The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has called for political and legal protection of minorities so as to ensure harmony between different faiths and ethnicities.
Speaking during the general debate at the ongoing 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kadaga said that there was need to ensure the implementation of national and international human rights instruments on equality and non-discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
Kadaga’s presentation was themed: ‘Promoting Cultural Pluralism and Peace through Inter-ethnic Dialogue: the Role of Parliaments’.
“For successful dialogue to take place, I suggest that parliamentarians remain ideal go-betweens and mediators. I think we have not exploited the full potential of inter-parliamentary democracy to resolve conflicts among our countries, beyond the initiates of the Inter Parliamentary Union,” said Kadaga, who is leading a delegation of MPs to the meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia, between October 14 – 18, 2017.
The Speaker emphasized that conflicts and violence are a function of poor and bad governance and supported the argument that conflict is inevitable in any society where some people are denied their basic human rights for identity, equality, security, dignity, participation and autonomy.
Citing Uganda’s examples, the Speaker said that the Ik, a minority group of people, is now represented in Parliament; and that there is freedom of worship in the country even when there is no state religion. She said that religious bodies had formed the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda to collectively dialogue on matters of common interest and to engage government on economic and political decision making in the country.
She also said that the Public Finance and Management Act passed by Parliament in 2015 requires government to demonstrate, through a certificate of compliance, that the national budget has been prepared and will be implemented to ensure that no body, group or community will be left behind in the delivery of services.
“Political representation of these marginalized ethnic and religious minorities must be prioritized and political and legal mechanisms for quotas and other means for the inclusion of these minorities in the political process must be ensured,” she said.
The Speaker also said that minorities should not be discriminated against during the allocation of economic opportunities, jobs and licences and that their land and settlements must be protected from encroachment by governments and big corporate firms in the name of development projects.
Kadaga also said that the Equal Opportunities Commission, a national body, was created to promote equalization of opportunities without any negative discrimination.
“It is our responsibility as leaders to use our parliamentary platform to ensure that discrimination of people on the basis of ethnicity and faith is stopped through law making and budget allocation processes,” said Kadaga.
She asked parliamentarians to recall that people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds can peacefully co-exist the way legislators assembled had co-existed. She urged parliamentarians to cherish their differences as “natural and beautiful and encourage dialogue and cross-fertilization of our various civilizations.”
The other MPs on the Parliament of Uganda delegation are: Mourine Osoru (NRM, Arua district), who is also the President of the Forum of Young Parliamentarians at the IPU; Francis Mwijukye (FDC, Buhweju), Latif Ssebaggala (Ind., Kawempe North), Juliet Mukoda (Ind., Mayuge district) and Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West).