Government calls for Constitution amendment proposals

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire this week finally called on the public and legislators to submit their proposals to the Uganda Law Reform Commission for the forthcoming Constitution amendment process.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, on the other hand will not allow members to continue taking Parliament for granted. She, in an exclusive interview with Daily Monitor last week, vowed to chop off allowances for MPs that have made it a habit to dodge Parliament.

Announcing the new rules to catch up with legislators in the habit of back signing attendance books, Ms Kadaga said MPs will only sign for the plenary session for the opening one hour. Also, an electronic device will be installed where MPs can check in and out of the chambers.

Getting back to constitutional reforms, Mr Otafiire, in a letter through the Speaker of Parliament to the MPs, sets December 21 as the deadline for submission of the proposals aimed at ensuring free and fair elections and establishing a level playing field for both government and the Opposition ahead of the 2016 elections.

Every after 10 years government gets a window to amend the Constitution and make any such changes that the public and the legislators feel should be made in the Constitution.

To submit the proposal, the proposer is supposed to mention the specific provision of the Constitution that they want to change, the specific proposal and the justification.

With just one year and about two months into the 2016 general elections, pressure has been building in the Opposition, civil society and the donors as to when government would officially table before Parliament the electoral reform Bills.

While there is no specific time frame within which to pass a law, Parliament committees are given 45 days within which to handle any proposed law before they can bring them to Parliament.

Government now needs to step up its game and come clear on the reforms to allow free and fair elections.

For the record, ministers have consistently told the public that the electoral Bills are before Cabinet for discussion. Minister Otafiire is now inviting Ugandans to send their views to the Uganda Law Reform Commission which would eventually be submitted to Cabinet for scrutiny.

Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba said, “Since 2008, President Museveni has said the Bills will be brought to Parliament. The remaining time is too short and they are doing this intentionally since they want to stampede people with those proposals that serve their interests and not those that are in the best interest of all Ugandans.”

Terego County MP Kassiano Wadri raises fears as to how the constitutional amendment process would be handled saying time has already run out since the Electoral Commission has already published the road map to 2016.

Since the Opposition has been consulting countrywide, it should this time move in unison and agree on which amendments should be submitted to the Uganda Law Reform Commission early enough.

Some of the suggested reforms include a complete overhaul of the Electoral Commission (EC) to be replaced with an independent one. The new EC would then be selected through a national consultative process.

Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) wants the Constitution amended to rename and reconstitute the EC as the “Independent Electoral Commission”. They also proposed that Article 60(2) be revised to provide for an independent EC with professional commissioners and technical staff who can manage electoral affairs more efficiently and impartially.

The new EC would then compile a new, clean and verifiable voters’ register that must include eligible Ugandans in the diaspora.

The register must be accessible by all. There is also a proposal to exclude the military in observing elections and a mechanism must be put in place to monitor and stop the raiding of funds from the Central Bank.

Cabinet is considering amending the 1995 Constitution to stipulate grounds for recalling MPs, establish a salaries commission and give more statutory powers to the President.

Also in Parliament is an infamous proposal being mooted by MPs on the Local Government Committee to increase the number of districts from the current 112 to 117 even as President Museveni put a moratorium against the creation of more districts.

But the Mukono Municipality MP, Ms Betty Nambooze, has opposed the move through a minority report.

Also Parliament has granted leave to the Kinkiizi East MP, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, to move a Private Members’ Bill for the establishment of the Uganda Medical Society which seeks to promote the medical and allied sciences and maintain a high standard of professional ethics among members in the medical profession.

Parliament is also debating the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill where Ugandans in possession of khat and marijuana face stiffer penalties once it is passed into law.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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