It was a quiet atmosphere at Parliament today as legislators turned up for the afternoon sitting just a day after 25 of their colleagues were arrested amidst chaos. The singing, clapping and wearing of red ribbons, which had become a trademark for the opposition legislators over the last three sittings, were missing today.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on Wednesday suspended 25 members of Parliament for instigating chaos which led to the suspension of the plenary sitting on Tuesday.
Chaos, however, ensued as the suspended MPs refused to vacate the Chambers. It was at this point that security forces stormed into parliament as the House descended into unprecedented chaos and forcefully removed the suspended MPs, with some sustaining injuries in the process. They were bundled on waiting police vans and detained at various police stations in and around Kampala Metropolitan area.
After the chaos, Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi was able to present a motion seeking leave of parliament to draft a constitutional amendment to repeal Article 102(b) of the constitution which puts 35 and 75 as lower and upper caps respectively on the presidential age.
The opposition MPs are opposed to Magyezi's move saying it is meant to extend President Yoweri Museveni's rule beyond 2021 when he will be above 75 years of age.
Shortly before Magyezi tabled his motion, the remaining opposition legislators, led by their leader and Kasese Woman MP Winnie Kiiza, walked out. Earlier today they announced that they would all stay away from Parliament for three sittings in solidarity with their colleagues who were suspended for the same number of sittings.
At Parliament it was a slow start of business today in contrast to the past three sittings. Plenary was officially supposed to start at 2:00pm, but by 3:00 pm, only a few Members of Parliament were in the house.
At 2:00pm, there were 30 MPs out of the official 449 Members. On Thursday last week, and Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Chambers were full by 2:00 pm, thanks to the charged atmosphere generated by the presidential age limit debate.
At the time security forces stormed the Chambers on Wednesday, for instance, there were 275 Members just 30 minutes into the sitting.
Today's business kicked off with many members heaping praises on the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for handling the house business on Wednesday. Buzaya County MP Isaac Musumba moved a motion appreciating the manner in which Kadaga steered the sitting amidst chaos. He was seconded by Usuk County MP Peter Ogwang.
But the singing, clapping and wearing of red ribbons, which had become a trademark for the opposition legislators over the last three sittings, are lacking today.