Independent Members of Parliament have petitioned the Constitutional Court to amend the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, the Constitution of Uganda and the Administration of Parliaments Act.
The over 43 MPs through their lead petitioner and leader of the Independent’s caucus Otada Sam Amooti, MP for Kibanda Constituency, argue that over seven rules in the Parliamentary rules of Procedure contradict the Constitution of Uganda and are discriminative to the Independent MPs in the house.
Otada notes that the Parliamentary rules of procedures prevent Independent MPs from sitting on the Parliamentary Committee of Commissions, the rules deny members opportunity to choose a leader of their own, Independent MPs do not have specific seats in Parliament, the rules not being clear on Independent members participating on different committees of Parliament and others.
The rules say that if any member of the independents wants to sit on a parliamentary committee applies to the Clerk of Parliament and the Speaker is charged with the duty to ensure that the member joins the committee of his or her choice.
Otada said that this particular rule cannot work saying that they cannot be told to ask a clerk who serves them to allocate them a committee to sit saying that it is demeaning.
He noted that the petition came after a caucus of independent MPs which he leads and that all members agreed to take the step putting into consideration of Parliament not giving them enough support on the matter when it was raised on the floor of parliament and still when it was pushed to the Parliamentary committee on rules.
Some of the rules that the members seek to be amended are; Rule 9, Rule 11, Rule 14 and others.
Independent members said that the rules contradict with the Constitution of Uganda citing different articles including article 29 of the constitution which provides for freedom of association and others.
The members dully served the constitution petition to the attorney general and the Speaker of Parliament.
The Attorney General responded to the independent member’s petition saying that he is aware that the rules following debate, provided for which side of the members from the party in Government and Members of Opposition Party would sit.
He acknowledged that the sitting arrangement in Parliament is such that every member is provided with a comfortable seat and it does not in any way obstruct the Speaker from identifying the Independent Members from Opposition MPs.
He also noted that in the rules the interests of the independent members are taken into consideration along with the numerical strength of parties in deciding the overall membership of both the standing committees and Sectoral Committees.
MP Gerald Karuhanga, an Independent representing Western Youth, attacked the Attorney General’s response saying that it did not respond to their issues as raised in the petition but rather acknowledged their arguments as only being constitutional but did not make any effort to see that justice is provided to them.
The Petition was signed by three main Independent MPs including Sam Amooti Owor Otada, MP Nalubega Mariam representing Butambala and MP Allen Andrew who doubles as a Shadow Minister of ICT also representing Bugabula County North.