Recently, the National Parliament of Uganda has experienced a circus of bad press:
In October 2012, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga uncouthly defended the proposed “kill the gays” bill to the Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird at an IPU assembly that had been summoned to promote gay rights. The “kill the gays” bill itself has produced controversial reporting, most of which damns the legislation as a violation of human rights. A new documentary tracing the influences of American evangelical donations to lobby for the bill premiered at Sundance this year.
Earlier this year, the Parliament announced that it planned to purchase an iPad for each MP to cut down on printing costs. Critics have leveled that the cost is too high and that MPs make more than enough to purchase their own iPads (the monthly salary for a Ugandan MP is about $6000, plus extra allowances like $40k in 2011 to purchase a vehicle). Others have contended that the MPs will simply not have the time to learn how to use the devices and they’ll quickly end up on the black market. On the bright side, if the MPs do use the devices in session, it will produce a greener legislative body and a significant advancement in technological capacity.
This week, Uganda’s parliament made some negative waves again, when MPs proposed a new anti-pornography bill that would, among other things, ban photographs and videos of scantly clad stars like Beyoncé and restrict women from wearing garments with inseams above the knee. In other words – a miniskirt ban. Twitter exploded with its #saveminiskirt. Reporters have been quick to remind us that Uganda previously had such a ban during the dictatorship days of Idi Amin (intentionally or unintentionally drawing comparisons between Amin and Museveni?).
On the bright side…A multi-partisan bill was brought before the Speaker (yes that same Speaker Kadaga) that would reinstate presidential term limits which the parliament removed in exchange for the legalization of political parties (and perhaps $2,000 per MP) in 2005.
This is really the point of my long rant today – a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. What are the prospects that the bill will pass? The cross-partisan backing for it indicates that there is a growing movement within the lawmaking body in support of presidential change and further democratic consolidation (which has stagnated or even reversed since 2005). It’s uncertain how the new limit would affect the sitting president, Yoweri Museveni, who is now in his fourth term but would only be eligible to stand for one more term due to age limits. Speculation is already abound that he is grooming either his son who has risen through the military ranks quite expeditiously or his wife to succeed him. Of course there is also no guarantee that he will adhere to the age limits. He has publicly announced his intention to do so, but was also once the leader who argued that a lack of respect for term limits was “Africa’s problem.”