Ugandan Members of Parliament on Wednesday night approved the extension of their tenure in parliament from five to seven years.
This was after the Mbarara Municipality MP Michael Tumusiime tabled amendments for the extension of the term of office for elected offices. These include the Office of the President, Members of Parliament and others.
The amendment came about as parliament was considering amendments carried in the controversial Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017. Tumusiime also tabled a certificate of financial implications saying that the proposed amendments were not to financially cost the country.
These proposed amendments by Tumusiime attracted a big debate with several MPs from the opposition side including Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga arguing that they cannot extend their own tenure yet the voters gave them a five year term.
“Members have interest in this, we came here for five years and we cannot make it retrospective. There is no way you can amend for yourselves. I don’t agree with the seven years, five years are enough for use,” said Nandala.
Mpuuga questioned how sure the MPs were; that, if they extend the tenure of parliament, Ugandans will in the referendum extend the tenure of the president as required by the Constitution. He said that the proposed extension of the tenure for elective offices offends Article 1 of the Constitution that gives power to the people.
“All these Articles move together and not in isolation, my understanding of the law is that these amendments are unconstitutional,” said Mpuuga.
Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasimire also opposed the move to extend the tenure of parliament.
“I think we are becoming too much to Ugandans. I want us to be honest to our country. These proposals are not coming in good faith,” said Tinkasimire.
However, their arguments fell on the deaf hears of the majority National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs who argued that parliament had powers to amend the constitution and make laws for the Country.
Led by the deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana, Ibanda South MP John Byabagambi, Oyam South MP Betty Amongi, the MPs said that parliament is mandated under Article 79 of the Constitution to enact laws for peace and good governance.
“We are not considering only this parliament but also local council elections, president and we are doing this for posterity. The Finance ministry gave us a certificate and the proposed amendments do not have any financial implications to this country,” said Mwesigwa.
Byabagambi argued that the extension of the tenure was to save the country a lot of money that will instead go to infrastructure development and the health sector.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga also seemed to agree with the extension of the tenure saying that it was only parliament to legislate and that they needed to carry out that duty.
“It is only this House which can legislate for the country on issues of governance, we legislated on five years and we can legislate again. What I understand with these proposals is that henceforth, instead of holding elections every five years, they will be held every seven years,” said Kadaga.
She then put the question with MPs shouting out in approval of the extension of the tenure to seven years.