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Friday, June 26, 2009

Uganda: Minister, Legislators Clash Over FGM Bill

Mercy Nalugo 22 June 2009 Labour State Minister Emmanuel Otaala on Friday clashed with legislators over accusations that the government was trying to hijack a private members' Bill which seeks to outlaw female genital mutilation. The drama, which ensued at a women's conference organised by the Gender Ministry and the Uganda Parliamentary Women Association (Uwopa) in Kampala, started after Kinkizi West MP Chris Baryomunsi briefed the legislators about the status of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, a private members' Bill which he drafted. But Gender and Labour Minister Gabriel Opio, who was guest of honour, said the Bill has a charge on the consolidated fund and that Cabinet had approved principles of the same Bill. "This automatically paved way for the Gender Ministry to draft the Bill to that effect. It is a good Bill for the women but we should sit down and harmonise our positions in order to avoid duplication of content," he said. Mr Opio said the gender minister had instructed the Parliamentary Council to draft the same Bill. Mr Baryomunsi, who said his Bill is ready for first reading, added that he has been working with civil society organisations and he has been advised the Bill has no financial implications. He was backed by other legislators who accused government of frustrating the MPs' work by hijacking their Bills. A private members Bill is that introduced by a backbencher. Mr Dennis Obua (Youth, Northern Uganda) said the government is determined to frustrate MPs efforts to move private members Bills where the government has failed. "Some time back we wanted to move a Bill seeking to amend the National Youth Act but government hijacked it and it is sleeping on it," he said. Mr Henry Banyenzaki (Rubanda West) said the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure were clear on private members Bills which Mr Baryomunsi had followed. "What have you been doing all this time? Bring your input or else hands off," he said. Mr Emmanuel Ddombo (Bunyole County) said: "There has been a national outcry on this matter but the government has been silent."