The Parliament of Uganda on Tuesday celebrated its centenary anniversary. We join the Speaker, legislators, the Executive and the citizenry upon Parliament attaining this milestone.
It is of particular significance that the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, says Parliament has, from its first sitting in 1921 to date, undergone a transformation worth celebrating. And the fact that there is Parliament today is testament to this fact.
Speaking at the launch of a photo exhibition to mark 100 years of the institution on Tuesday, the Speaker acknowledged the strides that the Parliament of Uganda has made - from representation by colonial leaders then to one composed of Ugandans today.
Indeed, as we join the celebrations, it is important that other than taking pride in Parliament having existed for a century, it should, for purposes of accountability, reflect on its performance over the years and present its solid deliverables as well as its failures to the country.
Ugandans living today and those who are yet to be born would be happy to know how in real terms, Parliament has or will change their lives and that of the state of the country for better or for worse.
This accountability is critical against the backdrop of the mixed views people have about our Parliament. It is not enough to flag the argument that Parliament has experienced growth merely on the basis that in its first sitting in 1921, it had only seven members, but more than 450 members in the House today.
Note that the role of Parliament in brief is to make laws, scrutinise government policy and administration, vet the appointment of persons nominated by the President, give legislative sanctions on taxation and acquisition of loans, appropriate budgets, and to debate matters of topical interest. Ideally, how far Parliament has excelled in performing on each of these issues should matter more to our legislators and the general citizenry.
In fact, it is debatable whether a big or small size of Parliament is advantageous or a burden to the taxpayers.
But going by Uganda’s small national resource envelope, it is not far-fetched to assert that the growing size of Parliament against a population of 42 million people, most of whom are young and therefore largely dependants, is a burden to the already small and overstretched taxpayers.
In terms of making laws, the elephant in the room remains Parliament’s near failure to resolve the political question in the country. Time and again, Parliament has abrogated, or changed the Constitution, often at the whims of the Executive.
In a sense, Parliament has been, ironically, a hindrance to upholding the Constitution and constitutionalism in the country.
Our view is that for effective performance of our Parliament, the country should first ascertain where the rain started beating us and make quick amends.