MPs halt gazettement of new tribes, demand Constitution Review Commission
Parliament has stayed processing of the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2022 and tasked government to establish a Constitution Review Commission to comprehensively consider all amendments.
The bill moved by MP Jacob Karubanga (IND, Kibanda South County) sought to amend the Third Schedule of the Constitution to include new minority ethnic communities - the Bakingwe, Baziba, Bagabu, Maragoli, Mosopisyek and Saboat.
The Third Schedule of the Constitution recognises 56 ethnicities as at 01 February 1926.
However, Speaker Anita Among said it is better to once and for all comprehensively amend the Constitution.
“I noticed that the object of the bill is to amend the Third Schedule of the Constitution to include five additional ethnic groups as part of Uganda’s indigenous communities,” she said during plenary on Tuesday, 05 July 2022.
She quipped: “It is imperative that this should be done comprehensively to avoid piecemeal amendments of the Constitution; this requires Parliament to conduct a robust appraisal of indigenous communities that for one reason or the other have not been listed in the Constitution…”
Speaker Among said whereas the frequent amendment may have its positives, it is wiser to have in place the Constitution Review Commission.
“Whereas it has been argued that frequent amendment of the Constitution makes it alive to adaptations and realities, it is imperative that we have a constitution review mechanism…it is on this background that we ask you to put in place a Constitution Review Commission,” she said.
The Ag. Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Wilson Muruli Mukasa, who is also substantive Minister for Public Service, committed to have the commission in place.
“The process of establishing the Constitution Review Commission has actually started, and the proposal has been forwarded to cabinet and is awaiting cabinet discussion; I can say that in due course, this commission will be established; the urgency of this commission is felt by cabinet,” he said.
MPs swiftly met the minister’s assurance with skepticism, citing numerous times in the past where empty promises on constituting the commission were made.
MP Solomon Silwany (NRM, Bukhooli County Central) said the minister is being vague about when exactly the said commission will be established.
“Would the minister give us evidence that this matter is actually in cabinet? Because this has been the similar statement year in year out; I remember whenever a member raises the issue of the Constitution Review Commission, a minister comes and says that the process has started; Does this process start and die, then start and collapse?” he asked.
MP Ibrahim Ssemujju (FDC, Kira Municipality) was frustrated. Previous attempts by the Opposition to amend the constitution, he said, has failed.
“In the budget that we just processed, the Government wanted funding for the Constitution Review Commission; many members have presented bills to remove the constitution, but only the one removing age limits was processed; Can the minister tell us what happened because when we brought our bills, we were told there was no time and we will consider them during the last Parliament,” he said.
Minister Muruli Mukasa has been given up to Tuesday, 12 July 2022 to update Parliament on when the commission will be established.