Solomon Afli

Government concerned over unfair trade terms with Kenya

The Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, Kasule Lumumba, has told Parliament that Kenya’s latest ban on Uganda’s poultry products is a big concern that needs to be handled expeditiously.

Responding to a concern raised by Mukono North MP, Abdallah Kiwanuka, about the ongoing impasse between Kenya and Uganda over the importation of the latter’s poultry products, Lumumba said that the issue had been brought to the attention of the Government and she was optimistic that the matter would be resolved.

Kiwanuka said Ugandan farmers continue to count losses for failure to export their perishable poultry products to neighboring Kenya in defiance with the East African Federation and Open market Protocol.

He appealed to the Ugandan Government to engage the Kenya Government to agree on various products which can enter into an open market protocol.

“If these engagements fail, then our Government should in retaliation ban Kenya’s products. It is unfortunate that Kenya exports more chicks to Uganda but when it comes to Uganda exporting, then there is a ban,” Kiwanuka said.

Earlier in the day, the Minister for East African Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga, who addressed a press conference, directed the Agriculture ministry to identify and list Kenyan products that will be banned by the Ugandan government within “a short time.”

She said that on Monday, the Ugandan Cabinet agreed to this nearly two-year proposal, which has often been opposed by President Yoweri Museveni.

The latest hostilities between the two EAC partner states began brewing in December 2019, when Kenya stopped importing Ugandan milk, particularly the Lato brand.

In July 2020, Kenya followed up with a ban on Ugandan sugar, against an earlier agreement to increase Uganda’s sugar exports to Kenya.

Players within Uganda’s poultry industry to this week petitioned their Government over Kenya’s ban of Uganda’s poultry products from their market for nearly a year.

Kenya maintains that some of the products are substandard and that it’s protecting its domestic market.

In November, Nairobi postponed a trade mission to Uganda to resolve the sugar and milk import standoff, amid jitters on whether the two countries are ready to find a lasting solution to the impasse.

Kenya is Uganda’s biggest trade partner. Kenyan exports to Uganda in 2020 amounted to $673.66 million while Uganda’s exports to Kenya stood at $465.55 million during the same period.

Lumumba informed the House that a meeting was underway chaired by Rt Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs together with the Ministers of Agriculture and Trade over the same.

She reechoed that the matter is affecting the farmers because 70 percent of eggs are exported to Kenya, while 80 percent of chicks in Uganda are supplied by Kenya, So, this concerns us all,” she said.

Lumumba promised to issue a comprehensive statement on Wednesday, 15th December 2021 on the Floor of Parliament arising from the ongoing discussions.

Parliament to Debate Road Safety

Members of Parliament have urged the Government to consider putting mechanisms in place that strengthen efforts for promoting road safety in the Country.
The Fort Portal City MP, Alex Ruhunda yesterday said in a motion urging the government to strengthen efforts for promoting road safety comes that there is an urgent need for stakeholders to brainstorm ideas that curtail road carnage and its impact on the health of the people and their economy.

The motion was presented in a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker, Anita Among ahead of the commemoration of the National Road Safety Week scheduled for December 13 to 17, 2021.

The motion is set for a comprehensive debate on December 14, 2021. Ruhunda noted that the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998, and subsequent amendments in 2020 recognize the need to promote road safety in Uganda through the strengthening of road transport regulation and road safety management.

He said that the reports from Police have always indicated that there is a need for strong Government intervention by strengthening efforts for promoting road safety in the country.

“The Police Annual Crime Report 2020 estimates deaths accruing to road traffic crashes of 3000 people while serious injuries average 13,500 people annually,” said Ruhunda

The MP called upon the Government to consider increasing funding to cater for different road safety activities especially for the Uganda Police and the Ministry of Works and Transport. He further asked the Government to consider reducing the speed limit from 50km per hour to 30kms per hour within urban centers as a measure of curbing road carnage.

According to Ruhunda, the ministry should consider reducing the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) from the current 0.08mg/100ml to 0.05mg/100ml for the general drivers and 0.02mg/100ml for young and novice drivers and commercial drivers. This measurement examines the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream and a reduction would mean nipping cases of drunk driving in the bud.

He also called for setting up acceptable standards for helmets, seatbelts, and child restraints to be allowed on the market and strengthening of enforcement of road safety laws and regulations especially during the festive season.

Ruhunda asked Government to strengthen measures to curb corruption between traffic offenders and the law enforcers on the roads.

Ignatius Wamakuyu Mudimi the Elgon County MP who seconded the motion asked the Government to improve on the dilapidated road network especially for roads in Kampala since most of the Kampala Roads are full of potholes which poses a risk to the lives of many road users across the city.

Parliament committees suffer budget cuts

Members of Parliament have expressed dissatisfaction over budget cuts that have slowed their committee work to the detriment of taxpayers. The lawmakers said that whereas budget cuts were occasioned by the Covid19 outbreak, there is an urgent need to review the national budget and consider significant funding for Parliament committee work.

In the 2020/21 financial year, budget cuts were imposed on several Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies as a measure to reduce public expenditure and allocate more money to fighting the Covid19 pandemic and resuscitating the economy that had taken a nosedive.

In a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker, Anita Among, the Bukooli County MP, Solomon Silwany, noted that committees were unable to travel around the country to help shape their findings and reports because they do not have funds.

“These committees cannot fast-track their work involving benchmarking or doing other oversight activities because the Ministry of Finance cut their budgets,” he stated.

Silwany added that it makes no sense for the Government to continue its work when it is not being supervised by Parliamentary committees that have constrained budgets. Among responded in agreement with Silwany saying that Parliament plays a vital function in facilitating
government by processing its business.

“We do oversight work on the Executive and Judiciary and if you cannot facilitate us to do the work, then why
are we here? You need the bills and reports but you are not facilitating Parliament, you need to help us to
help you”, said Among.

Jonathan Odur the Erute County South MP noted that there is a tendency by the front bench to come to Parliament and respond to issues casually and when a motion is passed no is action taken. He further told the House that the Judiciary was suffering the same predicament as Parliament.

Keefa Kiwanuka the Kiboga East County MP said that Committees, for example, that of Finance, are unable to travel for fact find which has left most of its pending work given the meager budget left. “For us to travel, it would mean that some of the members would have to stay behind, which is unacceptable
to the Members,” Keefa added.

The Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa told the house that the budget cuts were affecting all government agencies and ministries.

“Ministries like mine had their budgets reduced by about 40% therefore, this means that this matter is affecting everyone and not just Parliament,” she said. In response Among told her that the issues of Parliament are different from the ministries and thus the two cannot be compared.

MPs protest science curriculum in primary schools

The Amuru District Woman MP, Lucy Akello has raised a red flag over the nature of the content contained in some science subject textbooks meant for primary pupils, warning that syllabuses promoting abortion and the use of contraceptives are not only illegal but also a threat to the country’s moral fabric and the future of children.

She revealed that whereas the country’s law books prohibit aspects of reproductive health such as abortion, she learned with shock that in some schools, reproductive health is introduced with aspects that might be detrimental to the children’s moral aptitude.

Akello raised alarm on the nature of science subjects being introduced to primary six pupils aged 10 and 11 in schools during a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker, Anita Among this afternoon.

She said whereas reproductive health is an important subject matter, topics on contraceptives, tubal ligation and abortion are not supposed to be taught to pupils at such a tender age and the situation should be arrested before it spirals out of control.

“I came across a past paper of one of the children and the question was; what is the role of Reproductive Health Uganda in Uganda? And the answer this little girl gave if I may quote is – If need be, to legalize abortion,” Akello said to an awed audience.

Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) is a non-governmental organization in Uganda with a long-standing record of providing quality reproductive health services that include safe motherhood, family planning, HIV/AIDS, adolescent interventions and advocacy in Uganda.

Referring to a textbook: Integrated Science Longhorn Pupils’ book Six, Akello said she was very worried that children are learning what they are not supposed to and yet the Constitution speaks against the termination of life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by law.

Abortion in Uganda is illegal unless performed by a licensed medical doctor in a situation where the woman’s life is deemed to be at risk.

With schools set to open in January 2022, she asked that the Ministry of Education and Sports immediately withdraws the textbook and contentious topics from the curriculum.

The State Minister for Education, Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu informed the plenary that the curriculum the Ministry knows and was implementing prior to the COVID19 pandemic was the approved curriculum.

She added that during the Covid19 lockdown period, they had embarked on reviewing the curriculum to accommodate the time that the children had lost but that the new curriculum was yet to be implemented as it was still in process of development.

Moriku stressed that for any textbook or reading material to be utilized or approved to be used in schools; it must undergo a vetting process and be approved by the National Curriculum Development Centre including carrying their logo.

“In the event that someone comes and writes a textbook that has not been approved, we will look at that textbook and immediately withdraw it but as far as I know the textbooks that are subjected to our children have to undergo a vigorous process of approval,” said Moriku.

She also reiterated that the issue of abortion is illegal as per the Constitution and that the issue of contraceptives should not be discussed especially in schools.

She notified the House that in 2018, with regard to the issue of abortion the Ministry of Education and Sports had not approved the policy and that anyone going against the Ministry using items that have not been approved should be denounced.

Among then tasked the Minister to look at the said textbook and ascertain whether or not it went through any approval process and report back to the House. She added that if possible the textbook should be withdrawn from the curriculum because it is not recommended for the pupils.

Government speaks out on new Covid19 variant

The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has said that Ugandan Scientists have embarked on studies to identify threats associated with the new COVID19 variant, Omicron, first detected in South Africa last month.

She assured the country that the Government had intensified surveillance measures on most of the national entry points to curb the spread of Omicron.

While presenting a statement on the Floor of Parliament on December 2, 2021, Dr Aceng, said whereas there is no case of the variant recorded in Uganda, fears are high as the country enters into a festive season with a likelihood of hosting travellers, some from countries hit by the new strain.

She said that the Government had heightened surveillance at points of entry with particular emphasis at the high-volume entry points like Entebbe International Airport and high-volume land border points like Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Elegu, Mpondwe and Katuna.

Omicron, the latest and reportedly “high-risk” variant of SARS -COV-2 has taken the world by storm. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

This latest COVID-19 variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa last week and is said to have spread significantly to reach all provinces of South Africa. The new variant has reportedly spread to at least 23 other countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, UK, Germany and Italy among others.

Omicron is the 12th variant of the Covid-19 virus that WHO has named on Greek alphabets. WHO has been using the Greek alphabet to name the most prevalent covid-19 variants, meaning at least 12 known variants or strains of the SARS-COV-2 virus are known so far.

The Minister encouraged the public to embrace the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and continue adhering to the standard operating procedures.

Regarding the testing of incoming passengers at Entebbe International Airport, the Minister said that the Government is testing all incoming passengers; however, they will be allowed to proceed to their destination once their sample has been removed.

“The Government of Uganda instituted mandatory testing of all incoming travellers upon arrival on October 28, 2021. To date, 48,259 samples have been tested with 228 positive cases recorded. On average, six (6) positive cases are recorded daily,” said Aceng.

She added that the testing of incoming travellers at other land Points of Entry will be conducted by the private laboratories at Government set rates.

She appealed to all the travellers, to be honest, and sincere when sharing details of their addresses and contacts.

“This is to enable prompt to follow up to prevent the spread of the virus. Giving false addresses puts the entire country in danger. The ministry of health is relying on you to help us in this exercise so that we avoid holding travellers at the airport but at the same time take precautions to avoid the spread of infection,” she added.

Responding to concerns by MPs led by Allan Mayanja, Nakaseke Central MP who said availability of COVID-19 vaccines is inadequate, the Minister said that the Government has so far received a total of 17,131,090 doses through donations and direct procurement by the Government of Uganda.

She informed the Country that 10,523,853 doses of the 17,131,090 doses received had been distributed countrywide. She added that the distribution of the remaining 6,607,237 doses is ongoing. She said that the Government will receive an additional 15,563,650 doses by the end of December 2021.

Regarding queries on the effectiveness of the vaccines being administered following the emergence of the new Omicron variant, the Minister allayed the fears saying that research was underway on the same.

Parliament blasts Ministers over absenteeism

Parliament has again rapped members of the Executive for continued absentia without prior notice during plenary sittings; a habit that it says stalls House business to the detriment of the people the two institutions serve.

The outrage was triggered during the December 1, plenary session during which several Ministers were supposed to present statements, move motions and respond to urgent questions raised by MPs but they were a no show in the House.

The Deputy Speaker Anita Among said she was disappointed that Parliament has severally complained about Ministers’ absentia without prior communication to the Speaker which slows the progress of work in the House.

The Minister for Presidency, Milly Babalanda was supposed to present a statement on the commemoration of World AIDS Day but instead delegated the Minister for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan affairs, Minsa Kabanda to present the Statement on her behalf.

Among stopped Kabanda from making the statement on grounds that she is not the Minister for Presidency.

Efforts by the Third Deputy Prime Minister, Rukia Nakadama to inform Parliament that Kabanda was one of the Ministers from the Office of the President were futile because Among was not notified.

The Minister for Finance, Matia Kasaija was also supposed to move a motion for a resolution of Parliament to authorize the Government to borrow about $90m from the International Development Association of the World Bank Group to finance the Uganda Secondary School Education Expansion Project (USSEEP) but he instead delegated the Education Ministry to present the statement on his behalf as he was away in another meeting.

Among told the House that the Order Paper was uploaded in time to allow members to familiarize themselves and be able to attend to matters arising. She added that it’s the reason she keeps advising the Prime Minister to ensure that Ministers are in the House because their absence affects the smooth running of the plenary.

“The Order Paper was uploaded yesterday and the perception is that everyone had access to it. It is a total contempt of Parliament for you not to come and respond to what is on the Order Paper,” She said.

Kabanda committed to informing the Minister to be available the following day to move the motion on the floor of Parliament and allow for the Committee on Finance to also present their report.

Also absent to respond to Urgent questions on the recurrent fatalities from the bomb explosions in Nakaseke District, including one that claimed the lives of three children in Semuto, Nakaseke District on October 29, 2021, and the need for compensation of the affected families, was the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Kahinda Otaffire.

The Leader of Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga tasked Nakadama to make a commitment that whenever Ministers are not around, they can ask the Speaker to suspend the House to allow them to do other business in committees instead of wasting time and taxpayers’ money.

“In a very worrying way we are losing time as Parliament and before we know it, this House is going to be half empty with members going in for games and the Holiday is coming in close. That is why I resisted the postponement of the statement on the COVID19 surge. The Front Bench is actually sleeping on duty and they want us to sleep with them on duty. I will not accept that. The Front bench should be notified that we are not going to join them in wasting time and taxpayers’ money,” said Mpuuga.

In the recent past Among was forced to prematurely suspend the House because several Ministers were not present to respond to matters that were being raised by MPs.

Among reiterated that there is an aspect of notification to the Speaker in the Rules of Procedure and that she was not notified. She said that the continued absentia of Ministers from the House was a lack of respect for Parliament and demanded that the Members respect each other.

Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies to Lose Name, Autonomy in New Motion

Kilak North Member of Parliament Anthony Akol has been granted leave to present a private members bill that will reverse the autonomy of the Institute of Parliamentary Studies, recently named after the former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

The institute will now revert to being a department under parliamentary service, with the same mandate of training Members of Parliament and staff. This means that it will now be audited together with other departments and be funded through the parliamentary commission, with no right to mobilize resources from outside Parliament.

The bill also seeks to ensure that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament becomes a Member of the Parliamentary Commission. Currently,  the Deputy Speaker only attends sessions of the commission as and when invited by the Speaker of Parliament. According to Akol, the changes are envisaged to reduce government spending on autonomous bodies.

Although the Institute of Parliamentary Studies was organized and administered as a directorate within the Parliamentary Service from its establishment in 2008 with backing from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, it was elevated in 2020, by an Act of Parliament as a semi-autonomous body.

Parliament also passed a resolution to name it the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies. Although now the Institute is called the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute, taking it back to become a department of Parliament would automatically drop the name.     

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal tabled the proposal to name the institute after Kadaga said she couldn’t comment on the matter because it is an administrative issue.

Legislators asks government to create a public holiday for covid19 vaccination

Members of Parliament want a public holiday declared so as to scale up vaccination of learners in order to achieve the vaccination target required to reopen schools.

The MPs on the Parliamentary forum on children noted that the prolonged lockdown on schools has exacerbated cases of defilement, teenage pregnancy, and acute malnutrition.

The forum together with the National Children Authority addressed a press conference at Parliament today and rallied teachers and non-teaching staff to heed to the ongoing mass vaccination of teachers in order to fast track the reopening of schools. 

They launched a three months campaign which will be rolled out across the country to promote vaccine uptake of teachers and students.

In efforts to step up vaccination, the MPs have urged the government to declare a public holiday or two days for mass vaccination. They believe it will not only scale up vaccination but also save vaccines from expiring.

Flavia Kabahenda, the Woman MP Kyegegwa says setting aside a time to mobilize Ugandans on vaccination would be a good move if the country is to fight COVID-19 and have the country open up.

Kabahenda urged teachers to go for vaccination to enable the quick opening of schools saying home is not safe as well.

She said girls were being defiled, citing a case in Kabarole district where a 14-year-old girl recently gave birth to a baby boy after being defiled by the father.

Margaret Makhoha chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary forum for children also downplayed government efforts to distribute home learning materials, saying the materials did not reach the children, but also that homeschooling cannot work with parents who are uneducated. 

The executive director of the National Children’s Authority Martin Kiiza says the lockdown on schools has contributed to the increased cases of defilement with 14000 cases registered since last year.

  Government plans to open schools in January next year.  

Opposition legislators boycott plenary over re-arrest of some MPs

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita Among has urged members of parliament to allow the law to take its course in the matters of the arrest of two members of parliament.

This follows the opposition boycott of parliament sittings following the re-arresting of Makindye West MP Allan Sewanyana and Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya enters day two.

The Magistrate’s court in Masaka yesterday remanded the two MP to Kigo prison until 13th October. 

The opposition led by their leader in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga stormed out of  Parliament stating that they will only return when their colleagues are set free. 

However, during the plenary today, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Sekikubo questioned parliament’s decision to continue with sittings with only the members of Parliament from the ruling National Resistance  -NRM side and in the absence of the opposition. 

The quorum of Parliament of one-third of all Members of Parliament entitled to vote is not required at a time when Parliament is not voting on any question but going on with its regular duties.

Ssekikubo says that Government cannot sit and debate among themselves, saying the opposition exists as by the laws that govern Parliament and multiparty democracy. He says Parliament should not go on like everything is normal and debate with a one-sided house. 

Ssekikubo says the silence of the opposition is loud.   

Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister of Information Communication Technology and National guidance said that the house is fully constituted as the rules of procedure only talk about the number of MPs in the house and not the political party representation.   

Among in response informed parliament that she was not aware of any issue that was keeping the opposition away since the legislators who were being held were taken to a gazette facility after being arraigned in court.

Among also informed MPs that as Parliament, they will be ready to support the MPs if they need any help. She also said any one of the MPs is free to go and pay the MPs in incarceration a visit.

She says that Independent MPs, Army Representatives among others are in the house, and the house is fully constituted. 

She says as Parliament, they would not love any member to go through the challenges that the MPs are going through

Archbishop of Church of Uganda condemns brutal re-arrest of legislators

The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Samuel Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu has appealed to security forces to respect human rights and desist from disrespectful acts like the recent brutal re-arrest of Kawempe North MP, Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West counterpart, Allan Ssewanyana.   

“I want to call upon people to take the message of President in his recent speech seriously. The issue of human rights should be respected and also calling upon the soldiers and security personnel to respect human beings,” he said.  

He made the appeal shortly after receiving a donation of Shillings 30 million from the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among towards the payment of the debt for Church House. Ssegirinya was re-arrested from Kigo Prison on Monday, shortly after being released on bail by the High court in Kampala. The same joint security team had earlier on re-arrested Allan Ssewanyana and driven him to the Special Investigations Division, Kireka.  

The two are accused of machete killings in Greater Masaka sub-region, which have claimed close to 30 people. Archbishop Kaziimba says that the President’s message on respect for human rights needs to be respected by everyone in order to ensure a peaceful nation.

In regard to the Church House debt fundraising, Kaziimba said that Shillings 1.4 billion has so far been raised since the campaign was launched in June. He appealed to all faithfuls to contribute towards the cause noting that he was optimistic that more people would donate money since places of worship have now opened.

The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among said that her contribution is to show solidarity with the Church and that more contributions would be made.

COU asked each Christian to contribute at least Shillings 60,000 towards clearing that debt of Shillings 48billion accruing from the constriction of Church House, which is found along Kampala road. Equity Bank extended a loan of Shillings 41 billion to COU towards the construction of the 16 storied building. The bank currently demands Shillings 40 Billion Shillings while other debtors demand Shillings 8 Billion.

Kaziimba says that completing the debt will help the Church in its self-governance drive. In 2017, Equity Bank threatened to take over the structure valued at Shillings 58.8 Billion upon completion. In 2018, the Bank again threatened to auction the building after the Church failed to service its loan and accumulated arrears.

To construct the building, Christians and well-wishers contributed about Shillings 10.8 Billion through fundraising but since the money was inadequate, the Church acquired a loan from Equity Bank through its business arm, the Church Commissioners Holding Company Limited in 2010.