The NRM Caucus has rejected the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017 in its current form. The Bill seeks to amend Article 26 and give Government powers to compulsorily acquire land before compensating the owners.
NRM MPs who attended the heated meeting that was summoned by the Party Chairman, President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday unanimously agreed to introduce new provisions in the Bill, arguing that land conflicts have been delaying and costing tax payers millions of money.
About 278 MPs attended the meeting.
Museveni summoned the NRM MPs to State House Entebbe after Major General Kahinda Otafiire, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Betty Amongi, the Minister of Lands and Urban Planning and Mwesigwa Rukutana, the Deputy Attorney General failed to defend the Bill before Parliament.
The Bill that is before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has received fierce resistance from Ugandans including religious and cultural leaders.
Addressing the press on Thursday about the development, Ruth Nankabirwa, the Government Chief Whip said MPs noted that there should be a time frame in the Constitution within which court should dispose off land compensation related cases.
She revealed that government agreed to drop the proposal to deposit compensation money with the Tribunal, pending disposal of the matter.
The Caucus instead agreed that the aggrieved land owner shouldn’t be disfranchised but rather have access to the compensation money.
“When we were with the President, we emphasized that even where we compulsorily acquire land, we shouldn’t disfranchise the vulnerable owners of property or land. So when we are coming up with provisions of compulsory acquisition in order to stop delays, that should not compromise the rights of the people to be heard, listened to and not to be disfranchised,” Nankabirwa said.
The Caucus agreed to establish a Committee to consider all matters raised about the Bill and report back to the party within two weeks.
The Committee is headed by Vice President, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Betty Amongi, Kahinda Otafiire, Robinah Rwakoojo (Vice Chairperson Legal Committee), Denis Obua, Gaster Mugoya, Isala Eragu Bichetero, Jackson Kafuuzi and San Bitangaro Kwizera.
Nankabirwa accused the media for fueling protest against the Bill, arguing that the proposed amendments to the Constitution were brought in good intention to save the Government time and money.
“So whatever you say, our role as Government is to correct the lies. Because for sure, there are those who are deliberately misinforming the country and they are quick. They are louder and they don’t care,” she said, adding that Government will go ahead with the proposed amendment Bill-though with new provisions.
Earlier in the days, the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Committee, Markson Jacob Oboth said the Committee is stuck with the Bill.
The Bill was tabled on July 13th 2017 by Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Ruhakana.
Oboth noted Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Major General Kahinda Otafiire asked for two weeks to make consultations, but he is yet to report back to the Committee even when the time elapsed.
He noted that they have written to the Minister, but they are yet to get a response.
Oboth said Government’s failure to report means that the Committee can’t continue with the Bill.
“We must understand what Government intends to do with Article 26 before we go out [to consult]. It isn’t just a stalemate but we can’t move on. I believe something good is about to happen because this is a Government sponsored Bill and it is in its interest,” Oboth said.