By James Karuhanga
Senior Researcher, Uganda
Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies

In what seemed like a National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus extension to parliament (since largely, NRM members of parliament and some independents attended the plenary session a day after the opposition MPs walk out), NRM MPs rejected a motion moved by Crispus Kiyonga, the Minister of Defence to speed up the deployment of Ugandan troops to Somalia.

The motion was seconded by Isaac Isanga Musumba, also the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of regional cooperation.

‘‘In accordance with Rule 43 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, I hereby give notice that I intend to move a motion for a Resolution of Parliament approving the deployment of UPDF troops to Somalia by the President,’’ Kiyonga said.

After voting to suspend it, a three days notice is required to table a motion for a resolution of parliament. Some 45 MPs voted against while 43 voted for and only four abstained. NRM MPs who voted against strongly argued that it would have set a bad precedent and that the input of the opposition was necessary for its credibility.

‘‘It is a national issue,’’ said the MP for Rubanda County West in Kabale district, Henry Banyezaki, ‘‘seating on it just as the ruling party is not good.’’

The Great Lakes Center for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) observes that this is most likely to strengthen the opposition’s resolve to further boycott parliament. However, NRM MPs might vote for deployment if the opposition does not end their boycott.

NRM MPS voted against Kiyonga’s motion in order to wait and involve the opposition but if opposition MPs dont come back soon, which is most likely, they might go ahead and vote for deployment without the opposition.

The GLCSS understands that there is unanimity in parliament about the issue of deployment in spite of the opposition boycott. All that seems to cause argument is the aspect of following procedures.

On the other hand, the result of the vote by NRM MPs points to what recent local media has been suggesting – the possibility of tensions within the ruling party. This is largely denied by NRM party officials. Some pointed out the fact that it is a national issue – emphasizing the point that government does not want to be seen as deploying without national approval.

Maj. Kinobe emphasized they (NRM) would wait for the opposition to come back.
‘‘We (NRM) want to legitimize the whole thing,’’ he said.

The vice president, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, was optimistic about the whole issue saying they will wait for the parliamentary committee to go through the motion.

‘‘It shows democracy in the party,’’ he said. Senior government officials interviewed by the GLCSS agreed with the vice president. They pointed out that the opposition was illegally trying to sabotage parliament by boycotting.

William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church at GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.

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