Uganda's controversial parliamentary debates

Obote sacked Edward Mutesa from the ceremonial presidency, took the title of executive president and accusing Mutesa was seeking foreign military assistance to topple his government.

On October 4th, less than a week to Uganda’s first independence anniversary, the First Parliament sat to vote for Uganda’s first president.

It was a ceremonial position that the queen held as head of state, represented by the departing Governor-General.

The positions of Constitutional heads had been created to define the traditional leaders, who would qualify to become president of Uganda. Prime Minister Milton Obote’s UPC had reached a secret deal to get Kabaka Edward Mutesa elected as president so that nobody would in protocol terms be above him in Uganda.

To accommodate those districts that did not have monarchs, they were asked to elect their constitutional heads, a suggestion that the proud people of Teso district rejected.

When voting for president came, however, the Kyabazinga of Busoga who was also Vice President of the UPC, decided to stand, apparently having been promised the same by Obote.

So when Obote went to the table to support Muteesa, NAdiope could not believe what he saw as treachery and dashed at Obote to beat him up. Obote ran away and they circled the table three times before Nadiope was calmed down before a physical fight could take place, 44 years before the ‘Togikwatako’ showdown of 2017.
Mutesa was elected by over two thirds by secret ballot.

From February 4th 1966 and for two months after, Parliament was a scene of tense maneuvers starting with Kabaka Yekka MP Daudi Ochieng tabling a motion aimed at unseating the Prime Minister, Milton Obote.

The Prime Minister was being accused of conniving with his defence minister Felix Onama and deputy army commander Colonel Idi Amin to loot gold and ivory in Congo after army commander Brigadier Shaban Opolot refused to send the Uganda Army there.

Opolot testified that he refused to send the army to another country without parliamentary approval, which made the action criminal. Obote sacked Edward Mutesa from the ceremonial presidency, took the title of executive president and accusing Mutesa was seeking foreign military assistance to topple his government, sent to Mutesas’ palace, for the Mengo battle of May 23rd.

On June 20th, 1979, the National Consultative Council (NCC) after a two-day marathon sitting voted and removed President Yusuf Lule from office. The NCC was Uganda’s legislature at the removal of President Idi Amin from power. Lule had been in president for 68 days. The NCC is officially the Third Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, whose speaker was Prof Edward Rugumayo.

The whole of the Fourth Parliament (December 1980 – July 1985) was controversial, born of the disputed election that led to the bush war of February 1981 – January 1986. President Obote kept the Finance portfolio and opposition leader Paulo Ssemogerere led a walkout as the national budget was being presented, to protest the killings in the Luwero Triangle.

The Fifth Parliament (1989 1996), called National Resistance Council (NRC) passed a controversial bill in 1989 to extend the life of the NRM administration by five years. In the process, Kampala Central MP Wasswa Ziritwawula resigned his seat, saying he could not be a party to the extension.

The Sixth Parliament (1996 – 2001) was easily the strongest and among other things, sacked two powerful ministers – Jim Muhwezi and Sam Kutesa – and forced two others – Kirunda Kivejinja and Matthew Rukikaire - to resign rather than be censured.

The Seventh Parliament (2001 – 2006) is mostly remembered for removing the clause limiting the president two terms from the 1995 constitution before it could even be tested before the first Ugandan to be elected twice under the constitution could complete his second term. Members had received sh5 million each to consult in their constituencies, and even those without constituencies took the money.  

The Tenth Parliament which started in 2016, beat all others hands down in drama when it staged an hour-long vicious fight between members of the security forces who entered it to forcefully evict opposition members who had turned rowdy and kept singing the national anthem during the ‘Togikwatako’ debate to remove the clause limiting the age at which a person can be elected president to 75 years from the constitution. The age limit was removed. Several MPs were badly injured, some ended up undergoing surgery overseas.

Blessing Mwangi