The Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC) has questioned the spirit in which most of the proposals were made by Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba in his Private Member’s Bill aimed at amending the Constitution.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 that was tabled on December 19 is currently being scrutinised by the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The Bill seeks among others to overhaul the structure of government by repealing Office of the Prime Minister; replacing Office of Vice President with Deputy President who is elected together with the president; and, reducing size of government to 21 Cabinet Ministers and 21 State Ministers.
Appearing before the committee which was being provisionally being chaired by Mr Alex Byarugaba (Isingiro South, NRM) the ULRC team led by Acting Chairperson Mr Peter Wandera gave no objection to only six out of the 31 Clauses in the Bill.
These proposals are; providing for oath of allegiance by the Leader of Opposition; allowing a registered voter and political parties to challenge results of Presidential elections; re-introduction of Presidential term limits; the Electoral Commission to determine of complaints raised by candidates before polling day; defining political organisations and political parties; and, formation of City Land Boards.
ULRC however raised concerns over the proposal to amend Articles 98 (2) and 100 of the Constitution to provide for a Deputy President who will have been a presidential running mate.
“Since the provision only seeks to make a change in the title of the office holder, the Commission has no objection to the proposal. But why change the title without changing the substantive functions and roles,” Mr Wandera asked.
They also questioned the spirit in which the proposal to have the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General be appointed by the President on the recommendation of Judicial Service Commission. The Bill proposes that those office bearers shall be ex-officios in Parliament and would serve a five year term renewable once.
But Mr Wandera argued that the fact that the Attorney General sits in Cabinet, the office is “political in nature and the Judicial Service Commission should not participate in the appointment of political leaders”. He also said that if these office bearers are subjected to term limits which is an exception to others.
On the proposal to repeal army representation in Parliament, the Commission challenged the Committee to consider review all the interest group representation. This proposal they said, should also consider the issue of District Woman MPs, youth, workers and People with Disabilities (PWD) representation.
“The presence of the army representatives in Parliament is a result of our political history. There was belief that the army interfered with politics because they did not understand what goes on in corridors of power”
‘’They were confined to the barracks. Representation of the army tried to address that issue. The issue now is whether the situation has changed. This can only be answered from political analysis. The issue is not legal’’ he said.
At this point the MPs questioned why ULRC has “slept on its job” by not coming up with proposals of reviewing some of the provisions in the Constitution nearly 25 years since its promulgation in 1995.
Mwenge South MP Aston Kajara wondered why this process has not been done saying; “when we made the Constitution, we said there will be a review after the first 10 years and then every after five years.”
Mr Wandera put the blame on the delay by the government to constitute a Constitutional Review Commission where such discussions should have been held.
ULRC also raised questions on the issues of repealing Office of Resident District Commissioner (RDCs) but proposed a review to have one such officer at the regional level.