It is hoped the new standing committee proposed in the report on amendments to the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure on Tuesday March 6, would reduce the burden of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and the Equal Opportunities committees that were mandated to oversee this sector.
The move is seen as a breakthrough in Ugandan Parliament’s efforts to stem stinging criticism from the West on its human rights record, including gay rights.
Though the Uganda Human Rights Commission, an autonomous body to monitor the human rights in the country exists already it has been found lacking.
Established some years ago by an Act of parliament, and mandated to make an annual report to parliament, the commission has been targeted for complaints by victims of human rights violations who have claimed that they are never compensated. In most such cases the commission in turn blames Uganda’s security agencies. The police and spy organs have been the biggest offenders in consecutive reports.
At the same time some cabinet ministers have also been known to express contempt for the commission. For instance the former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo once said that government had not appointed the commission to “defend criminals.” He said this when the UHRC lodged its opposition to the anti homosexuality bill.
Last month some legislators had sought to block the creation of the human rights standing committee, claiming that homosexuals would use it to pressure parliament for the recognition of gay rights.
The Eastern Uganda youth MP, Peter Ogwang, told a parliamentary plenary on February 22, 2012 that “Minority groups, especially gays, would use this committee to promote their agenda.”
However, the parliament speaker, Rebecca Kadaga differed with Ogwang saying that Uganda’s human rights needed scrutiny and hence the need for a standing committee.
Meanwhile, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee headed by Stephen Tashobya in its report to plenary recommended that the death penalty for homosexuals be retained in the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009.
The report is due for debate in the new parliament since the bill has been reintroduced for consideration.
Many countries are anxious about Uganda’s human rights situation, especially the suppression of political dissent and gay rights.