Kampala, Uganda | URN | The 10th Parliament that completed their mandate last week passed and enacted 118 bills, approved 75 loan requests, made 47 resolutions to pay tribute and considered 349 Ministerial statements.
Parliament led by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya also considered 653 urgent questions, while 49 questions for oral answers were considered and 858 questions for the Prime Minister were answered.
Of the 118 bills passed, some of them were contentious leaving not only members of Parliament but Ugandans and in some cases even the ruling party members and the opposition divided.
1. The Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017
One of the key bills that will forever define the 10th Parliament was tabled by a private member Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi in 2017. Known as the Constitutional amendment Bill of 2017, the bill which removed the cap on the presidential age limit saw members engage in a fist fight in Parliament.
The bill also saw an unprecedented raid in the house by plain-clothed security personnel on the Parliament Chambers to eject them forcefully.
The bill paved way for President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who has served Uganda since he came to power in 1986 to stand for a sixth term as the age limit of 75 years old was removed. During the passing of the bill, the Opposition members of Parliament and a few MPs from the ruling party engaged in filibustering in trying to delay or stall the bill.
They also sung the national anthem repeatedly while standing up, forcing the presiding officer Rebecca Kadaga to send them out.
25 legislators accused of paralyzing parliament business, on the day Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi was expected to table a motion for a private member’s bill seeking to, among others, amend the presidential age limit. Magyezi would later bow down from contesting as Member of Parliament after receiving an appointment by President Museveni as Minister for Local Government.
2. The Sexual Offenses Bill 2019
The sexual offences bill was passed after a controversial clause on withdrawal of consent during sex was removed.
The bill had proposed withdrawal of consent at any time before or during the performance of a sexual act. MPs rejected this proposal, but the bill would later be passed with stiff penalties for sexual offences including sex with the same gender (homosexuality).
The bill sets stiff penalties for indecent assault, sexual assault, indecent communication, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, unnatural offences, simple defilement, aggravated defilement, and incest among others. The bill awaits assent by the President.
3. The Sugar Bill 2016
Parliament passed the sugar bill, rejecting the controversial zoning of sugarcane farmers. This forced President Yoweri Kaguta Musevenu to return it back. The President declined to assent to the bill saying the absence of zoning in the sugar industry would kill the economy.
Museveni said that small farmers with less than six acres should not be allowed into growing sugar cane, but medium and large scale farmers should partner with the factories.
The bill was returned back to the President in its rejected form as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ruled without debate that the house considered the bill very carefully, enacted it and it was ready for assent. The bill was finally signed into law by the President.
4. National Social Security Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Parliament passed the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Amendment Bill 2019 allowing midterm access for members who had saved for 10 years or clocked the age of 45 years.
The fate of the bill however hangs in balance as it awaits assent from the President, as the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija is lobbying against signing of the bill saying taking money from the fund would affect the scheme.
Parliament had also resolved that there should be dual management of the fund with the Minister of Finance in charge of the money and its investment, while the Ministry of Gender should handle the social issues affecting the savers.
Read Also: MP appeals to President Museveni not to assent to NSSF Bill
With the bill passed on 17th February 2021, the bill is way passed the constitutionally mandated 30 days within which he must return or sign the bill.
5. The Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill 2018 (GMO) Bill
In 2019, Parliament passed the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill 2018 (GMO) Bill which seeks to provide a regulatory framework for safe development and application of biotechnology and release of Genetically Modified Organisms-GMOs.
Parliament had passed the same bill on October 4, 2017 but President Museveni declined to assent to it and sought clarity on the title, patent rights of indigenous farmers and sanctions for scientists who mix Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) with indigenous crops and animals.
He said parliament had a duty to protect crops and livestock with unique genetic configuration developed by Ugandans. The bill was again returned for the second time by the President for further scrutiny.
The bill has generated interest from anti and pro GMO lobbyists and the international community and remains before a parliament committee.
6. The Landlord and Tenant Bill 2018
The President returned the landlord and tenant bill back to Parliament after it was passed in 2019. The bill regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants.
Among the key provisions in the Bill was that landlords and tenants must sign tenancy agreements for rental transactions of over 500,000 Shillings with clear terms and conditions.
Also, tenancy disputes shall be handled in local council court and other courts of law. It also states the landlords can only evict tenants after securing court orders to do so. However, the President in his letter returning the bill saying the definition of residential premises should be expanded by parliament to accommodate an excuse for houses for residential and office premises that do not require physical interface with customs.
He also says that Clause 15 (1) of the bill provides that tenants should not use rented premises or amend their use in a manner that causes a nuisance between the occupier and neighbouring premises.
“This clause presumes that physical planning for the Local Government will adhere to the separation of residential and commercial premises and do the same in the issuing of trading licenses to avoid a situation whereby one licensed commercial activity such as a bar ends up becoming a nuisance to another activity such as a residential house that is equally licensed by the same Local Government,” Museveni’s letter reads.
7. The National Local Content Bill 2019
Parliament in 2019 also passed the local content bill that seeks to promote the use of local expertise, financing and goods and services in projects involving public funds.
The bill caught the attention of the Partners Development Group (PDG) comprised of representatives from the European Union (EU), the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom, South Korea, Norway, Iceland, Japan, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the United Nations (UN).
Museveni returned the bill asking parliament to reconsider among others the requirement for projects funded through loans to comply with local content obligations. Museveni says this isn’t practical since each development partner has its own policies and guidance that are negotiated before any project starts.
The bill is among the items that have been pushed to the 11th Parliament for consideration.
8. Succession Amendment Bill 2018
The succession amendment bill was passed by Parliament and is yet to be signed into law. The bill prescribes how property or estates of a deceased are shared with the remaining family members. However, the bill has faced resistance from the Muslim community who say inheritance is already provided for in the Holy Book, the Quran.
Of the deceased or testators wealth, the surviving spouse or spouses will take 20 per cent, the dependant relatives take 4 per cent, the linear descendants or biological and adopted children take 75 per cent while the customary heir will take 1 per cent. The repealed act provided for only 15 per cent for the spouse. The bill is yet to be assented to by the President.
9. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Bill 2019
The Bill establishes the National Health Insurance Scheme to which all Ugandans aged above 18 will be mandated to contribute before accessing health services.
If assented to by the President, there will be a four per cent deduction on salaries of employees in the formal sector and a one per cent contribution from their employers, to contribute 1% to the health scheme. Individuals in the informal sector will contribute an annual payment of sh100, 000.
The bill however does not show how much Government will contribute to the scheme. Governments attempt to withdraw the bill at the last moment failed even when the Minister of Health for General Duties Robinah Nabbanja said Government needed more time to consult.
Government sought to include new changes like using available tax collection agencies to collect the monies for the scheme,they also propose that usage of the scheme will be mandatory in the country for all basic health care service.
10. National Coffee Bill 2018
MPs rejected a controversial clause that sought to register all coffee farmers in the country, licensing them and assessing the detail of the farm and trees before licensing. The President however early this year returned the bill asking Parliament to reconsider the proposal on registration of coffee farmers.
The bill is among those to be considered in the next Parliament.
Other key bills passed by the 10th Parliament is the Over The Top (OTT) tax on social media of 200 shillings per day, the 12% charge on Internet Bundles, the Mobile Money tax of 1% on every transaction among others.