The opposition has been thrown into disarray following a decision by the Democratic Party (DP) and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) to call off the ongoing boycott of plenary sittings in parliament.
This now leaves only National Unity Platform MPs as the only major opposition party still pushing for the boycott which came into effect on
October 19, 2023 - slowing down parliamentary business. Mathias Mpuuga, the leader of the opposition in parliament (LoP) led a group of legislators to walk out of plenary demanding a detailed government report on repeated gross human rights abuses meted out against opposition supporters and NUP party leaders.
Until this week, nearly all the opposition MPs had maintained the boycott until their six-point demands are met by the government, including accounting for the missing 18 NUP supporters allegedly kidnapped by the security personnel. Mpuuga told journalists at parliament on Tuesday that while all the political parties that form the opposition have made their positions clear, he will continue to ‘persuade’ and lead the ‘willing’ to defy party directives that appear to enforce compliance until the government meets their demands.
"Every party literally has stated its position and it is not anything to hide from. My space is to lead the willing and to persuade the misled. Members should always listen to their parties but as long as the parties are commanding them to do the right thing. I encourage members to defy parties that are ordering them to do the wrong thing. But if you're simply going to ask members to play compliant to government whims when it comes to human rights then that party should be defied," said Mpuuga.
The opposition comprises legislators from NUP, with the majority number of MPs. Others are FDC, DP, Justice Forum (JEEMA), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), and People’s Progressive Party (PPP). According to Mpuuga, an earlier shadow cabinet meeting resolved to continue with the boycott.
Mpuuga also downplayed speaker Anita Among’s directive to the clerk to parliament to ensure the opposition legislators forfeit their committee meeting allowances and foreign and inland trip benefits over the unlawful nonattendance of House business. He said as a politician he understands that the speaker may have made the pronouncement in jest.
Mpuuga emphasized that the chairpersons of all accountability committees of parliament chaired by the opposition; PAC Local Government, PAC Central, COSASE, and Government Assurances and Implementation should disregard the speaker’s threat and continue to operate. Further, he encouraged all opposition MPs to defy the directive and attend committee meetings.
On Monday, the appointments committee chaired by Among herself failed to block Mpuuga from attending a session in, which they vetted justice Elizabeth Musoke to the Judicial Service Commission. But on Tuesday morning, Fox Odoi Oyellowo, pushed Robert Ssekitoleko, the Bamunanika County MP out of the legal and parliamentary affairs committee meeting chaired by Robina Rwakoojo, the Gomba West County MP to implement the speaker’s directive.
Ssekitoleko was asked to leave the meeting following his participation in the ongoing boycott of plenary sittings. The committee was interfacing with Nobert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs who appeared to present the Judicature (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
Mpuuga is now worried that the directive of other parties to their respective representatives to end the boycott and return to the House will potentially ignite internal bickering and undermine the opposition cause aimed at holding the government accountable.