Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Suspends Meetings Over Unruly Behavior

UPDATE: NTV has a report on the suspension of sessions:

In an surprising move, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga suspended sessions of Parliament due to the contentious Tuesday setting. The chaotic session was cut short by Kadaga due to rowdy behavior on the part of some MPs who were unhappy with the re-introduction of a clause to a bill on the petroleum sector which would give the Executive branch control of the nation’s growing oil industry. Here are the details from the Parliament website:

The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Kadaga Rebecca has suspended sittings of the House and directed the Parliament Committee on Rules Privileges and Discipline to review the behaviour of MPs in Tuesday’s Sitting.

In her address to Parliament November 28, the Speaker described the conduct exhibited by Members in yesterday’s prematurely adjourned House as unparliamentarily, unruly and disorderly. She said the behaviour exhibited by some MPs was beneath the dignity and honour expected of Honourable Members.

“Honourable Members, yesterday I prematurely adjourned the House because the atmosphere was not conducive for handling any meaningful business. Some honourable Members were rowdy, involved in heckling, shouting slogans and generally disrupted the proceedings of Parliament. ,” she told legislators.

The Speaker reminded MPs to follow the provisions in the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure that cater for the behaviour of Members during debate, and ensure that there is order and discipline on the part of Members when handling any business.

“In a democratic institution like ours, it is expected that members across the divide will listen to each other, respect the others view and ultimately negotiate until a consensus is arrived at. When a consensus cannot be arrived at, then the last option that can be explored is voting through any of the ways provided for in the Rules of Procedure. This is the behaviour which I expect from honourable members”, Speaker Kadaga added.

The Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee has been directed by the Speaker to review and analyse video recordings of the house with a view of recommending punitive action against any members whose behaviour could have disrupted the proceedings of Parliament.

The Committee is to table its report before Parliament on Monday December 3, 2012.

If indeed Kadaga makes good on this action, then debate on the oil bills, the Accountants Bill and now the report of the Privileges and Discipline Committee will most likely come before any action on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Video of Introduction of Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s Parliament

The camera lens stays in the gallery, but you can hear the clerk announce the Tuesday tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at 11 seconds followed by cheering. Then David Bahati speaks and introduces the bill at about 32 seconds into the video, beginning, “Madame Speaker…”

Can you imagine being the object of the effort to jail or end your life while the cheering is taking place?

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be Tabled in Parliament Today – UPDATED

See Updates below:

According to Parliament spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is on the agenda to be tabled for a first reading in today’s session of Parliament.

Kawesa said, “The bill will go through a new process again. It is a new Parliament.” This means that the bill will be referred today to a committee for study and recommendations. According to the Kawesa, the entire process of a first reading, referral to committee, public hearings and then a committee report to Parliament will be followed. She said, according to the rules of Parliament, the bill cannot be passed today.

She said the bill was basically the same bill as was almost considered in the 8th Parliament. She had no explanation for why the bill was not being considered where it was stalled back in May, 2011.

UPDATE: 8:15am – According to a person in the plenary session of Parliament, Speaker Kadaga said the bills renewed from the 8th Parliament will be read for the first time today but reports on the bills from the 8th Parliament will be used as a basis for moving toward a 2nd reading and debate. If true, this means that the time from first reading to second reading, debate and possible passage will be much shorter than would be true if a new bill was introduced.

UPDATE: 11:05am – There was a rumor that David Bahati would ask for a special action of Parliament to make today’s introduction count as a 2nd reading of the bill, thus allowing discussion and a possible vote. However, according to Ms. Kawesa, Parliament has concluded for the day with no further action on the AHB. In addition, it appears that similar Parliamentary rules will apply to the timing of a second reading as was applied to the first reading in 2009. This means that a minimum of two weeks must pass before the second reading can be accomplished.

Based on reports from Parliament in October, 2011, it was anticipated that the anti-gay measure would be considered by the new Parliament without repeating the first reading. During the October 2011 session, the Parliament voted to return unfinished business from the 8th Parliament to the current session. At that time, Kawesa said that Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga’s Business committee could recommend that the anti-gay bill go back to committee or it could recommend that the former committee report become the basis for debate in the Parliament. Based on the Kawesa’s statement today, the bill is starting over in committee.

The original committee report from Stephen Tashobya’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee left the severe aspects of the bill intact, including the death penalty and life in prison (see an analysis here; here is what the bill would look like if all of the committee’s changes were made).

Today’s order paper is below. Note that the bill is slated for a first reading (click to enlarge).

The AP just dropped this report (9:35am):

Uganda’s anti-gay bill reintroduced in parliament

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A lawmaker in Uganda is reintroducing an anti-gay bill that received wide condemnation, including from President Barack Obama.

The bill was reintroduced Tuesday by David Bahati, the bill’s primary backer. It was originally introduced in 2009 but has never come before the full parliament for a vote. The original draft legislation languished in a committee of parliament as the Ugandan government grappled with the international opposition it generated.

The original draft called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts, one of the reasons the bill received so much attention. Bahati told The Associated Press last year that he is willing to drop that provision if that is the recommendation of a parliament committee.

UPDATE: 11:30am – According Melanie Nathan’s interview with David Bahati this morning, the original AHB was re-introduced this morning without changes. Bahati told her that the committee would be recommending changes in the course of their work.

Full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 as introduced on October 14, 2009 and today.

If the initial committee report were implemented in the coming days, the AHB would look like this.

UPDATE: NTV report 2/7/12

UPDATE: 2/8/12 – Parliamentary research service staffer Charles Tuhaise told me this morning that the bill introduced in Parliament yesterday was the original bill first introduced in October, 2009.  Any amendments will come via affirmative vote on the floor of Parliament after the 2nd reading.

Related:

Ugandan MPs Cheer Introduction of Original Anti-gay Bill

Ugandan MPs vow to pass Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Despite Cabinet’s wish to shelve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Ugandan MPs voiced defiance in a Daily Monitor article today,

Members of Parliament yesterday accused Cabinet of bowing to pressure and described the Executive’s decision to block the gays Bill as “moral corruption”.

The lawmakers said it was immoral for government to think that donor funds matter more than traditional values and vowed to push for the Bill and ensure that it is passed even without the support of government. “Whether they want or not, we are going to pass it. For government to come up and throw out such a Bill means we are living in a crazy world,” said Mr Andrew Allen (Bugabula North).

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, says Cabinet cannot throw out his Bill because it is now property of Parliament and insists that he is going to push for it.

As I reported yesterday, Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa said the bill was in the jurisdiction of Parliament. Today, MPs echoed her words.

Prior to the move, the international community had put pressure on government by threatening to cut aid if government passes the Bill. Ms Betty Amongi (MP Oyam South) says Cabinet has given Parliament a chance to exercise and prove its independence and not allow donor influence to “also jeopardize its works.”
The Anti-homosexuality Bill is a private members Bill and Shadow Attorney General, Abdu Katuntu (MP Bugweri) said Cabinet cannot throw out a Bill it didn’t bring. “The only option they have is to come and oppose it on the floor of the House,” he said.

Committee report suggested minimal changes to Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Last week, one of the claims made by supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was that the death penalty had been removed. Some media picked up this claim and reported it without critical analysis. In fact, the bill never made it far enough to have any alterations, and, as noted here, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report did not, in fact, suggest the removal of the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality.
A paper designated as the final report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee was leaked last Thursday, just ahead of Friday’s final session. I have good reasons to believe that the report did come from the committee although I cannot say for certain that the report would have been presented on the floor of the Parliament had the bill gotten that far. You can read the report, converted to a .pdf, by clicking here.
To help see what a revised bill would have looked like, I compared the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the report. This version makes the changes called for in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report (Click the link). In this version the sections crossed out were in the original bill and those underlined are the ones suggested by the committee.
Even after the changes, the penalty for private, consensual  same-sex intimacy would still be life in jail and the death penalty would remain since it is the penalty provided for aggravated defilement in Uganda. Clauses 4, 7, 8, 14, 16 & 17 were deleted but a new penalty for participating in the marriage of a same-sex couples. Presumably, this would discourage ministers from performing the ceremonies. Even if the bill had been amended in the manner suggested by the committee, the bill would have defined homosexual behavior in a way that criminalized the most modest forms of intimacy with either life in prison or death for HIV positive individuals.
Reporters should carefully review  this committee report before taking statements from bill supporters at face value.

Uganda update: Anti-Homosexuality Bill on tomorrow's agenda; committee report suggests amendments; bill pushed to Friday

UPDATE: (5/11, 6:00pm ET) – There are quite a few stories being narrated surrounding today’s session in the Ugandan parliament. The AP describes a walkout by female MPs over the Marriage and Divorce bill which left the plenary session without a quorum. If not for that action, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill might have been debated and passed.
For additional updates, click here…
UPDATE: (5/11, 12:10pm ET) – Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa just told me that Parliament has adjourned but will reconvene on Friday to consider the remaining bills on the agenda. They will begin in the morning and work until all of the bills are considered. The intent is to address all bills. The AHB is the last one and is the most vulnerable but with an all day session, it is possible for it to get a third reading. According to Kawesa, Friday is absolutely the last day however as the new Parliament is sworn in on Monday.
According to bill author, David Bahati, the Parliament will meet at 10am and address the remaining four bills on the current order paper. He declined to predict the response of the Parliament but felt sure that the bill would get a debate and discussion.
UPDATE: (5/11, 10:16am EST) – There is a new order paper on the Parliament website. A spokeswoman said that the original paper left off the AHB but that it will be the last bill discussed today. The AP also reported that the AHB had been left off. Regarding whether or not the bill can come back up without reintroduction, there is conflicting information which I am attempting to clarify.
UPDATE: 12:50pm Kampala, 5/11) – I just spoke with Ranny Ismail, spokeswoman for Parliament, who told me that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still in committee. The report on the bill is indeed complete but in their procedure, the bill is still considered in committee and is not on the agenda for business today. However, she said that Parliament could carry forward all unfinished business in all committees if a member makes a motion to do so and it passes. She says this has happened before. This information is in contrast to what committee chair Stephen Tashobya told me on several occasions, although I assume now that he was addressing the fate of the AHB specifically if a motion to continue is not made. Because she was unsure about the fate of such a motion, she said she would not know the final outcome until about 7pm in Kampala.
UPDATE: (noon in Kampala, 5/11) – The order paper for Parliament’s session is now up but it does not mention the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. A relatively new bill – The Uganda National Meteorological Authority Bill, 2010 – has been added to the agenda along with the bills left over from Monday and Tuesday. Did the international pressure, both public and private, make a difference?
UPDATE: (noon, 5/10) – I just spoke with Helen Kawesa, Public Relations Manager of Uganda’s Parliament. She told me that Stephen Tashobya, Chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee completed his report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  When I asked her if the AHB would be on Wednesday’s agenda, she said,

All indications show that it should be coming up tomorrow. The committee has finalized its reports so they are ready to table it tomorrow and discuss it in the House.

She said one bill passed today which moved the Company and Marriage and Divorce bills to tomorrow as well.  Regarding the duration of tomorrow’s session, Kawesa added, “if there is business that they have to conclude they will push it to late, eight or nine o’clock.”
The report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee will be made public tomorrow during the session. Ms. Kawesa said she did not know the details but that some changes were made. “They found a few things to remove here and there that were extreme, but I don’t know exactly which ones.”
With the committee report filed, the only obstacle to the AHB getting a vote is the duration of the parliamentary session tomorrow. The willingness of the Speaker of the House to keep Parliament in session and vote on all bills is the unknown at this point.
Committee suggests changes in the bill
Not long after speaking with Ms. Kawesa, I spoke with AHB author David Bahati who told me that the death penalty had been removed from the bill in the committee report. He said that the plank criminalizing “attempted homosexuality” had been removed, with penalties for same-sex intimacy reduced from the current life sentence, although he said he did not know what the new penalties were. Committee chair Tashobya was not available for comment.
(See below for the initial post from this morning)
….
On today’s agenda (called an order paper) for Uganda’s Parliament, the planned business for tomorrow is also listed. On that agenda is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

NOTICE OF BUSINESS TO FOLLOW
1.                  BILLS SECOND READING
I)                THE HIV AND AIDS PREVENTION AND CONTROL BILL, 2010
II)              THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, 2009

The business listed does not always come up or get a vote. However, this listing signals that the bill is in play and could get a second reading. Bills have to read three times and third readings often take place during the same session as the second. According to procedure, a bill is presented to Parliament with a report from the relevant committee, in this case the Legal and Parliamentary Affairds committee. Any suggestions for amendment are raised and discussed by the lawmakers. Any changes agreed to by the members will become part of the bill and the bill is read a third time with changes and the bill becomes law.
From there, the bill goes to the President. He can send the bill back to Parliament with requests for changes, or he can simply allow the bill to become law by assent. Committee chair Stephen Tashobya told me months ago that President Museveni has not returned a bill to Parliament during his term.
I will be adding to this post as the day goes on…
There are now two petitions to the Ugandan government that are spreading rapidly across the web.
This one has over 250,000 signatures – AllOut – and is addressed to President Museveni
And this one – Avaaz.org – is all over Twitter now with over 650,000 signatures. (It has been down a few times that I have tried to get to it. I suspect the traffic is overwhelming the site. It is up now).
On the Avaaz.org petition, there is something not quite right about the description:

We’ve helped stop this bill before, and we can do it again. After a massive global outcry last year, Ugandan President Museveni blocked the bill’s progress. But political unrest is mounting in Uganda, and religious extremists in Parliament are hoping confusion and violence in the streets will distract the international community from a second push to pass this hate-filled law. We can show them that the world is still watching. If we block the vote for two more days until Parliament closes, the bill will expire forever.

The bill was never really stopped, but that is not the item I am concerned about. According to Stephen Tashobya, the bill is not really dead until May 18. If the Speaker wants to bring the Parliament together to consider the bill, he can do so, even after tomorrow. While that seems unlikely, it is possible. Also, the next Parliament begins the same day that the old one ends. There is nothing to prevent Bahati from bringing a version of the AHB back if he gets leave from Parliament to table another private member’s bill.
Many opponents are posting updates at the Facebook group – Speak out against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.
From BoxTurtleBulletin:

GetEqual has announced a protest for this afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Ugandan Embassy, 5911 15th Street NW in Washington, D.C. (map). Says GetEqual: “Please bring signs, banners, and your best protest chants Tuesday afternoon to the Ugandan Embassy as we let Uganda know that we stand in solidarity LGBT Ugandans, their families and friends, and we will not sit idly by while Members of Parliament debate whether to imprison or kill them.”
If you can’t make it to the protest in person, you can call, write, and/or fax the Ugandan Ambassador to the United States. Please be polite, but firm. The contact information is:
His Excellency Professor Perezi K. Kamunanwire
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Tel: (202) 726 4758
Fax: (202) 726 1727
pkamunanwire@ugandaembassyus.org

The UK is lobbying Uganda against the AHB according to this article from Pink News.
UPDATE (5:30pm 5/10): Speaking of pink, today Norbert Mao opposition presidential candidate was sprayed with pink dye and arrested in yet more clashes with police. Police said the dye was used to mark those involved in the protest.
(Left – PINK SHOWER: A supporter shields former presidential candidate Walter Lubega (R) from water sprayed by the police in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA)

Uganda's religious and civil leaders continue calls for debate on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

In sharp contradiction to Christianity Today columnist Timothy Shah’s statement that Uganda’s religious and political leaders were “repelled” by David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, various such leaders spoke out in support for the bill in the waning days of the 8th Parliament.
Today, UG Pulse reported:

Religious leaders, as well as the civil society organisations have today petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, calling for the debate and passing of the controversial Anti Homosexuality bill.
This comes a day after the activists were thrown out of the Parliament, shortly after meeting the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Stephen Tashobya on the same matter.
The Inter Religious Taskforce against Homosexuality, led by Pastor Martin Ssempa and Bishop Julius Oyet, presented over 2000 signatures collected from across the country, calling for the passing of the bill, which they say will protect the children.
They also revealed that a lot of money had been injected into a recruitment drive and if the legal committee was delaying, the bill should be moved to a different committee instead.
The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi told the taskforce that Parliament will receive all views from different stakeholders before it is either passed or rejected.
He however promised to consult with the relevant committee to discuss the bill as soon as possible.

Yesterday, a Voice of America report said the signatures numbered 2 million.

Religious leaders in Uganda are calling for a renewed debate of the country’s “anti-homosexuality” bill which they argue is essential to protect Ugandan children from homosexual recruitment.
On Wednesday, religious leaders and anti-homosexual activists from around Uganda gathered in parliament to urge debate on the country’s much-maligned “anti-homosexuality” bill.
The bill – also known as the Bahati Bill for the Member of Parliament who introduced it – has garnered worldwide attention for a provision which set the death penalty as punishment for certain homosexual acts. While the death penalty has since been removed from the bill, advocates continue to call for its passage as a means of protecting Uganda’s children.
Lead by Pastor Martin Ssempa, a charismatic and vocal opponent of homosexuality in Uganda, the group asked Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Edward Kiwanuka [Ssekandi] to fight the emerging “homo-cracy” in Uganda and enter the bill for debate.
“We as religious leaders and civil society are distressed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is being deliberately killed largely by the undemocratic threats of western nations,” he said. “These same nations who promote democracy don’t want our representative to discuss laws to protect our children from the human trafficking of recruiting our children into homosexuality.”
Ssempa leads the Inter-Religious Taskforce Against Homosexuality. During the session with Speaker Kiwanuka, the Task Force presented a portion of over 2 million signatures it said were gathered from around Uganda in support of the bill.

In fact, Julius Oyet was deputized by David Bahati to gather these signatures.
Then, this report was filed late yesterday in the Daily Monitor. The Speaker of the Parliament gave an encouraging word to the religious leaders:

“The mover of the Bill (David Bahati) is still a member of the 9th Parliament and even if the current Parliament doesn’t debate it, the new Parliament will do it,” Mr Ssekandi said.
He added: “Since the Bill was tabled, I have received numerous calls from the international community to throw it out but I always tell them that I don’t have those powers.”

Mr Ssekandi also told the team that their petition would be considered by the committee.

Chances are that time will run out on the bill. However, Ssekandi seemed to say that the new Parliament might take it up. With the government spokeswoman recently saying that the bill’s provisions will be added to another bill — the Sexual Offences Bill — the issue is far from over.

What he said: Parliament committee member says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is “useless”

According to this report from News 24, the bill is not as important as, well, important things.

Kampala – A Ugandan parliamentary panel said on Friday there is little backing for the country’s widely-condemned anti-gay bill and no timetable had been set for its debate.

“I think it is useless and will not achieve what it intends to achieve,” said Alex Ndeezi, a member of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee tasked with reviewing the bill before it can be presented to the house.

The bill imposes drastic penalties for homosexual offences, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner has HIV.

The panel’s chairman Stephen Tashyoba said the draft law was not a priority.

“As far as I am concerned, we really have more urgent matters to discuss like electoral reforms, which are already behind schedule,” he said.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and offenders can be jailed for life.

– AFP

h/t gug