Uganda Parliament Breaks Without Voting On Anti-Homosexuality Bill
May 13th, 2011
The Order Paper for the Ugandan Parliament this morning has only three items on the agenda:
FRIDAY 13TH MAY 2011, ORDER PAPER
26TH SITTING OF THE 2ND MEETING OF THE 5TH SESSION OF THE 8TH PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA: FRIDAY 13TH MAY 2011 – TIME OF COMMENCEMENT 10.00 A.M.
2. COMMUNICATION FROM THE CHAIR
13TH MAY 2011
And the following announcement was subsequently posted on Uganda’s web site:
Emotional farewells as Eighth Parliament closes
The term of office for Members of Parliament elected to the Eighth Parliament of Uganda has come to an end. Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi announced to MPs, in an emmotional sitting , the end of the term of the Eighth parliament urging MPs to appreciate and embrace the multiparty political system.
“This Parliament was different from all parliaments before it.But my assessment is that people still long for the movement political system other than the multiparty system .The two systems are different and what you must know is that under multiparty system, Mps on the government side came with one manifesto that the executive is trying to implement,”he told MPs.
Speaker Ssekandi announced that the official proclamation for the end of the Eighth Parliament had already been signed and would be gazetted on May 18, the day the ninth Parliament would commence.
The middle paragraph is a bit of ruling party propaganda that can be safely ignored. The important point is that the proclamation for the end of the Parliament “had already been signed.”
Now the Associated Press confirms:
Uganda’s parliament adjourned Friday without acting on a criticized anti-gay bill that would mandate the death sentence in some cases, drawing praise from an advocacy group that said parliament’s failure to act was a “victory for all Ugandans.”
Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuk said there is no time to take up the bill this session, which ends Wednesday, leaving the bill’s future uncertain. Kiwanuk adjourned the parliament Friday and set no date for the body to return.
…Kakoba Onyango, a member of parliament, said the anti-gay bill has taken so long to be acted on because President Yoweri Museveni did not back it and because of the criticism of human rights groups.
AFP adds a hint to the reason why Parliament abruptly adjourned:
David Bahati, the lawmaker behind the anti-gay bill, said that as the cabinet was dissolved following the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni for a fourth term on Thursday no bills could be passed.
Warren Throckmorton points to this news item (and confirmed through a Parliament spokesperson) indicating that the hitch may have had to do with the Cabinet being dissolved in preparation for yesterday’s swearing in on President Yoweri Museveni for another term. Writes Throckmorton:
According to parliamentary spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, Parliament is stalled on a “technicality.” She said there is no Cabinet in place because it was dissolved in preparation for the end of the 8th Parliament in advance of yesterday’s Presidential inauguration. It is unclear who raised the issue of the necessity for Cabinet to be place for business to be conducted. However the effect is that the session is winding up, with members discussing how to proceed before the end of the 8th Parliament on 18th.
Ordinarily, all unfinished bills die at the end of Parliament. There may be a procedural move which could allow the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be carried forward to the next Parliament. It is unclear whether such a move will be made.
There have been so many twists and turns over the past two years that it’s been hard to ever really know (or believe) what the status of the bill really is. That’s why I am not given to celebrate until the 18th of May. But I am more optimistic than I ever have been before that this odious act of evil may well be finished.
UPDATE: Sexual Minority Uganda’s Frank Mugisha is considerably more confident: “Right now I would say that I am almost sure that the bill is not coming,” he told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.