Read my concise rendering of today’s events and those leading up to today at Huffington Post.
For details, read on…
Despite being called to business today by Speaker Edward Ssekandi, Uganda’s parliamentary session has been stalled today and may adjourn (it did adjourn, see update below) without taking any action on pending legislation, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to parliamentary spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, Parliament is stalled on a “technicality.” She said there is no Cabinet in place because it was dissolved in preparation for the end of the 8th Parliament in advance of yesterday’s Presidential inauguration. It is unclear who raised the issue of the necessity for Cabinet to be place for business to be conducted. However the effect is that the session is winding up, with members discussing how to proceed before the end of the 8th Parliament on 18th.
According to this report, Speaker Ssekandi ordered Ministers on Monday to “vacate their seats” yesterday, the same day as the inauguration of President Museveni. However, at that time, the Speaker seemed to indicate that business could be conducted.
He said the directive to vacate the front bench seats which are only a reserve for government ministers and shadow ministers (opposition) does not mean affected members should stop attending and transacting parliament work.
He said the Eighth parliament runs till May 15, a day before the members of the Ninth parliament’s swearing-in-ceremony commences. The ruling NRM ministers and shadow ministers known occupy front bench seats in the parliament chambers while transacting parliament business.
The order paper on the Parliament website shows no bills on the agenda which indicates that the matter of the missing Cabinet must have come up prior to convening the session. The fate of the AHB is still not clear and may not be resolved until the last day of Parliament. Ms. Kawesa said the MPs were discussing a motion to continue all business until the next Parliament perhaps next week, when a new Cabinet is in place.
UPDATE: Apparently, there will be no more business but it is unclear whether a motion to continue was entertained. This announcement just appeared on the Parliament website:
Emotional farewells as Eighth Parliament closes
The term of office for Members of Parliament elected to the Eighth Parliament of Uganda has come to an end. Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon.Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi announced to MPs, in an emmotional (sic) sitting , the end of the term of the Eighth parliament urging MPs to appreciate and embrace the multiparty political system.
“This Parliament was different from all parliaments before it. But my assessment is that people still long for the movement political system other than the multiparty system. The two systems are different and what you must know is that under multiparty system, Mps on the government side came with one manifesto that the executive is trying to implement,” he told MPs.
Speaker Ssekandi announced that the official proclamation for the end of the Eighth Parliament had already been signed and would be gazetted on May 18, the day the ninth Parliament would commence.
If he was quoted properly by the Uganda Razor, he said earlier in the week that the Eighth Parliament went to the 15th and business could be conducted without a Cabinet. Today, at a session that he called, he said business could not be conducted and announced that the proclamation ending the Parliament had been signed.
UPDATE: I have confirmed with Helen Kawesa that Parliament was adjourned sine die, meaning that the Speaker could call the members back to session if needed. In this way, there is always a legislative body, even when not in session. The proclamation to close the Parliament is signed but will only go into effect on the 18th.
When I asked spokeswoman Kawesa whether or not the AHB could come up next Parliament without the continuing motion, she said she knew of no means, but would not rule it out. I also asked her why the Speaker called the members back to session knowing that there was no Cabinet. Kawesa said she did not know.
As is stands, with no further action, Bahati will have to ask Parliament permission to move AHB-II as a private member’s bill. If they give him that permission then he can introduce the same bill or a modified one and the process will begin again. Today, however, is a good day for freedom of conscience.
The AP has a report on the matter…
Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuk said there is no time to take up the bill this session, which ends Wednesday, leaving the bill’s future uncertain. Kiwanuk adjourned the parliament Friday and set no date for the body to return.