‘Give Parliament role in treaty signing’

The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga has called for a constitutional review, to empower Parliament participate in the process of negotiating treaties, conventions and agreements between Uganda and any other country or international body.

In a statement read by Kiboga district Woman MP, Christine Kaaya, Mpuuga said that the current arrangement where a handful of government officials are selected to negotiate and sign international instruments on behalf of government is likely to drag Uganda into costly and unviable undertakings. 

He cited the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) signed in 2015 which he said imposes hefty fines on member states.

“The controversies surrounding ECT have cost member states colossal sums of money in arbitration claims challenging government actions made in the public interest, such as environmental policies or the protection of human rights and local communities,” he said during the plenary sitting chaired by Speaker, Anita Among, on Wednesday, 30 August 2023.

Mpuuga cited one of the imprudent clauses of the ECT which provides that when a country exits the treaty, it remains vulnerable to litigation for the subsequent 20 years.

“This is why countries like France, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands have announced plans to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty, arguing that the accord runs counter to their climate goals,” he said.

He uregd government to reconsider the provision of article 123 of the Constitution, which bestows in the President or any other person authorized by the President the power to enter into treaties and other government protocols on behalf of Uganda.

“We invite this House to consider a constitutional amendment to clothe Parliament with powers to have input into international instruments. I maintain that the same prerogative ought to be exercised judiciously and in national interests,” Mpuuga said.

Mpuuga highlighted other legislatures vested with powers to enter into such agreements on behalf of governments. 

“In the United Kingdom, Parliament has a statutory role of ratifying treaties. The British government is duty bound to lay the treaties before Parliament for 21 sitting days before it can ratify them. It is important that Parliament is wholly and singly mandated to ratify treaties entered on behalf of Ugandans,” Mpuuga said.

He asked that that government considers withdrawing from the treaty and a comprehensive response by government be made on the progress made to domesticate the treaty. 

The Minister of Energy and Minerals Development is mandated by Parliament rules of procedure to make a response to Mpuuga’s plea.