Today in Parliament/ 15th February 2024

UPDATES FROM PARLIAMENT, THURSDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2024: Farmers advised to start planting; Parliament Committee calls for review on refugee policy

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the Africa Leadership Institute and the Parliament of Uganda!

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 11th Sitting of the 3rd Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Deputy Speaker Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa. In his communication, Speaker Tayebwa informed MPs that the Statement on the performance of schools of children with disabilities will be presented next week.

The House then moved to consider a report on the state of refugees and refugee-hosting communities. This was presented by the Vice Chairperson of Committee on Equal Opportunities, Hon. Acen Dorcus who doubles as the (DWR, Alebtong District, NRM). According to current refugee figures (2022), 50% of Uganda’s refugees live in the Bidi Bidi, Palorinya, and Rhino refugee settlement camps on the West Nile. She noted that South Sudan is the primary source of refugees in Uganda, accounting for 62% of the population, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 29%. She added that the geographical position of the hosting communities and the similarity in the local languages have made it easy for refugees to integrate with local communities. She also revealed to MPs that the increasing number of refugees has created a lot of pressure on existing water & sanitation resources. The Committee noted that the influx of refugees had led to encroachment on wetlands in the various settlements and recommended measures for natural resource conservation. Moving forward, the Committee recommended that OPM construct more water supply systems and latrines to cater for the increasing influx of refugees. The Committee observed a significant rise in the number of refugees entering the country, raising concerns about the country’s long-term sustainability. The Committee urges the government to thoroughly review its refugee policy to prevent a potential prolonged conflict arising from the influx of refugees and the lack of adequate funding resulting from cuts in budgetary support from donors.

Reacting to the report, Hon. Zijjan David Livingstone (MP, Butembe County, Jinja , INDP) said “The report highlights a decline in support from the international community. Our priority should be engaging in negotiations with the countries involved in this cause, urging them to allocate more resources to Uganda, a hospitable nation that hosts refugees”. According to Prime Minister Nabbanja, Uganda is currently hosting about 1.6 million refugees. She added that People who come to Uganda as refugees come to save their dear lives and are running away from problems because we are secure and peaceful. “We have a policy that allows people or the neighbours to come freely into this country and almost every month, we get people who come to benchmark on our refugee policies” she said. Nabbanja also told MPs that its only Uganda that has a Minister in charge of refugees. This shows how the President and the government of NRM are committed. The LOP, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel Besekezi who also doubles as the (MP, Nakawa West Division, Kampala, NUP), on his part urged the Ugandan Government through the MFA to collaborate with neighboring countries to assist in hosting refugees.

Hon. Ssewanyan Allan Aloizious (MP, Makindye West Division, Kampala, NUP) noted that the influx of refugees in Kampala has increased the living costs for ordinary Ugandans, making houses too expensive. “We have communities of Congolese in Makindye, Kibuuye II Parish. We have Eritreans in Lukuuli, Nsambya Parishes and even Somalis in Kampala Central. They are almost overtaking the population of the residents there. Most of these people have too much money to avail themselves of good housing, food and everything good in life. This has brought problems as the landlords in these places do not wish to accommodate the residents of Ugandan descent proffering the Eritreans because they come with a lot of money to afford their houses”. he said. Hon. Oneka Lit Denis Amere (MP, Kitgum Municipality, FDC) noted that whereas everyone is a potential candidate for refugee, a cost-benefit analysis must be assessed. “We allow refugees to come but we also need to control the influx depending on how we can manage them”. he said. The report on the state of refugees and refugee-hosting communities was later adopted by the House.

The House also received a Report of the Committee on Government Assurances and Implementation on the Presidential pledge to extend electricity to industrial parks, directly from power generation plants. This was presented by the Committee Chair, Hon. Bwanika Abed who also doubles as the (MP, Kimaanya – Kabonera Division, Masaka City, NUP). According to the committee report, the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development made a commitment that, by July 2022, all industrial consumers located in industrial parks will purchase electricity directly from generation plants at a rate of US Cents 5 per unit. Consequently, the Committee suggests that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development provides funds to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in the form of a subsidy totaling Shs160.34 billion. This allocation is intended to support the complete execution of the Presidential directive across all Industrial Parks, enabling manufacturers to acquire electricity at a rate of US Cent 5 per unit. The Committee noted that the pilot implementation of the US Cents 5 per unit by the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development did not promote fair competition among industrial parks as it exclusively favored privately operated ones. The discussion on this report was rescheduled to a later time to accommodate the Prime Minister’s Time.

The House then moved to Prime Ministers Time where the PM responds to questions from Members of Parliament. Prime Minister Nabbanja Robinah who is also the (DWR, Kakumiro, NRM) told MPs that police management has not considered disposing of the aircraft as a means of “utilization. She was responding to a question that was raised by Hon Elijah Okupa regarding the Uganda Police Helicopter (Aircraft Fixed Wing 5X PEF/P180 PIAGGIO AVANTI EVO) that was purchased in June 2019 for US$ 7,480,000 and is currently being offered for sale at US$ 4m. Nabbanja also urged Ugandans to start planting, saying it is going to rain until May. She was responding to the Oral Question from Hon. Helen Kahunde(Kiryandongo District) who was asking for a report from the Metrological Department.

Finally the Deputy Speaker urged MPs to join the rest of Ugandans for the 47th Commemoration of St. Janani Luwum Day at Wii-gweng, Mucwini in Kitgum District on Friday.

The Speaker afterwards adjourned the House to Tuesday, 20th February 2024 at 2:00PM

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