NOVEMBER 10, 2010: Special Interest Groups to Retain Legislative Seats

Special Interest Groups to Retain Legislative Seats

SOURCE: The New Vision

By Cyprian Musoke And Joyce Namutebi

SPECIAL interest groups are to stay in Parliament after a motion by Ngora MP Francis Epetait to remove the army, but retain other groups was defeated yesterday.

Epetait had sought to make an amendment to an earlier motion by justice minister and Attorney general Khiddu Makubuya. The minister's motion was for the retention of all groups.

After a lengthy and heated debate which pitted the opposition against the army representatives, the House voted in favour of retaining the army.

There are 10 UPDF MPs in the House, five for youth, five for workers, five for persons with disabilities and 80 district Women MPs, whose representation is subject to review every five years.

In the next Parliament, the district women MPs will be 112 to represent the 112 districts. The total number of MPs is expected to rise to 376 from the current 332.

Epetait argued that there is no more need for UPDF representation since it had professionalised and stabilised the country.

The army, he added, should be like the Police and prisons that are represented by their line internal affairs minister.

"Let's save our army from being dragged into partisan politics now that we are in a multiparty setting," Epetait said.

Army commander Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said countries like China, Turkey and Egypt have army representation and that it was disheartening that they, who had saved the country, were being sidelined.

"We have only 10 out of 300 seats. We deserve even more," he said.

The coordinator of the security services, Gen. David Tinyefuza, said being loyal to the government in power did not make them partisan, since their mandate is to serve any government that constitutionally attains power.

"The executive, legislature and judiciary are also institutions of the state that we are loyal to. Our duty is to protect the state as established by the law. Even if the opposition takes over power, we shall sit by their side," he said.

Defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga said the military played a role in Uganda's turbulent past, so it was ill-advisable to sideline them in the country's politics.

Felix Okot (NRM) said he had spoken to opposition MPs, most of whom agreed that the army stays in parliament.

He, however, insisted that army MPs should not be delegated other duties outside the House in order to effectively represent their colleagues.

Most opposition MPs argued that being loyal to the Government in power and sitting on their side of the House showed partiality of a force that should serve all Ugandans.

Maj. Gen. Elly Tumwine urged the House not to go into untested territory by abandoning institutions that have worked well for the country.

Tinyefuza, in response to accusations of attending few sessions, argued that they are only listening posts and often fall back into their constituency or in the trenches.

Elijah Okupa (FDC) wondered why none of the army MPs was from the eastern region, but most were from the western region.

Parliament last reviewed the representation of special interest groups in December 2005 and resolved to retain them.

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