Today in Parliament | 5th November 2023

Greetings from AFLI and the Parliament of Uganda!

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 20th Sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the  Speaker Rt. Hon. Anitah Among. In her communication, the Speaker appealed to committees to conclude all pending business before them before the Christmas recess. “As we approach the close of the calendar year, and as we prepare to go for Christmas recess, I want to request committees to ensure that you finish all the work before you so that we go for recess when you have nothing pending. She also added “As you are aware in January 2024, we will be handling the budget framework paper, hence we need to offset the pending business. We need all the business offset, as we go into the budget framework paper”. Among was also concerned that some MPs continue to breach the provisions of the code of conduct amongst which is engaging in financial decisions that embed objectivity in the discharge of their duty. ” I was actually surprised when some MD called me and said, there is a member of Parliament who has come that you have sent him for something for you”.

Reacting to the Speaker’s Communication, Hon. Bigirwa Noah Nyendohwa (DWR, Buliisa, NRM) was concerned that parliament had not received any statement from the government on the forthcoming World Fisheries Day. In response the 3rd Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Nakama Rukia who is the (DWR, Mayuge, NRM) said that she was going to consult with the concerned Minister during the sitting.

The House then moved on to consider the Sugar (Amendment) Bill, 2023 under the First reading. Speaker Anitah Among told MPs that the government seeks to amend the Sugar Act 2020 to establish the Uganda Sugar Industry Stakeholder Council. “However, I also note that four years after the enactment of the Sugar Act, the Sugar Board which was a creature of section 13 of the Act has never been established. However, the matter will be interrogated in the Committee”. Among said.  The State Minister for Trade Hon. Bahati David who is also the (MP, Ndorwa County West, Kabale, NRM) later tabled the Sugar (Amendment) Bill, 2023 before the House for First Reading. The Bill was referred to the Committee for Tourism, Trade and Industry for consideration and report back. It should be noted that while interfacing with the Committee of Tourism on 30 November 2023, the Deputy Attorney General, Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi confirmed that all the licenses issued after the enactment of the Sugar Act are void and said that the Amendment would correct such decisions that he described as “erroneous”.

Later, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, the LOP also presented a statement (attached) on unabated human rights abuses & the shrinking civic space. Mpuuga told Parliament that the government has been deliberately declining to prosecute errant security officers who commit atrocities but instead elevates them in rank. He also revealed that security forces conceal their vehicle number plates with cow dung to evade detection. According to Mpuuga, the norm of lengthy detention has become synonymous with the NRM government especially whenever an opposition political activist or Muslim terror suspect is arrested. “We established that the reason behind these prolonged detentions is to enable the torture victims to have ample time for their physical injuries to heal. This was evidenced in the case of NUP Kasese coordinator Samuel Masereka and exiled Ugandan novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija. When their wounds sustained from torture recover, they are arraigned in court”. Mpuuga said. He added “According to the Uganda Prisons Service, out of the 76,367 inmates, 39,453 are convicts while 36,422 are on remand, courtesy of detention without trial. The law stipulates that prisoners should spend at most 180 days on remand (an equivalent of six months), but unfortunately the majority of inmates including the NUP supporters illegally under court martial have spent more than that time. The LOP also told MPs that the UPDF has, out of impunity, continued to terrorize and blatantly torture fishermen in various water bodies of Uganda. The opposition also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners rotting in numerous jails and illegal detention facilities without trial; the Establishment of a Judicial Commission of inquiry; that parliament appoint a select Committee and that all persons, not subjected to military law and are currently being tried before any military court, be transferred to civil courts under the direction of the DPP.

Reacting to the Statement, Hon. David Muhoozi, the State minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs acknowledged the statement by the LOP but insisted that the government of Uganda continues to account to the citizenry. The Minister for ICT & National Guidance, Hon. Chris Baryomunsi later told Parliament that the government does not have political prisoners. He said Ugandans are arrested based on suspicion of having committed a crime. The Presiding Officer later advised the government to consider releasing persons who have been in custody beyond the constitutionally allowed time.

The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to  Wednesday, 06 December 2023 at 2.00 p.m.

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