By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Parliament on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 marked 100 years of legislation in Uganda after the colonial masters held their first meeting of the Legislative Council (LEGCO) on Mar 23, 1921.
This LEGCO was chaired by the then Governor of the British Protectorate of Uganda, Sir Robert Corydon started with seven members. All British with four of them being members of the colonial administration and it took 25 years for the first Ugandan to be admitted in the LEGCO.
However, the evolution of legislation in the country picked momentum after independence in 1962 when the first Parliament was established and Ugandans did away with the LEGCO which was a colonial set up.
As a way of celebrating the 100 years of legislation, Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Tuesday launched a three day exhibition where the MPs, staff and visitors are flocking the Lobby to view the pictures showing the historical events in Parliament.
“This is me in 1994 during the Constituency Assembly” recalled Dokolo District Woman Member of Parliament, Celilia Ogwal who this newspaper found viewing the pictures at the exhibition corner.
She explained that Parliament has been able to go through a lot but wondered why the celebrations would not start only with 1962 when Ugandans got in control of their own affairs. She said there is nothing good with the LEGCO that was not for Ugandans because its legislation focused on the interests of the British.
The 1962 Parliament was welcomed with its own challenges as the Ugandans started to manage their affairs. There were 82 seats and the system of governance was based on a Parliamentary system. This means that the party with the most seats in Parliament forms the government.
Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) with 37 seats struggled to form a government and had to make a truce with the Kabaka Yekka which had 21 seats to find a way of a coalition hence leaving Democratic Party (DP) as the opposition with 24 seats.
The second Parliament came into force in 1963 and went up to 1971. This came about after Prime Minister Milton Obote abrogated the Constitution and declared himself the President of Uganda in 1966.
One of the challenges posed to Ugandans by this parliament was the abolition of kingdoms in the country.
With there being no Parliament between 1971 and 1979 when President Idi Amin government by decree, the third Parliament came into force after his overthrow. It was called the Uganda Legislative Council which had an initial membership of 30.
Chaired by Prof Edward Rugumayo, this House increased to 120 members and oversaw the 1980 elections.
After the 1980 elections which were won by the UPC, the fourth Parliament presided over by Francis Butagira ended in 1985 with the overthrow of government by Gen Basilio Olara Okello.
It is after the 1896 takeover of state power by the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni that the structure of the current Parliament started to take shape.
This was when the National Resistance Council (NRC) chaired by Museveni and deputised by Al-Hajji Moses Kigongo and it became the fifth Parliament.
Starting with 37 historical members in the NRC, the number has kept on increasing between the sixth Parliaments of 1996 to the current 10th Parliament which has 457 members. The next Parliament will have 529 MPs.
Among the achievements of the 10 years of legislation, the MPs praised the role the legislature has played in enacting laws that have seen the socio-economic transformation path the country is on.
“We have come a long way and these achievements are largely attributed to Parliament. These include a woman MP for every district, women leaders at various levels like the Speaker of Parliament herself who is number three in this country and so many other initiatives,” said Jovah Kamateka the Woman MP for Mitooma District during the special sitting on Tuesday.
She however joined other female MPs who called for reforms to ensure that female legislators are more facilitated than their counterparts who are directly elected and have a small constituency to serve.
Other MPs said that as there are still restrictions on visitors because of Covid-19, the former speakers who are still alive or families of those who passed away, and then the former clerks to Parliament would have been invited to take part in these celebrations.
The current Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga was also celebrated as one of the key achievements in the history of legislation because she is the first woman to lead the legislature. During her tenure Parliament has gone through a lot of changes.
Currently, the Speaker is overseeing the construction of the new chambers expected to have a sitting capacity of 600. It will also have office accommodation for MPs, something that will save a lot of money that has been going to renting outside.
Meanwhile, the marking of 100 years of legislation has been met with a new style of doing things especially the way the next Speaker’s position will be determined. Unlike in the past, MPs expressing interest in becoming speakers are engaging in open campaigns.
On Wednesday, Kadaga launched her campaigns as she seeks to win elections as Speaker for the third time.
Like her, other contenders; Jacob Oulanya the current deputy Speaker, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda of Kira Municipality and Robert Ssebamala the MP elect for Bukoto Central are expected to launch their campaigns.
Gomba West MP Robinah Rwakoojo in the same fold on Thursday launched her campaign at a function held at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. The election for Speaker and deputy Speaker is expected on May 20, 2021.
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF THE PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA
- The Parliament of Uganda is celebrating 100 years of existence. Uganda’s Legislative Council (LEGCO) was created by the Colonial Office in 1920 via an Order-in-Council. The LEGCO had its first meeting on Wednesday, 23 March 1921. Its composition then was small and all its members were Europeans. However, in 1926 the first Asian member was sworn. The second Asian member joined the LEGCO in 1933. The colonial Governor headed the LEGCO as President.
- The first African members of the LEGCO were admitted in 1945, 25 years after the LEGCO was set up. The three African representatives who joined the LEGCO were: Michael Ernest Kawalya Kaggwa (Katikiro, i.e. Prime Minister of Buganda), Petero Nyangabyaki (Katikiro of Bunyoro) and Yekonia Zirabamuzale (Secretary General of Busoga). They were sworn in on Tuesday 4 December 1945. By 1954 the number of seats had increased substantially to fifty percent of the membership.
- Sittings of Parliament were first held in the Council Chamber in Entebbe, and later moved to the High Court Building in 1945, and to the Town Hall (KCCA Headquarters) in 1950. In 1960 the Parliament moved to its current seat.
- The first Parliament (the National Assembly) (1962-1966) was headed by Sir. John Bowes Griffin (1962-1963) who was succeeded by Hon. Narendra Patel (1963-1971)
- March 1961 saw the first ever direct elections held in Uganda. Due to continued pressure for self-government from the Protectorate in the late 1950s, an electoral law was introduced to the Constitution and this facilitated the 1961 elections.
- London Conference: In September 1961, 48 representatives of all shades of opinion from Uganda met at a Constitutional Conference in London where the shape of the future Constitution of Uganda was agreed upon. On 1 March 1962, self-government was inaugurated. On that day, the Prime Minister presided over a Cabinet and the LEGCO became the National Assembly.
- Membership of Parliament since Independence
|1st Parliament / National Assembly||1962-1966||92|
|3rd Parliament National Consultative Council||1979-1980||120|
|5th Parliament -NRC||1986-1995||283|