Drama ensued in Parliament on Tuesday, as opposition legislators rejected attempts by the Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa to designate Maxwell Akora, the Maruzi County MP as the Vice Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.
The house had on Tuesday afternoon embarked on the establishment of sectoral committees under the guidance of the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah. All was well until, Nankabirwa named Akora for appointment as Vice Chair of the Science and Technology Committee. Akora formerly served as vice chairperson of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) committee in the first session of the tenth parliament.
However, the opposition legislators led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza couldn't have any of this. They argued that the decision by the government whip to designate opposition legislators undermines democracy, which provides for two sides in parliament.
The Rules of Procedure provide that the ruling party shall designate the chairperson and deputy chairperson of each Sectoral committee provided that no active member of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) is designated as chairperson or deputy chairperson of the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee.
The Rules also provide that parties through their respective whips designate members to serve on the committees. Sectoral committees examine Bills brought before parliament, examine government recurrent and capital budget estimates and make recommendations for general debate in the chambers.
The angry MPs asked government to enter into a formal alliance with UPC considering that President Yoweri Museveni recently appointed Betty Amongi, a UPC member Lands Minister. The Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal argued that any MP who is elected on the opposition platform who chooses to work with government contravenes the spirit of the constitution.
"One cannot serve the NRM politically while not agreeing with it. We cannot consider Betty Amongi an opposition member when she sits with the party in government," Moses Kasibante, the Rubaga North MP said. However, NRM legislators argued that there was no provision in the Rules of Procedure baring opposition legislators from serving in government.
Anthony Okello, the Kioga County MP advised the opposition to celebrate for clinching a position meant for the government side. The Deputy opposition Chief Whip, Roland Mugume asked Oulanyah to defer the matter to a later date or else he leads the opposition in a walkout.
Oulanyah gave the opposition two days to discuss the matter, saying it is important for parliament to form the committees and facilitate the work of Parliament.