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In contrast to reports attributed to the BBC (at 14:20) that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will soon be taken up by Uganda’s new Parliament, a parliamentary spokeswoman denied today that any action has been considered. When asked about the BBC report that the Ninth Parliament had inherited three bills, including the anti-gay bill, parliamentary spokewoman, Helen Kawesa said, “I don’t know where that news is coming from. No one has said anything here about it.”
Kawesa said the Ninth Parliament was just getting started, and elected Rebbecca Kadaga to the post of Speaker, the first woman to hold that position in Uganda’s history. Kawesa said that bills will not be considered during this initial period when committees are being formed and chairs of those committes are appointed. She also confirmed that no motion to re-introduce or continue bills had been made.
Former chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Stephen Tashobya agreed saying, “We need to get a Cabinet in place, and get committees together.” He said the leadership of the ruling party, the NRM, will appoint committee chairs and organize committees from scratch. Tashobya said he was not sure if he would return as the chair of the committee that recommended passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Eighth Parliament. Tashobya said he was unaware of the BBC report and said no action was anticipated on any bills for at least “a week or ten days.”
While I cannot confirm the BBC report, it is certainly possible that the reporter, Joshua Male, spoke with MPs who want to enact the unfinished bills and hope they are reintroduced. At this point, however, formal action is not on the agenda.
Although nothing appears imminent, the situation is not predictable. In the waning hours of the former Parliament, David Bahati speculated that the new Speaker might cause certain bills to be carried over. The new Speaker does have some incentive to carry over the Marriage and Divorce Bill and might also include the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, perhaps in exchange for support on getting the Marriage and Divorce bill passed.
UPDATE: The Public Order Management Bill is the first bill that President Museveni’s administration wants the Ninth Parliament to consider. Note in this Monitor report that the government supporter does not expect passage until July or August.
The former State minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Matia Kasaija, confirmed yesterday in an interview that he is working to make sure the Bill is passed.
“Be assured I want it off my desk as soon as the 9th Parliament settles to work. I would have wanted it passed by July or latest before the end of August,” Mr Kasaija said.
This bill will most likely be a priority as the NRM supported Speaker begins developing a legislative agenda.
UPDATE: This Daily Monitor article reports that a handful of bills, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be reintroduced in Parliament during this new session.
First-term MPs will, however, face challenges in dealing with the unfinished 2011/12 budget scrutiny and other key Bills in the House. Some of the Bills expected to be returned to the House include; The Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation, Bill 2011, Anti-Gay Bill, Marriage and Divorce Bill, HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill, Regional Governments Bill, among others.
What is not clear to me is how this reporter means, “returned.” I fully expect the bills to be reintroduced, perhaps in amended form. This unconfirmed report suggests that there are political motives for the reintroduction. However, the procedural question is whether or not private members such as Bahati will need to go through the process of getting permission first before he tables the bill. If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is simply returned to the newly organized Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, and the movement of the bill resumed where it left off, then action on the bill could take much less time than if the procedure was to start from scratch.