The Uganda government on Thursday presented the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill to Parliament, despite protests from legislators.
Deputy Attorney General, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana, presented the Bill for its First Reading during a sitting chaired by the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 intends to amend Article 26 of the Constitution in accordance with Articles 259 and 262 of the Constitution. Article 26 of the Constitution provides for the right of persons to own property and how it can be acquired by government.
Various media reports and discussions in the recent past have claimed that the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was intended to amend the Constitution to remove the 75 year age requirement for presidential candidates.
On Tuesday Rukutana said there was no such a Bill on age limits sponsored by government, a private member or any individual.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 provides for how government can acquire land for infrastructural development.
“The Bill seeks to enable government, or a local government to deposit with court, compensation awarded by the government for any property declared for compulsory acquisition,” said Rukutana.
The purpose of the Bill is to resolve the current problem of delayed implementation of government infrastructure and investment projects due to disputes arising out of the compulsory land acquisition process.
The Minister said that delayed government projects has caused significant financial loss to government in penalties paid to road contractors for redundant machinery at construction or project sites as the courts attempt to resolve the disputes.
If the Bill is approved, government or local governments would take possession of the property upon depositing the compensation in court pending determination of the dispute.
The Shadow Attorney General, Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba (Ind., Ndorwa East), protested government’s move to present a Bill to amend only one article of the Constitution despite an earlier directive by the Speaker to present a comprehensive Constitution (Amendment) Bill.
Niwagaba reminded the House that at the start of the Session, the Speaker had directed that government brings one comprehensive Bill to amend the Constitution and that a Constitution Review Commission be set up to collect views on which areas require amendment.
“Is it proper for government to bring a Bill to amend the Constitution piecemeal?” he asked.
Speaker Kadaga said Parliament would not change its rules that require bills to be referred to a Committee before it can be considered by the Plenary. She referred the Bill to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration.
“I don’t know what is in the Bill. Let him (Minister) present it and our Committee will advise us on what to do,” she said.
Parliament committees discuss and make recommendations on Bills laid before Parliament before they are considered by the Plenary.