The Parliament Building
Parliament House is located at Plot 16 – 18 Parliamentary Avenue. The Building comprises 350 rooms. The foundation stone for the Parliament Building was laid on December 18, 1956, by the then Governor of Uganda Sir Andrew Cohen. Construction of the main building commenced in 1958. On October 5, 1962 the then Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote laid the foundation stone for the Independence Arch, at the entrance to the Parliamentary Building.
The North Wing of the Parliament Building houses the Speaker’s Office, the Deputy Speaker’s Office, the Parliamentary Library and MPs and staff offices. The Office of the Clerk to Parliament, senior staff of the Parliamentary Service and the Public Relations Office are located in the South Wing of the Building. The Building comprises three wings; the South, North and East Wings. The main entrance to Parliament Building is through the South Wing end.
Admission to the Building
Admission to the Parliament Building is free to the public. Anyone wishing to visit Parliament ordinarily/formally presents a written request to the Public Relations Office, which will advise on the best time to visit and other requirements. Visitors to Parliament should ensure that they are dressed decently.
Clause 6 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act states, “No stranger shall be entitled as a right to enter or to remain within the precincts of the Assembly.” The same Act prohibits strangers from getting into the public galleries with a briefcase, camera, tape recorder, transistor radio, a mobile telephone or any electronic device. Firearms must also be surrendered to security officers at the entrance. In addition, while in the galleries strangers are not permitted to smoke, read a book or newspaper, draw, write or even stand.
Access to the Parliament Building
Parliament can be accessed through its main gate/ entrance on Parliament Avenue. This entrance leads to the South Wing of the Parliament Building. The Building can also be accessed through the two gates at the North Wing – one opposite the Nile Conference Centre – on Shimoni Road and the other opposite the National Theatre along Siad Barre Avenue. Motorists driving to Parliament on the Shimoni Road side will exit through the gate on Siad Barre Avenue. It’s advisable that individuals wishing to visit when Parliament is sitting use the gates (at the North Wing) because the route provides the easiest entrance to the public gallery.
Other venues of Parliament sittings (why venue can be changed)
The Speaker of Parliament can schedule a sitting of Parliament out of the Parliament Building. This usually happens during special occasions (special sittings) when the President is going to deliver a state of the nation address and when the Minister of Finance is presenting the nation’s revenue and expenditure estimates for the new financial year.
The Chamber is the most important room in Parliament House. It occupies the ground floor. This is where MPs meet to transact business during the plenary of Parliament. Main features in the Chamber include the Chair (for the Speaker presiding over proceedings of the House), the Table (the Clerk’s seat) and Members’ benches. The two corridors adjacent to the Chamber are called the Division lobbies, while above the Chamber and lobbies is the pubic gallery. Visitors, the public and press are admitted to the public gallery to observe the proceedings of Parliament.
The Independence Arch is the major feature at the main entrance to the Parliamentary Building along the Parliamentary Avenue. It is a historical monument that was constructed to commemorate the independence of Uganda in 1962. The foundation stone for the Independence Arch was laid by the then Prime Minister of Uganda Dr. Apollo Milton Obote (RIP) on Oct. 5, 1962.
The Coat of Arms, one of Uganda’s national symbols, is placed in the foyer to the left of the entrance to the Parliament Chamber. The Uganda Kob and Crane on the sides of a black shield symbolize the abundant wildlife of Uganda. In the Coat of Arms is also the sun representing the country’s tropical location and climate, while the river and lake signify River Nile and Lake Victoria, Uganda’s main water bodies. The drum symbolizes the culture of Uganda.
The Water Tower: at the top of the Water Tower is the tank that supplies water to the entire Parliament Building. On top of it is a light, which when switched on, especially after dark, signifies that the House is sitting. Both the Tower and light can be seen from different points around the city.
The Parliamentary Corridor of Honor: located on the First Floor of the South Wing, the Parliamentary Corridor of Honor has portraits of the Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Parliament since independence. There are also pictures of MPs and other persons on important Parliamentary and other occasions.
In the foyer of Parliament above the entrance to the Chamber is a wooden screen art-piece showing Uganda’s rich flora and fauna. It was designed by John Mayo in the 1960s. It covers the ground, first and second floors.