Janet now calls off Kololo meeting with MPs 

Education minister Janet Museveni

Education minister Janet Museveni

The minister of Education also First Lady Janet Museveni has suddenly called off a meeting in which she was scheduled to meet MPs at Kololo Independence Grounds to deliberate on the reopening of schools next year. 

In a communication, Dr Denis Mugimba, the Education ministry spokesperson said the meeting has been called off but he didn’t give a reason as to why this decision was taken.

“The meeting between the ministry of Education and Sports and members of parliament that was scheduled for Wednesday 24 November 2021 has been postponed,” Mugimba noted in a Whatsapp message to URN, adding that a new date shall be communicated.

Opposition MPs yesterday Tuesday put up a spirited but vain resistance to the meeting in parliament, interpreting the invitation as an act of summoning and undermining the independence of the House yet under the rules, the minister has to appear before parliament and make a statement on any matter so that later, legislators can debate on it.

The MPs started objecting to the invitation when it was pronounced last week by deputy speaker Anita Among, requesting the legislators to prepare to take a Covid-19 test in readiness to meet with Ms Museveni, who has been accused of ignoring several previous MPs' calls to make a statement on the status of the education sector in the country. 

On Tuesday, speaker of parliament himself Jacob Oulanyah weighed in to calm the sharp division over the matter, re-echoing the request by the minister in a letter dated November 16, 2021, in which she had sought to address MPs about preparations towards the re-opening of institutions of learning in January 2022.

Oulanyah said that he watched the comments from MPs in response to the minister’s request, and noticed the use of very strong language which the legislators should try and desist from.

"Essentially, this is about those parents, children and teachers that have really had it rough countrywide and the opportunity is coming for the schools now to be open and the communication is coming for us to pass the message on how these processes would be handled,” said Oulanyah.

Uganda only partially reopened its education sector at the beginning of this month after a 2-year shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The speaker appealed to MPs to respond to the call of testing for Covid-19 as a prerequisite for the meeting with Ms Museveni. 

Oulanyah had told MPs that the meeting scheduled for 10:00 am today Wednesday would be a semi-parliamentary sitting and that it would also be attended by other government officials.

However, the leader of opposition (LoP), Mathias Mpuuga questioned the implication of the semi–parliamentary sitting. Mpuuga said that he is constrained to encourage his members to attend a meeting that is not properly convened by parliament.

He said that the danger with the suggested meeting is that it will open a pandora's box for other ministers to seek informal addresses to MPs when trying to avoid addressing national issues.

In response, Oulanyah said this would not be the first time that MPs would discuss issues outside the House, recalling the president’s address to MPs about the security situation in the country. He disagreed with the belief that the (now suspended) meeting can potentially undermine the authority of parliament and also curtail any further discussion on the matter.

Oulanyah said that MPs would receive the statement from the minister in whatever form and then agree that they would substantially debate the matter when they return to parliament since nothing stops them from doing that.

Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda persuaded fellow MPs not to attend the meeting, saying that it goes against the rules of procedure. Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu West MP said that an estimated Shs 1 billion was going to be spent in a day at the Kololo meeting preparations, yet this money would be provided to schools to enable them to reopen in January.

He said that it would be dangerous for parliament to take part in the meeting since it would set a bad precedent. Muhammad Nsereko, the Kampala Central MP also said that it would be a bad precedent for MPs to attend the meeting at Kololo. He questioned why the minister does not present her statement virtually like it has been done before.

The same sentiments were raised by Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa. Ssemujju then moved a motion for parliament to require Ms Museveni to make her statement in a sitting of parliament and not in an informal environment.

But Oulanyah said that the motion was not sustainable in law since he had already taken a decision on behalf of the House for the scheduled meeting to take place.

Oulanyah concluded that those who would like to attend the meeting in Kololo can do so and for those who don’t like to go, arrangements would be made for them to follow from wherever they are. After all the arguments and Oulanyah's pronouncement, now the ministry abruptly called off the meeting.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd