The newly appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Norbert Mao has said that he does not intend to hand over the Presidency of the Democratic Party, as he takes over his new role in the NRM-led government.
Mao made the statement shortly after appearing before Parliament’s Appointments Committee for vetting. He was named minister, just a day after the Democratic Party signed a working cooperation agreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) at State House, Entebbe.
In the 42-clause agreement, the two parties not only agreed to share political power but also to foster constitutionalism and respect for human rights.
According to the agreement, DP agreed to cooperate with NRM in supporting the overall governance agenda and parliamentary votes on matters of confidence and supply for the full term of this Parliament.
DP has only nine members in a parliament of 529 MPs.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Mao said that he has heard voices asking him to step aside, but adds that he would only listen to them if the calls were based on the workload awaiting him as he takes charge of the new mandate.
He adds that the DP Constitution and the cooperation agreement are not mutually exclusive documents.
He said that the DP leadership has decided to invest in the areas that they believe in and that this is the heart of the cooperation agreement with Museveni.
“There will continue that kind of freedom for members to speak up and criticize the leadership and the leadership is committed to being accountable. As we talk now, I think many of our members are beginning to appreciate that the transition is continuing,” Mao added.
Asked about the vetting process, Mao said that he was impressed by the quality of questions the committee posed and that these were not personal but rather interrogated his key agenda.
He said the commitee mainly wanted to know how he would invigorate the National Consultative Forum of political parties which is provided for under Article 71 of the Constitution.
Mao told the committee that the Forum is financially crippled and that while it is supposed to be co-chaired by the main Opposition Party, it looks like the agenda setting is limited to the ruling party.
Mao added that he intends to request the President to allow him to sit on the National Security Council to advise leaders in the security sector on how operations relating to security need to be handled.
He emphasized that he has been advising the President in the past, and would continue doing the same, especially on constitutional and human rights matters.
The NRM in the cooperation agreement agreed to support the election of the DP candidate to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
DP will also propose up to four individuals for appointment to departments, statutory bodies and government agencies, the portfolio of which shall be discussed and agreed upon in advance by both parties.