The Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has pledged to get MPs to debate about what Uganda we want and where we want it to be.
Since his election to the position of Speaker in May this year, Mr Oulanyah has poured out his heart about the need for all actors to prioritise issues that affect all citizens with specific focus on the ordinary people.
He challenged MPs to up their game and refocus debate in the House to make it substantive so as to leave a record that future generations will be proud of.
It’s surely the way to go.
But like all new ideas, there are always some misgivings especially arising out of fear of the unknown or simply political undertones.
However, we must commend Mr Oulanyah for coming up with the proposal. As the saying goes, No guts no glory; a leader must have the guts to try out new things however difficult or unpopular they might be.
The Speaker’s proposal is valuable to the country in many ways including putting MPs on the same understanding of the national agenda. This understanding will guide Parliament in the execution of the government agenda for the people.
The debate will generate collective understanding of what government plans to do and why, hence enabling the legislators to critique with knowledge and focus.
We know that every party has its programmes aggregated in their party manifestos. But the benefits of this debate, if focused in parliament, is that the outcomes will go beyond party boardrooms.
As beneficiaries of privileges from the state (MPs are facilitated to do national duty), it is important that they pay back by putting more efforts to overcoming national development challenges.
At the global level, there are ratified Social Development Goals (SDGs), there is also the African Union Agenda 2063, we have the East African Community commitments and then the National Development Plan 3 (NDP3).
All these contain aspirations of Ugandans and what is needed is for them to be harmonised so that we are in sync with what the nation wants, continental approaches and global issues. The legislative agenda reinforces those aspirations and the debate helps in building consensus where disagreements may arise.
It is also prudent to focus the debate more on where there is agreement with the ruling party’s agenda so as to quicken the citizens’ access to the services they so need.
For the next five years, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party agenda is the one operational in all honesty. If all understood where NRM has placed its premium, then the focus should be to ensure what is promised is actualised through bi-partisan support.
The debate will help parliament modify priorities based on minimum consensus. As a country, we have highlighted points of disagreements more but it’s now necessary that we start to highlight our points of agreement too and work on them more.
We need to avoid deadlock democracy where parliament and the Executive use the principle of checks and balances to frustrate each other. It should be complementary work not competition.
The people elected both the Executive and Parliament with an assignment to deliver services, therefore; the arms of government have an obligation to aggregate and harmonise the interests of Ugandans.
The national agenda is undoubtedly set by the Executive and that role is never delegated to other arms. However, the other arms can modify the agenda but it starts with a better understanding of the aspirations of the citizens.
The debate does not mean Parliament will generate an agenda different from the Executive the debate is simply to inform critical pathways to achieve the development agenda. The debate is an opportunity for every MP to communicate what they think is important.
Mr Oulanyah is saying the questions are many but what is the primary question to be answered first; collectively? He is saying let’s reason together to fulfil national purpose.
Mr Chris Obore is the director communications and public affairs department at Parliament.