The first elements of a legislative organ in Uganda can be traced to as far back as 1888 when the then Imperial British East African Company (IBEACO) started some kind of administration in Uganda. Its purpose was to undertake the duties of general administration, imposition and collection of taxes and administration of justice in areas under its control on behalf of the British Crown.
In 1902, the constitutional framework of the country was first outlined in the Order-in-Council. Under this Ordinance, new provisions for the administration of Uganda were made. The law also designated the Commissioner as the official responsible for administration. Article 12 of the Ordinance empowered the Commissioner to make ordinances for the administration of justice, raising of revenues and generally for the peace, order and good governance of all persons in Uganda.
In effect, the 1902 Ordinance established a system of legislation through the promulgation of personal decrees by the Commissioner, a representative of the British Crown. This system continued up to 1920 when a new ordinance was promulgated, which made provision for the formation of another legislative landmark.
The body was called the Legislative Council (LEGCO) whose membership was purely European. It had seven members led by the Governor, Sir Robert Coryndon, at the time. However, in 1926 the first Asian member was sworn in and a second Asian member joined the LEGCO in 1933.
On December 4th 1945, the first three African representatives were sworn in to the LEGCO, representing Buganda, Western and Eastern Provinces. They were Michael Ernest Kawalya Kaggwa, the Katikkiro of Buganda; Petero Nyangabyaki, the Katikkiro of Bunyoro; and Yekonia Zirabamuzaale, the Secretary General of Busoga.
From 1945 to 1961, representation kept on increasing. In 1954, the composition of the LEGCO became 17 official members, 11 crossbench members and 28 representative members. The crossbench members sat on the Government side of the House but were free to speak and vote as they wished, except on a Motion of Confidence when they were bound to support the Government side.
The racial composition of the crossbench was six Africans, four Europeans and one Asian. Of the 28 representatives, 14 were Africans, seven Europeans and seven Asians.
A Ministerial system was introduced two years later, and the LEGCO membership increased to 60 in total. Thirty were representative members, 13 were government backbenchers and 17 were officials.
In January 1958, the first Speaker of the LEGCO, Sir John Bowes Griffin, was appointed. Thereafter, he presided at all the Council meetings.
Meanwhile, the venue of meetings of the LEGCO had been shifted from the Council Chamber in Entebbe to the High Court, Kampala, in 1945, and then to the Town Hall in 1950 and eventually to the current Parliament building in 1960.
Due to continued pressure for self-government from the Protectorate in the late 1950s, an electoral law was introduced to the Constitution, and the first ever direct general elections were held in March 1961.
This election returned an African majority into the Legislative Council. The Democratic Party (DP) led by Ben Kiwanuka, formed the majority party while the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), led by Apollo Milton Obote, formed the Opposition.
The stage was now set for the final move towards complete independence and cessation of the Protectorate. In September 1961, 48 representatives from Uganda of all shades of opinion and varying interests met at a Constitutional Conference in London where the shape of the future Constitution of Uganda was agreed upon. On 1 March 1962, self-government was inaugurated. On that day, the Prime Minister presided over a Cabinet and the LEGCO became the National Assembly.
In 1962, the Assembly was formally dissolved and the last general elections before Independence were held. The Uganda People’s Congress led by Apollo Milton Obote won with 37 seats as against 24 for the Democratic Party (DP) excluding Buganda. Buganda region had opted for an indirect election, hence its Lukiiko nominated 21 representatives to the National Assembly. The Buganda representatives under Kabaka Yekka (KY) struck an alliance with the UPC known as UPC/KY Alliance. This gave the UPC/KY Alliance the necessary strength to form a coalition government with Apollo Milton Obote as the Prime Minister and DP led by Ben Kiwanuka in the Opposition
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