Older persons in Uganda will be represented in 11th Parliament if the House approves a motion in which the government is expected to table after Cabinet approved their request on Monday.
The motion that is expected to be tabled by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu soon, if approved, could see the older persons in Uganda elect five MPs to represent their interest in the House as part of the affirmative action given to interest groups.
The interest groups, each having five MPs in the House are the youth, the workers and the persons with disabilities.
The Cabinet sitting on Monday approved the request that was tabled by Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister for Labour, Gender and Social Development.
Sources in Cabinet told Daily Monitor that Mr Tumwebaze argued that it is long overdue for the elderly to be represented in Parliament despite the fact that they are part of the Special Interest Groups (SIPs) provided for in the Constitution.
Arguing his case, sources said, Mr Tumwebaze told his colleagues that legislation in Parliament has always been short of the knowledge, skills, expertise and wisdom that would be “accruing from older persons by virtue of experience”. He also said the issues affecting the older persons have not been profiled and deliberated on.
Mr Tumwebaze told Daily Monitor yesterday that if the elderly elect their own MPs, their issues will be transmitted from the local government level where they are represented to the national level where key decisions are made.
“We decided as a ministry to present the issue to Cabinet because there is a National Elders Council established by an Act of Parliament. The same Act of Parliament provides for affirmative action, equity and effective representation,” Mr Tumwebaze said.
The minister said over the years, the older persons have “clamoured for representation” in Parliament because they are a special interest group like others that enjoy Constitutional rights.
Criteria of election
Asked about what will be the criteria of electing MPs for the elderly, the minister said, the same procedure of electing the youths and PWDs MPs through the established political structures will be followed. He, however, did not reveal the exact age that will be followed to make a cut off point for one to contest as an MP for the elderly.
“They will be elected at regional level and one national representative. But one of these MPs for the older persons must be a woman as a way of promoting gender equality. This does not cap the number of women among the five MPs,” he said.
Sources in Cabinet also indicated that President Museveni was in support of the proposal to have MPs for the elderly.
The President, who said the older persons have been requesting him for consideration, was quoted as telling Ministers: “They have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared with young legislators. They can now put on table their concerns as elderly being a unique group in the society.”
The district councils have two representatives for the elderly after they were first elected in 2016 General Election.
MPs numbers soar
The approval of the five slots for MPs for the elderly comes at a time when Parliament is expected within the next two weeks to receive a harmonised list of constituencies the Ministry of Local government is supposed to table.
Last week, MPs opposed the creation of 15 constituencies across the country questioning why requests from other parts of the country had been ignored by Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi.
The minister after tabling the 15 proposed constituencies read to Parliament 31 others that a team in his ministry was still studying after not meeting the laid parameters at the time. If the minister succumbs to pressure and considers the 31 in his new motion, the number of new constituencies would raise to 46.
There are also seven cities that became operational on July 1 that will send in at least seven new MPs. Apart from Jinja which had two MPs in the 10th Parliament as a Municipality. Arua, Mbabara, Fort portal, Gulu, Mbale, and Masaka will send in two MPs, each after being given two constituencies.
Currently, there are 457 MPs in the House with 12 of them being ex-officio, meaning the elected legislators are 445.
This means the number of elected MPs in the 11th Parliament may rise to 514, with the new five slots for older persons, the 12 woman MPs for new districts that have become operational between July 1, 2018 and July 1 this year, and, the seven from the new cities, and the 46 constituencies already requested for.