Today in Parliament / 8th February 2024.

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

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 8th 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 announced that 22 former international football players will visit Uganda for four days. They will play a match against Ugandan MPs at St. Mary’s Stadium-Kitende and visit various sites across the country. “The UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin is leading a team of 22 former international players for the four days visit to Uganda. During their stay, they will play a football match against Parliamentteam on 12th February 2024, at 2:00Pm, at St. Mary’s Stadium, Kitende. The delegation will also visit several sites and I really want to thank our FUFA President, Moses Magogo and the Minister of State for Sports, Peter Ogwang for organizing this very important visit”. he said.

Reacting to the Speaker’s communication, Hon. Ssewungu Joseph Gonzaga (MP, Kalungu West County, Kalungu District, NUP) noted that although he puts in much effort to dress smartly while coming to Parliament as per Rules, some MPs are slowly changing the rules of the dress code required by Parliament. “This House has rules of procedure, and among them there is dress code. This House is changing slowly but a sure dose on dress code and when I come as MP, and Shadow Minister of Education, I dress smartly as you see me. I don’t know whether it is procedurally okay we remove the stringent demands of dress code in our rules, otherwise we are degenerating slowly. If we rose points of orders here, we would have 10 MPs sent out today”. he said. In response, the Deputy Speaker, called for a high-level meeting with top leadership of Parliament in order to discuss concerns about the decline of proper dress code amongst MPs, after some lawmakers complained that the dress code amongst fellow MPs has degenerated, contrary to the Rules of Parliament. “Next week, we shall meet the Leader of Opposition Joel Ssenyonyi, Government Chief Whip, Hamson Obua, Party Whips and Chairperson of Committee of Rules and we give proper guidance that is harmonized in as far as interpretation of the rules on dressing is concerned”. Tayebwa said.

The House then moved on to receive as Statement on Foot and Mouth Disease in the cattle corridor & and the resultant quarantine. This was presented by the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Hon. Tumwebaze Frank Kagyigyi who doubles as the (MP, Kibale East County, Kamwenge District, NRM). According to the Minister, livestock farmers will meet the cost of purchasing vaccine for the foot and mouth disease (FMD). Tumwebaze told MPs that the decision was made by Cabinet to ensure timely availability of vaccines in the country. “The farmer would be required to pay the cost of each dose of the vaccine (US$2 per dose) twice a year for each susceptible animal and present evidence of payment to the designated veterinary medical store”. he said. The minister announced that funds will be redirected to a revolving mechanism for the timely placement of vaccine orders. He added that the Cabinet emphasized the importance of maintaining government control over vaccine importation for bio-safety and security purposes. “This is to control the risk of any other private entity bringing into the country foreign strains which are not in Uganda thus further complicating the situation and could potentially wipeout the entire susceptible domestic animal population”. the Minister said. He stated that the government will dispatch veterinary officers to administer the vaccine, at a cost covered by the government.

According to the Minister, the Cabinet instructed the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to allocate a supplementary budget for procuring 10 million doses of the FMD vaccine. The proposed solution will facilitate vaccination in affected and high-risk districts, enabling veterinary authorities to lift quarantine restrictions. “Government will in the next Financial Year (2024/2025) create a revolving/buffer fund to kick start the procurement of FMD vaccines for the entire 44 million susceptible domestic animal population”. he said. The Minister further noted that Farmers will further have to comply with a bi-annual FMD vaccination and a proof of vaccination will be a pre-condition for trade in animal and/or animal products. He said that the government will support the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) to fast track FMD vaccine research and development. “Transportation and procurement delays will also be mitigated thus guaranteeing a stable supply chain in the Country”. the Minister said.

Reacting to the statement, the LOP, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joesl Besekezi who doubles as the (MP, Nakawa West Division, Kampala, NUP) questioned the government’s commitment to support vaccine production, despite a 2015 Parliamentary resolution establishing an FMD vaccine plant. “Could you come to Parliament and tell us that here is a budget with specificities of what you want to do so that if Parliament does not support you, you blame Parliament. But there is nothing of the sort, you are only promising that a vaccine will be developed”. he said. Hon. Rwakoojo Robina Gureme (MP, Gomba West County, Gomba District, NRM) rejected the latest requirement for farmers to purchase these vaccines. “Why do you want to sell us those vaccines in the short run, first give them to us those vaccines for free after that we start to pay. I am hurting, we can’t sell milk, we can’t sell cattle people are asking us for school fees, I though a provision will be made in some of those schools at the beginning of this term, people are actually seated at home.” she said. The Deputy Speaker on his part emphasized the need for Parliament to allocate funds to curb FMD during the budgeting process. “I hope it is fully reflected because there is willingness from Cabinet and Parliament. We should resolve this”. he said

The House also later considered a Statement on the Status of about 450 Ugandan Nationals held hostage in Myanmar by rebel groups and Ugandan Nationals in Cairo, Egypt who were denied exit due to failure to pay immigration fees According to the Minister, 30 individuals have been recorded to be held at two different rebel camps in Myanmar, having initially responded to adverts on fictitious websites for highly paying jobs. “After receiving social media reports, the Prime Minister directed that Police undertakes investigations to identify the traffickers and prosecute them accordingly”. the Minister said. He added that, following the Prime Minister’s instruction to Uganda’s Ambassador in Malaysia to engage authorities in Myanmar, the Ambassador requested Shs102 million to facilitate travel for bilateral meetings, which was not granted. The Minister revealed that on the sidelines of the recent 19th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Kampala, he met with H.E Than Swe, Myanmar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs. “The Myanmar Foreign Minister undertook to waive any fine and criminal cases that would have been preferred against those Ugandans. It was agreed that the two countries create cooperation frameworks in immigration and anti-human trafficking.” Mulimba said

The minister told MPs that there are about 60 Ugandans stranded in Egypt after the government there tightened its regularisation of stay and another 200 in India. Most of the stranded in India are female victims of human trafficking. The minister’s statement also urged Parliament to appropriate funds for consular protection of Ugandan citizens abroad in the proposed 2024/2024 budget. “Evacuation of Ugandans either in Myanmar, Egypt, India and other locations will require funding. My ministry will engage the Prime Minister on how to find resources to execute these noble endeavours”. Mulimba said

Reacting to the statement, the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah informed parliament that the government is working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to secure the release and repatriation of Ugandans held hostage by rebel groups in Myanmar. She said a number of East African countries have nationals stranded in Myanmar, and efforts are underway to rescue them, with four Ugandans already released. “Most of the people they are taking are youth who are well trained, especially IT graduates. However, IOM promised that they are going to engage with the Government of Myanmar to see how our youth can be rescued”. she said. Nabbanja also urged leaders across the country to raise awareness among Ugandans about the dangers of unknown job opportunities.

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nkunyingi Muwada who doubles as the (MP, Kyadondo East County, Wakiso District, NUP) who previously raised the concern, said several Ugandans are held in different compounds operating as rebel camps in Myanmar, besides the two cited in the minister’s report. “We still sustain that the number of Ugandans, from our counting is 450 and they are likely to be more.” he said. He also stated that immediate and remedial measures must be taken to rescue the stranded Ugandans. “It is our humble proposal that this Parliament institutes an ad hoc committee to urgently address this matter. The matter at hand is urgent, these are Ugandans in the hands of rebels and we must address this immediate concern”. he said. He also emphasised the importance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Uganda’s embassies abroad providing regular and timely travel advice to Ugandans. The LOP, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel Besekezi on his part, tasked the foreign affairs ministry to give an update on the bilateral meeting held with the foreign affairs minister of Myanmar. ” That was 16 January 2024 and it is nearly a month now. We are talking about people being held by rebels not on their own volition. What is the update?”. he said

Finally, the government, led by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, announced its plans to introduce Bills next week that aim to streamline agencies across four sectors of the country. Among the proposed Bills are the Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Education Sector) (Amendments) Bill, 2024 and the Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Internal Affairs Sector) (Amendments) Bill, 2024. Additionally, the Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Natural Resources and Environment Sector) (Amendments) Bill, 2024 and the Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Works and Transport Sector) (Amendments) Bill, 2024 will also be presented for consideration. In addition, Nabbanja listed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2023 as one of the issues that will be debated in Parliament in the coming week.

Five other bills are on the list: the National Tribunal Bill, 2023, the Uganda Health Professional Regulatory Council Bill, 2023, the Arbitration and Reconciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2024, the Karamoja Development Agency (Repeal) Bill, 2024, and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021. “The Minister for Internal Affairs will also present a statement in the House updating the country on the process and guidelines on the renewal of national identification cards as requested by Parliament”. she said.

The Speaker afterwards adjourned the House to Tuesday, 13th February 2024 at 2:00PM

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