Relevance of Ethnic Caucuses in Parliament Queried Top story

4358 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Although some legislators argue that the groups are problematic to national unity, others believe that it is an important platform for legislators to recognize their origin and lobby for issues that are unique to their regions.

A section of legislators are questioning the relevance of ethnic caucuses in Parliament.  

There are at least five ethnic caucuses in the tenth parliament. They include Buganda Caucus, Acholi Parliamentary Caucus, West-Nile Parliamentary Caucus, Bugisu Parliamentary Caucus and Lango parliamentary group among others.

Although some legislators argue that the groups are problematic to national unity, others believe that it is an important platform for legislators to recognize their origin and lobby for issues that are unique to their regions.

Former parliament commissioner Reagan Okumu defined the caucuses as important lobby groups for common interests, heritage and direction. He however adds that they are often used to satisfy selfish interests.

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Agago South MP Edward Otto Makmot said that the ethnic groups need to be cautiously balanced with a goal of national cohesion.

"These ethnic groups almost became a problem during the speaker's race in parliament. I was concerned because for me it is not about your ethnicity, it's about your views, values and it cuts across", Makmot said.

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Bernard Atiku, the chairperson of the West-Nile Parliamentary Caucus says that the ethnic caucuses are important since they are a way of identifying with one's origin. 

He adds that often times, groups need to agree on a common ground for matters that affect their regions and ethnic groups before the general plenary debates.
 
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Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda argues that MPs are obliged to use the ethnic caucuses to push for geographical and territorial interests. He adds that the ethnic caucuses are supposed to be legitimate vehicles for advocacy.

"It is easier to rally people of the same ethnic group around a cause, the Buganda parliamentary caucus has a problem of not being cohesive as the Acholi parliamentary group because of various ethnic groups within one geographical area",  Ssemujju says.
 
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Amuru Woman MP Lucy Akello told URN that ethnic groups help them lobby for issues that affect their constituents.
 
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About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.