Uganda: Anger As MPs Sit Three in Office

With huge expectations dampened by lack of office space, new MPs, who expected comfort, luxurious life and special treatment are readjusting to the reality.

After their inauguration last week, it is beginning to dawn on some of the newly-elected Members of Parliament that life in parliament may not be as rosy as they thought.

For starters, due to the huge numbers in the 10th Parliament (427 MPs, up from 375) legislators shall have to share offices with colleagues. As things stand now, at least three MPs shall share a single office with the exception of House leaders and committee chairpersons.

Some of the MPs we spoke to, said it will be embarrassing for honourable MPs to squeeze themselves into small offices that are not befitting of their status.

"The president said we should work with him and we did it last week by electing the deputy speaker he wanted. Now that we have a problem of office [space], we expect our leaders we elected to tell the president to allocate some of the rooms in the president's office to us to transact parliament business," an NRM legislator, who preferred anonymity, said on Monday.

An NRM-leaning independent MP said: "Let our leaders we elected last week tell the president that we are not happy with the idea of sharing an office three people."

Francis Mukula, the MP for Agule in Pallisa, said he feels very uncomfortable sharing an office. He said this means that there is no privacy at all.

"You do not feel comfortable answering a phone call," Mukula said.

Yorke Alioni, the MP for Aringa South, said it would be better if not more than two MPs shared an office.

"It's all about congestion. Even the corridors will be filled up because it is difficult to agree with colleagues to select specific days to attend to their people," Alioni said.

Some MPs blamed the government for not planning for the extra members immediately the ninth parliament approved the creation of more constituencies.

"Being a Member of Parliament, you need to have privacy but in this case, members are deprived of their privacy. MPs behave differently. If an office is given to three MPs, two should occupy it and one should be given money to find own office space," said Paulson Luttamaguzi Semakula, the MP for Nakaseke South.

Fred Mudukoi Oduchu, the MP for Butebo, said three MPs sitting in an office is totally inconveniencing and will negatively-impact on their work. Some MPs, however, said they have no problem sharing office space because in the process they make new friends who can add value to their political life.

"I have no problem sharing with any member. I feel no harm for social interaction because it is now a chance to share a lot and you can go with a colleague to your constituency after knowing him better... Sometimes a prophet is not honored when he goes back home alone," said Paul Reuben Chelimo, the MP for Kongasis in Bukwo district.

Albert Lokoru, the MP for Tepeth in Moroto district, said it is important to share experiences and, therefore, if MPs sit together in an office, they shall share experiences and learn from one another.

Rebecca Kadaga said after she was sworn in as speaker last week that they are still looking for additional office space to accommodate MPs. She said a new chamber will be built soon to accommodate the rising numbers.

The parliamentary building was constructed ahead of independence in 1962 and was planned to accommodate 80 legislators.

Source: The Observer