Parliament democracy at a lifeline

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Parliament democracy at a lifeline

By Robert Kigongo

 On 5th July I woke to a national newspaper with a bold black and white headline stating “Uganda Democracy is Second in Democracy in Africa” I was so amused depending on the status of parliamentary democracy and what transpired in the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Well, According to the Afro barometer report 2024, “Uganda is among the 37 countries ranked highest among countries committed to democracy”

Certainly, the survey findings of the Afro barometer contradict the views of many democracy and political actors in Uganda.

Perhaps, that’s an issue of Data integrity and Information integrity that research organisations must pay attention to to avoid losing good reputation, trust and credibility.

My spotlight lenses are sighting the deteriorating parliamentary democracy in the 11th Parliament that is criminally under-observed by international surveys, academia and the press.

One of my area of contention for enlightenment is majority of the survey reports and blogs don’t often rate parliamentary democracy as the bedrock of constitutionalism and good governance;

‘Parliamentary democracy is as critical as inclusive democracy, therefore must be treated with urgency and utmost attention before it crosses beyond the lifeline of intensive care unit to death’

Each time I turn to television news, radio, blogs, political dialogues and new media platforms there is a drama and confusion series in the 11th Parliament constituted of 556 members.

From corruption scandals to censure motions with prima facies, misappropriation of resources, poor quality of debate, indiscrimination in allotment of time for private members, misinterpretation of the rules of procedures, sanctions, and indiscipline among others.

The biggest threat to parliamentary democracy is how the executive arm of government led by the president is subduing legislature independence which violates the doctrine of separation of powers.

For instance, the budget saga around the appropriation Bill where the president refused to sign until his interests were taken care of.

Unfortunately, all of the above are inexcusable deliberations intended to undermine parliamentary democracy at the detriment of constitutionalism and accountable governance.

For example, I have watched a video of speaker Anita Annet Annet denying Yona Musinguzi MP of Ntungamo Municipality to speak on the floor threatening to expose his private businesses outside parliament which violates sub-rule 1 of rules of procedure number 21.

Denying a representative of people defies the epitomic meaning of the Latin word ‘parle’ to talk that defines the very fundamental principle and genesis of the parliamentary system.

Benjamin Franklin once noted “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech”

In democratic countries like South Africa and Kenya watched legislators from EFF and AZIMIO respectively, debate freely, squaring up ideas and challenging the speaker that’s how parliamentary democracy flourishes.

Parliamentary democracy is based on a political party system that is constituted of a ruling party and opposition which offers a good governance opportunity as a scope for people to reflect their wishes, concerns and grievances through their elected representatives on the floor of parliament;

Now, imagine your representative being muted or opting to stay mute or absconding from plenary and committees.

Constitutionally, the opposition has a non-government party or coalition of parties of the legislative assembly is charged with a duty to question the government of the day and hold it accountable by offering alternative policies, but guess what?

Due to political compromise, inexperience and the spread of fear by speaker Anita Among’s vindictive wrath similar to what Zzake Mutebi Francis and Persis Namuganza faced, legislators have lost courage and freedom to talk resorting to silence and absenteeism.

Amusingly, a few courageous eloquent MPs like Betty Nambooze, Lutamaguzi Ssemakula, Derrick Nyeko, and Barnabas Tinkasimire are seen talking to journalists in parliament corridors for political posterity.

What shocks the public is that even the so-called senators are equally mute during debates on the floor.

In the absence of parliamentary democracy, the majority of Ugandan legislators have lost integrity and ethical ramifications to advance the interests of the marginalized electorate for selfish interests.

Something systematic must be done to liberate legislators from enslaved fear to reclaim their voices.

Our parliament never stops to amuse me, sometimes Dr Jimmy Spire Sentongo via his X handle shares cartoons to define those ridiculous parliament moments.

The most recent abuse of parliamentary democracy abuse act is when speaker Anita Annet Among individually robbed a unanimous decision on a vote for NAYS despite the majority of legislators choosing AYI.

It’s also obvious that due to the Kyagulanyi effect in the 2021 elections, the electorate presented many NUP political novices, you could assume after 2 years they have gained the confidence to debate and understand the rules of procedures and constitution, Wapi!

The NRM ruling government through its party parliamentary caucus is gauging the freeness of legislators to debate this cramps down parliament democracy;

NRM oftentimes is indoctrinating legislators to have a uniform opinion but those who deviate from that patronage thinking have been accused of being rebels.

Parliamentary democracy is at a lifeline but not yet at a point of no repair, the acknowledgement of the worsening image in the public domain by legislators Theodore SSekikubbo, Jothan Odur, Joel Ssenyonyi and Patrick Nsamba Oshabe is a good gesture towards the need for scrutiny and reforms.

The live broadcasting of the plenary sessions by the media is a good gesture of transparency and accountability thou needs enhancement through information laws.

Women, youth, workers and disabilities representation reflects inclusivity a pillar of parliamentary democracy, its vivid Uganda has Kabuye Kibiriige Frank aged 25 years the youngest legislator in Africa.

The successful attempt to foster cross-party collaboration is reflected in the parliamentary committees and joint sports activities.

IPad for each legislator is a gesture towards leveraging on technology to facilitate robust decision-making in the legislative arm of government.

“Men who urge to live together peacefully must be able to argue together peacefully” by Laski that’s my emphasis to enhance parliamentary democracy the speaker must allow diverse views and constructive criticism.

As citizens, we are duty-bound to defend and protect parliamentary democracy the cornerstone of good governance through participation;

For example, the Uganda parliamentary exhibition on X not only exposed gloss corruption, and abuse of office but increased citizen’s participation in parliamentary affairs.

Educate citizens about the role of parliament instead of pressuring legislators for humanitarian aid.

Collaboratively and collectively safeguard the doctrine of separation of powers that no single arm of government dictates over another.

For checks and balances, we must enact independent oversight and carry out global benchmarks in India, the UK, Germany, South Africa and Kenya where parliamentary democracy is flourishing.

Notably, To achieve parliamentary democracy constitutional and electoral reforms reducing the size of parliament, forensic audit, resetting rules of procedures and human resource restructuring, media literacy, constant capacity building programs retooling legislators for critical thinking and parliamentary staff.

Dear legislators your silence is too loud, imagine if you can’t protect your constitutional rights! How about my mother in the Gomba District? Stand up! Speak up and be counted as a modern legislator who didn’t fiddle away at the time parliamentary democracy deteriorated.


Robert Kigongo is a democracy deliverer and a sustainable development analyst.










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