MPs' Shs 20m was bad, but Shs 40m is okay: Civil society where are you?

The last Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential campaigns taught me something important about Africans. They marginalize central issues and centralize marginal issues. 

That is how one FDC leader in Hoima summarized our campaigns. My candidate Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu, of course, lost and he has since formed another political platform, the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT).

These were bruising campaigns. The FDCs pounced at each other. We momentarily forgot that a bigger enemy was waiting to devour us all. And by exhausting ourselves, we made his work easy. 

I think this is the situation that we find ourselves in as a country after a bruising debate between a section of the public in one corner and the majority of Parliament in another. 

The debate arose from Parliament allocating itself Shs 10 billion to facilitate MPs each with Shs 20 million to fight the spread of Coronavirus which causes Covid-19.

Mr. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president for 35 years, joined the debate and dismissed the allocation as morally reprehensive. The Judiciary known for delayed justice found two judges to determine a petition against the allocation in record time. An order for the MPs not to touch the money was immediately issued. 

The order later changed to handing over the money to districts or Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda’s national task force on Covid-19.

Many things have since happened. The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has been ferociously attacked. And I think threatened within the ranks of the ruling clique. 

From presiding over a sitting of Parliament in which Museveni is castigated for undermining the separation of power, to chairing another almost instantly in which he is praised for fighting Covid-19 – this was by the same speaker and the same Parliament. There are lessons here for those who contemplate.

After several meetings at State House, a decision is arrived at; that all the loyal NRM MPs, 317 of them who voted for the removal of the age limit from the Constitution for Museveni to die in office be given Shs 40 million. 

The 15 million is an old debt. Each MP was promised Shs 200 million to support age limit removal. A total of Shs 185 million had been paid so far. Mr. Museveni, therefore, owed the loyal MPs Shs 15 million.

He also owed them Shs 5 million which he didn’t pay after a retreat at National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi shortly after amending the Constitution. That makes it 20 million. 

The remaining 20 million is for the NRM loyal MPs to return the now controversial Shs 20 million Covid-19 money. There are again lessons here for those who contemplate. Members of the civil society where are you?

Finally, Museveni’s in-law, Sam Kutesa Kahamba writes clearing repatriation of some three individuals who are stranded in Ethiopia against an established rule. The rule part of the measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 is that entry into Uganda is prohibited except for cargo planes and trucks plus UN and humanitarian organizations’ staff.

 A businessman called Ben Kavuya who is well connected is allowed to receive his wife, daughter and muzukulu (granddaughter/son). They will ride themselves to an apartment of their choice. That is where they will purportedly be quarantined.

That is where we are as a country. We are all captives and the struggle is to free ourselves. Please make no mistake. Please don’t cheer when you hear that Kadaga is under attack. She is just another victim. I hope you understand.

The central issue is the dictator. Let us not dispense our energy on smaller issues. But if you like, it is your choice and I respect it.

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