By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The Uganda’s Parliament has approved the creation of five more parliamentary seats for elderly persons, one of which has been ring-fenced for women.
Ugandan Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Ephraim Kamuntu, tabled the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill 2020, which proposed the legal regime for the creation of the seats that have been endorsed by Parliament.
The bill amendment was supported by Hon Cecilia Ogwal who said the elderly are suffering quietly and thereby need for a legal instrument to support the elderly so that the Government can address their concerns.
Cecilia Ogwal said the legislation is informed by suffering of the elderly, who she said are under-represented.
The bill provides that every region including Central, Eastern, Northern and Western will each have a representative elected by the Elders’ Council constituting all the districts in a particular region, while the National Female MP for the elderly will be elected by the National Elders’ Council constituting delegates from all the regions.
However, the introduction of the Bill was by way of motion without notice, which necessitated the suspension of Rules 24, 128, 129(2) and (5), 210 and 133(4) of the Rules of Procedure to avoid taking the ordinarily longer process involving the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Hon. Cecilia Ogwal (FDC, Dokolo district), moved to suspend a number of Rules of Procedure to pave way for the expediting of the Bill, knocking off the stage of passing it through a Committee in light of the rush to nominations.
“I beg to move a motion for a resolution of Parliament to suspend a number of rules for the Bill to be processed,” said Ogwal, who was unanimously supported.
Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba, preferred the introduction of a Constitution Amendment Bill instead, arguing that other special interest groups are a creation of the Constitution.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, however, saw no fault in the Bill, giving it a nod of approval.
During debate on the bill, Hon. Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County) rose to oppose the move, arguing that the elderly are already well represented in the three arms of Government.
“The elderly are the most represented in Government; the head of the executive is above 60; so is it procedurally right to say that the elderly are not represented yet they are the ones who lead the three arms of Government?” he said. He was joined by Kampala Central Hon Muhammad Nsereko who said the creation of the slots will invite other groups to make similar demands.
“As we open the Pandora box, we must be prepared to walk the talk; are we going to start discussing the issue of representation of the diaspora? We have already set a precedent,” he said.
Cecilia Ogwal complicated the mode of election by proposing the election of two women on affirmative action, which was initially adopted, but was later dropped for the original position in the Bill, which only reserved one slot for women.
She later conceded, ending a stalemate that had caused postponement of decision on the matter. The vote was taken with MPs unanimously endorsing the proposal.
The elderly now joins the army, youth and women as the latest interest group in the House.
Last week, parliament approved the creation of 46 new counties pushing the number of constituencies from 296 to 353.
With the elderly represented, the 11th Parliament is anticipated to have 527 MPs including the additional seats of newly created Districts.