Hon.Thomas Tayebwa has confirmed that the Government intends to table amendments to Article 82 of the constitution to provide for flexible timelines for the election of Speaker once the position falls vacant.
While addressing the press at Parliament, Tayebwa expressed concern over the restrictions in the law saying that the process has stringent timelines.
“It is extremely restrictive and i think from here we have to sit and amend this law”, said Tayebwa.
The same message of amending the constitution was regurgitated by the Arch Bishop of Church Uganda Kazimba Mugalu who noted that the constitution should be amended such that mourning of a speaker who has died in office is not engulfed by campaigns. The Speaker’s office fell vacant following the death of Oulanyah who had been Speaker for less than a year.
Oulanyah passed away on Sunday 20th March 2022 in Seattle, the United States of America, where he had been receiving specialized treatment since last month.
Oulanyah, who doubled as the Omoro County legislator and Vice-Chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement – NRM party for Northern Uganda, became Uganda’s first ever serving speaker to die in office. He was flown out of the country on February 3, 2022, for specialized treatment following a referral by doctors at Mulago Hospital where he was admitted before his condition deteriorated.
Chapter six of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as amended provides for the establishment, composition and functions of Parliament.
Article 82 of the Constitution establishes the office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament and that he/she shall be elected by members of Parliament from among their number. The impression created in the constitution is that a Speaker can only be elected at the commencement of Parliament presided over by the Chief Justice or somebody designated by him.
Article 82(4) of the Constitution provides that subject to article 81(4) of this Constitution, no business shall be transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker at any time that office is vacant. In an event that a speaker dies in a office, it means that a new speaker must be elected even before is returned or before his casket in brought before Parliament. This has created a crust of the puzzle for the 11th Parliament and the NRM Government where a new speaker must be elected amidst mourning of the departed Oulanyah.
In the instant case where a Speaker dies in office, the deputy speaker cannot undertake any obligations. There is no room that the Deputy Speaker can actually become the substantive Speaker or even in an acting capacity when the office bearer dies. The problem is by necessary implication extended to the office of the Deputy Speaker, who can only be elected to that office at the first sitting of Parliament after that office becomes vacant as envisaged under Article 82(6) and presided over by the newly elected Speaker. A by-election to me seems to take precedent over anything else until the house has elected another substantive Speaker.
A vacancy in the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker may occur for reasons outlined under Article 82(7) (a-e) of the 1995 Constitution such as if he or she is appointed to any public office, if he or she becomes a Minister, if he or she resigns his or her office, if he or she ceases to be a member of Parliament or if he or she is censured. Unfortunately, the framers of our current constitution did not include death or even insanity as a basis for the office falling vacant.