Thursday, February 22News That Matters

Speaker Among put in a tight spot.

For nearly two months, opposition members of parliament have skipped plenary sittings, protesting what they describe as widespread human rights violations in the country.
Mathias Mpuuga, MP for Nyendo-Mukungwe in Masaka City and the leader of the opposition (LoP), has articulated six critical issues that require the government’s satisfactory response before they consider returning to the House. These issues include the unresolved disappearance of 18 supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) political party, missing for over two years.
The opposition is also demanding an end to the alleged targeting and victimization of Muslims, the detention of political dissenters without trial, and the reported human rights violations against fishing communities. Additionally, they are calling for a halt to the shrinking of civic space, highlighting concerns over the treatment of politicians and media personnel, and urging an end to the practice of trying civilians in military courts, which contradicts several Constitutional court rulings.
When the opposition in Uganda’s parliament presented their demands, deputy speaker Thomas Tayebwa was overseeing the proceedings, as speaker Annet Anita Among was on maternity leave. Tayebwa initiated meetings with government representatives, including minister of Security Jim Muhwezi, minister of State for Internal Affairs David Muhoozi, and minister of state for Defence Jacob Oboth Oboth.
These officials pledged to give a comprehensive response to the raised concerns within a month. Prior to this commitment, prime minister Robinah Nabbanja and David Muhoozi had informed the parliament that they had exhausted all information at their disposal, particularly concerning the issue of missing persons.
However, this response was deemed insufficient by Mathias Mpuuga, the leader of the opposition, and his caucus, who considered the government’s explanations to be lacking in seriousness. Subsequently, Mpuuga led a walkout, with the intention of continuing their absence from plenary sessions until satisfactory answers were provided.
Despite Tayebwa’s attempts to persuade the opposition members to return to the House, these efforts have been unsuccessful. In a recent interview, Mpuuga expressed his frustration, stating that the government had long been dismissive of their concerns. He emphasized that without clear and coherent responses from the government, the opposition members intended to maintain their abstention from the plenary sessions.
“The issues we are raising are legitimate. We are consistent and persistent about them because they are very pertinent and legitimate. Whether it takes a generation of time for a response to be provided, we want that response. Probably the only difference is that we are not going to back down until there is a response that is acceptable,” Mpuuga said.
When asked to define what an acceptable response would entail, Mpuuga refrained from specifying, stating that they would deliberate as a caucus when the answers are provided. The one-month period requested by the government to provide the necessary answers lapsed on November 19.