Anita Annet Among, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, has enforced an immediate prohibition on absent lawmakers participating in committees, highlighting stricter regulations amid the Opposition’s recent boycott of plenary sessions.
The Opposition MPs initiated a month-long boycott on October 19, exiting Parliament to protest the government’s perceived inaction on critical human rights issues, including alleged harassment of fishing communities and detentions without trial.
Despite their sporadic presence in plenary to pay respects to deceased former ministers, these MPs continued to engage in committee activities, aligning with the Shadow Cabinet’s stance.
Speaker Among firmly stated that absentee MPs should refrain from both plenary and committee proceedings, underscoring that committee involvement is an extension of the House. She emphasized accountability by granting committees with absent chairpersons the authority to elect replacements and cautioned against manipulating attendance records.
The stringent directives extend to MPs currently training for the upcoming East Africa Parliamentary Games, demanding that absentees be excluded from participation.
Among cited financial accountability as a crucial factor behind her decision, stating that committee sittings entail considerable expenses, including allowances and per diems, which necessitate optimal attendance for value.
During the session, the Speaker’s directives elicited varied responses from MPs. West Moyo MP Tom Aza Alero expressed concerns regarding the absence of Opposition members from critical debates, emphasizing the importance of diverse perspectives in parliamentary discussions.
However, the Speaker defended the absence, attributing the contentious issues to the Executive and reiterating that the Opposition’s presence in Parliament remains intact despite their protest.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, emphasized taking action against party whips supporting absent Opposition MPs in plenary sessions, signaling a stricter stance within the Opposition ranks.
Despite the directive, notable instances of absenteeism and participation emerged, as exemplified by FDC secretary-general and Budadiri East MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi, who attended a session concerning the Petroleum Amendment Supply Bill, 2023, asserting his role in representing public interests.
The Speaker’s decisive measures aim to reinforce parliamentary accountability while eliciting debates about the impact of Opposition absence on crucial discussions within Uganda’s legislative framework.