Need to visit Par­lia­ment? – Here’s how to ac­cess it

By: ISAAC OKELLO

There are places around the world where one can­not just walk in and out as though it was a mar­ket. For in­stance, lo­cated on a se­cluded is­land in the North Sea, the Dooms Day Seed Vault is one of the most guarded places on earth for it is home to over 250 mil­lion crop seeds. It is not only im­pos­si­ble for man to reach, but also pro­tected against a dis­as­ter in­volv­ing the melt­ing of ice­caps. This is in­tended to be used to feed the hu­man pop­u­la­tion in case of a break­down in the world or­der lead­ing to food in­se­cu­rity, a very pru­dent move to make.

Let me bring it back to the lo­cal scene: any­thing you at­tach value to will def­i­nitely be well pro­tected from in­trud­ers. Take a look at how Bank of Uganda or maybe the Pres­i­dent of Uganda is heav­ily guarded… his in­tel­li­gence will be sent to a place the Pres­i­dent in­tends to visit weeks be­fore he makes the said visit. That is prob­a­bly an over kill. But look at how well pro­tected your aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ments are! You hardly see them your­self, yet they are yours! Well, the Par­lia­ment is one of such places in Uganda that is, and needs to be well pro­tected for it is one of the three Arms of Gov­ern­ment, which is pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing of laws for the well gov­er­nance of Uganda. Un­like the dooms day seed vault how­ever, Ugan­da’s Par­lia­ment is lo­cated in the heart of Kam­pala, the cap­i­tal of Uganda.

If you were to make plans to visit Par­lia­ment of Uganda for what­ever rea­son, be in­formed that it is a heav­ily for­ti­fied and se­cu­rity is­sues are not taken lightly. You there­fore have a num­ber of things that need to be put into con­sid­er­a­tion, for it is a place that is of great im­por­tance to Uganda. These fac­tors to con­sider range from ac­cess points to how to con­duct your­self while within the build­ing.

First of all, you will have to be in the know of ac­cess point you are go­ing to use. Cur­rently there are three ac­tive gates to Par­lia­ment, the Main Gate (South­ern Gate) which is on Par­lia­men­tary Av­enue, the North­ern Gate op­po­site the Na­tional The­atre, and the West­ern Gate which is near the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent.

IMAG1132The South­ern Gate is mostly re­served for Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and VIPs, whereas the West­ern and North­ern Gates are for staff of Par­lia­ment and other walk-in guests. For guests who plan to come with their cars, there is am­ple park­ing space ac­cessed from the West­ern Gate, with its exit be­ing the north­ern gate.

Be sure  that you have a valid iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with you so as to get clear­ance at the gate, where­upon you will be duly reg­is­tered and given a Vis­i­tor’s Card. This dou­bles as your elec­tronic key while en­ter­ing the build­ing. You must also wear the vis­i­tor’s card around your neck for easy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. All the other staff mem­bers and press  wear their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards any­way, so you will not be iso­lated.

If you are in pos­ses­sion of a firearm,   you will be re­quired to reg­is­ter it at the gate, and leave it there whichever side you use. No firearms are al­lowed within the premises of Par­lia­ment, what­so­ever.

Now, we all know schools around the coun­try or­gan­ise school trips, and there are dif­fer­ent in­ter­est groups who want to have a look at how the build­ing is con­structed, how Par­lia­ment con­ducts its busi­ness, and some his­tor­i­cal ex­cerpts at par­lia­ment. The pro­ce­dure is that you write to Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fice (PRO), re­quest­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to visit, and sug­gest a date therein. The PRO will then no­tify you of the avail­able dates, and upon your visit, they will guide your team of vis­i­tors around Par­lia­ment.

In the ab­sence of se­cu­rity, peo­ple will live in con­stant stress, which af­fects both men­tal and phys­i­cal health. As a re­sult, there are sev­eral se­cu­rity mea­sures that have been put in place, both in and around the build­ing, at all times. There are cam­eras at all en­trances and cor­ri­dors of Par­lia­ment, there are walk – through metal  de­tec­tors at all en­trances (gates and doors), and bag scan­ners for those who plan to sneak some­thing into the build­ing or at the point of exit, those who elon­gate their hands and re­lo­cate par­lia­ment prop­erty in to their bags. If you are car­ry­ing any lap­tops, you will also be re­quired to reg­is­ter it at the en­trance. Be in­formed that there are sev­eral po­lice and mil­i­tary of­fi­cers in both uni­form and plain cloth­ing, who are ded­i­cated to en­sure that there is no cause for alarm what­so­ever in the build­ing.

Hav­ing been cleared by se­cu­rity at the en­trance, there is a re­cep­tion desk at the North and South wings of Par­lia­ment, where you will get the nec­es­sary as­sis­tance you need. If you are on ap­point­ment with any Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment or the Speak­er’s of­fice, there is a wait­ing room where you will be ush­ered ef­fec­tively.

The Par­lia­ment of the re­pub­lic of Uganda re­mains a pub­lic of­fice, where all Ugan­dans are free to visit. How­ever, be in­formed that se­cu­rity re­serves the right to ad­mit you, with valid rea­sons. If you are im­prop­erly dressed, for in­stance, ladies in very short cloth­ing, or see-through dresses, you may not be al­lowed to gain ac­cess to the build­ing. Re­mem­ber not to ap­pear to be idling around the build­ing, for you will also be asked to leave. The premises re­main a to­bacco – free en­vi­ron­ment, so smok­ing is not al­lowed on or near the premises.