Scuffles in Uganda parliament as MPs debate Public Order Bill

By Nkonge I Kaggwa at Houses of Parliament in Kampala, Uganda

Ugandan MP Odong Otto chats with fellow MPs outside parliament after he caused scuffles in parliament Thursday when he tore up the House's parliamentary register of MPs.
Ugandan MP Odong Otto (blue suit) chats with fellow MPs outside parliament after he caused scuffles inside the House Thursday when he tore up in protest the House’s parliamentary register.

There was a scuffle in the Ugandan parliament Thursday after the NRM-led parliament tried to proceed with the passing of the controversial Public Order Management Bill which has been on the shelves for the past two years after the opposition demanded that presiding Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah stay the passing of the Bill so that the opposition could carry out more consultation with the government side so as to let the two sides harmonize their positions.

A scuffle unfolded after the deputy speaker had suspended three members of parliament who were among the entire opposition making a lot of noise objecting to the passing of the Bill into law. Since Wednesday this week, the opposition, led by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), have been advocating for the re-committal of Section Eight of the Bill which opposition MPs say is against the fundamental principles of human rights, expression and assembly, and also contravenes the constitution.

Parliament had used the chance to debate the controversial Bill during the time the opposition had boycotted parliamentary proceedings after the approval of a serving army general to cabinet, General Aronda Nyakairima as the Minister of Internal Affairs. All the sections which had been earlier amended by the opposition were recalled as per the ruling government wishes, but the opposition after learning of the intention of the government they rushed back to the House on Tuesday to ensure they recommit all the sections passed.

A stormy debate ensued on the floor of the house as the Democratic Party’s Muwanga Kivumbi wanted to recommit Section Eight of the bill which the speaker put to the vote. It went in favour of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) as it has a majority in the house, which prompted objections from the opposition. Shouts of “No…no  …That is wrong Speaker. No, no”, were heard from the opposition which prompted the speaker  to suspend three members, FDC’s Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, Odong Otto and Theodore  Sekikubo. The speaker adjourned the house after parliament had turned unruly when Odong, the Aruu Member of Parliament, tore the official parliamentary register which was being used by the clerk to ascertain the members who were going to engage in the voting.

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