through a Private Members’ Bill,” further saying “amending a Constitution piece-meal distorts the coherence of the Constitution.”

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said government has dilly-dallied with the introduction of an omnibus Bill to comprehensively amend the Constitution.

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