How a new Par­lia­ment comes into force (A 10th Par­lia­ment Case Study)

By: Winnie Watera

Af­ter the Feb­ru­ary 18th gen­eral elec­tions, a new breed of leg­is­la­tors (MPs) were cho­sen to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Uganda in Par­lia­ment. As stan­dard pro­ce­dure -they can­not as­sume of­fice un­til they have been sworn in ef­fect. The process of as­sum­ing of­fice is no mean task. It has sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties. They are out­lined be­low;

The Speaker dis­solves the ex­ist­ing Par­lia­ment.

Dis­so­lu­tion is the of­fi­cial term for the end of a Par­lia­ment, in the case of Uganda, this hap­pens every five years af­ter the com­mence­ment of the first sit­ting of Par­lia­ment af­ter a gen­eral elec­tion. Un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion, MPs have a fixed five-year term af­ter which a new bunch is elected. In some cases, Par­lia­ment may be ‘pro­rogued’ a few days be­fore be­ing dis­solved. At this point all par­lia­men­tary busi­ness ends, al­though that Par­lia­ment would still ex­ist un­til dis­so­lu­tion. In the case of the 9th Par­lia­ment, this did not hap­pen as it was busi­ness as usual un­til it was dis­solved on 11th May 2016. The Uganda Heart in­sti­tute Bill, 2015 was passed in 10th and a loan re­quest laid table the same day the house dis­solved.

Swear­ing in of the sub­se­quent Par­lia­ment.

Be­fore the elected Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment as­sume of­fice, they must swear in. This is pre­scribed by chap­ter 19; Oaths Act of 1963. A mem­ber of Par­lia­ment takes the Oath of Al­le­giance fol­lowed by the Oath of Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment both laid out in the Fourth Sched­ule of the 1995 Con­sti­tu­tion and the first Sched­ule of the Oath Act of 1963. The 10th Par­lia­ment had three days of swear­ing given the num­ber of MPs, start­ing on the 16th and end­ing on 18th May, 2016.  Par­lia­ment had arranged to swear in 427 MPs, only 426 were sworn in be­cause Hon. Mar­garet Mugisa, Woman MP Buryaha County did not at­tend the cer­e­mony.

Elec­tion of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

Ar­ti­cle 82(4) pro­vides that, “no busi­ness shall be trans­acted in Par­lia­ment other than an elec­tion to the Of­fice of Speaker at any time that of­fice is va­cant.” The first ple­nary sit­ting al­ways caters for this process. The Chief Jus­tice or a judge des­ig­nated by the Chief Jus­tice pre­sides at an elec­tion of the Speaker and the Speaker pre­sides at an elec­tion of the Deputy Speaker ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 82(5).The 10th Par­lia­ment had its maiden sit­ting on 19th May, 2016 where the Speaker and Deputy Speaker where elected. The act­ing Chief Jus­tice, His Lord­ship, Stephen Kavuma over­saw the elec­tion of the Speaker of the 10 Par­lia­ment. Hon Re­becca Al­it­wala Kadaga emerged the win­ner. Con­se­quently, the Speaker Elect, over­saw the elec­tion of the Deputy Speaker. Two MPs were nom­i­nated for the Deputy Speaker race, Hon. Nsereko Muham­mad an in­de­pen­dent Mem­ber and Hon. Ja­cob Oulanyah, af­fil­i­ated to the NRM rul­ing party. The lat­ter took the day with 300 votes while the for­mer gar­nered 115 votes.

The Pres­i­dent, H.E Yow­eri Kaguta Mu­sev­eni at­tended the elec­tion, a first for him I pre­sume, given the skep­ti­cism sur­round­ing his at­ten­dance of event. Some ac­cused him of try­ing to in­tim­i­date the vot­ers who may have wanted to vote con­trary to the Kyankwanzi Cau­cus res­o­lu­tion and also pro­tect his “in­vest­ment” of UGX 5 mil­lion that he ex­tended to NRM and lean­ing in­de­pen­dents. The Pres­i­den­t’s pres­ence was sub­stan­ti­ated by the Oath Act of 1963 and he also de­fended the money he gave NRM MPs as a means of help with no ul­te­rior mo­tives.
The elec­tion of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of­fi­cially marked the com­mence­ment of the 10th Par­lia­ment.

At this point I wish the in­sti­tu­tion good luck with all its en­deav­ors.