MPs sue govt over delayed approval of Fisheries Bill

The Bill among others seeks to repeal the colonial Fish Act of 1951—amended in 2011 to bring regulation of the industry up to-date with current challenges.

Mr Charles Tebandeke (Baale County MP) and Ms Susan Mugabi (Buvuma District Woman MP) address journalists at Parliament on January 9, 2022. PHOTO | FAITH AMONGIN/DM

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Two Members of Parliament, Mr Charles Tebandeke (Baale County) and Ms Susan Mugabi (Buvuma District) have sued the government over President Museveni’s delay to assent to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021.

The government, in a bid to consolidate and reform the fisheries industry, tabled before Parliament the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021 which was read for the first time on September 29, 2021 and referred to the committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries for scrutiny.

The Bill seeks to repeal the colonial Fish Act of 1951—amended in 2011 to bring regulation of the industry up to-date with current challenges.

The Bill was eventually debated and passed by Parliament on May 3, 2022 and later forwarded to the President to assent on May 25, 2022. The President, however, rejected the Bill and returned it to Parliament for reconsideration on September 7, 2022 after over 100 days, in contravention of Article 91(3) of the Constitution of Uganda which gives the assenting authority a 30 days limit to respond to the Bill.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, pursuant to the President’s belated letter, referred the Bill to the Agriculture committee for reconsideration. 

On September 28, 2022, the committee presented its report, which was again debated and passed by the House. The Clerk to Parliament retransmitted the Bill to the assenting authority, which was received on October 18, 2022, but no action has since been taken.

The MPs have also faulted the Speaker for failing to cause a copy of the Bill to be laid before Parliament for it to become law without the assent of the President, as guided by the Constitution.

Article 19 (7) of the Constitution of Uganda stipulates that where the President fails to respond to the Bill, by either assenting to it or returning it to Parliament for reconsideration within 30 days, the President shall be taken to have assented to the Bill and at the expiration of that period, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the Bill to be laid before Parliament and the Bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

The MPs in their petition want the Constitutional Court to declare that the Bill was deemed assented to upon failure by the President to do any of the acts specified under Article 91. They have also prayed that court declares that the acts, omissions and conduct of the Speaker of Parliament in not causing to be laid a copy of the Bill before Parliament to become law or an Act of Parliament upon failure by the assenting authority to either assent or return the bill for reconsideration within the stipulated 30 days.

“We did a lot while considering the bill by consulting the different stakeholders who include the government itself. We Bill was passed about five months ago, we make these laws for Ugandans, people are suffering at the lakes,” Ms Mugabi told journalists at Parliament on Monday.

Mr Charles Tebandeke noted that the unclear laws, guidelines and restrictions “inflicted” on Ugandans as they work to earn a living, is part of cause for the current economic depression.

“The economy is down, it is lame, it’s leaking, and we have reached a depression. The fisheries sector is one of those that earn Uganda foreign exchange after coffee. It has, however, entered the year 2023 with recurring challenges from the previous year,” Mr Tebandeke asserted.

“The only solution lies in our hands as Members of Parliament to come and put more effort to show that the laws made on behalf of Ugandans. We have decided to run to the Constitutional Court to see that we liberate the lake and lives of Ugandans that have been inflicted under corporal torture as they try to manoeuvre their survival,” he added.

When contacted for a comment, Deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Mr Faruk Kirunda, referred our inquiries to the Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, whom he said would be best suited to answer.

However, efforts to get a comment from Mr Kiwanuka were futile as his known contact was unavailable by press time.


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