In one of his recently frequent communiques, President Yoweri Museveni reportedly threatened to dissolve the Parliament if they are forgetting where their power comes from.
His buddy, Omar El Bashir, on the other hand, did not have the patience to ask for rectification before he shut out those ‘state-funded noise makers.’
Only three days after President Museveni’s threat, we heard the news: Sudan’s Bashir dissolves parliament.
Many believers in the concept of democracy in Uganda were so angry that they rushed to blast President Museveni over social media platforms. Indeed, they would have been right if Uganda had ever been a democracy. Unfortunately, the obvious fact is that Uganda’s institutions are rubber stamps to the Executive’s will.
For instance, while the Constitution clearly states in Chapter One, Article One that, “All powers belong to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution,” how many times have the people of Uganda actually freely exercised their powers to decide the fate of their country? As it is now in Uganda, all powers belong to the president.
As for Parliament, we are told that it has five major roles: Legislation, debating matters of national interest, oversight over other arms of Government, vetting persons appointed by the President and budget approval. But do we see the Legislature carry out any of its roles independently? Do they even know what their roles are?
Taking an example of the recently approved over the top tax (OTT), levied on Social media connections, we clearly saw the level of ignorance of our MPs, many of whom openly confessed that they did not understand what they were approving.
It is not surprising that of late some of them have started crying out that the institution of Parliament pays for them the OTT tax so that they can use their iPads, also bought using the Ugandan taxpayer’s money without interruption.
We know that Uganda currently has at least 455 Members of Parliament. Each of them pockets a monthly pay of not less than Shs24 million, meaning on average, Ugandans pay Shs10.92 billion every month in salary and allowances to the MPs. In a year, Ugandans lose at least Shs131 billion as maintenance cost for the MPs. Other benefits include cars bought using the taxpayers’ money and mileage (fuel) allowance to the furthest point of one’s constituency.
But still, whenever there is any matter that requires consultations, we hear of millions of shillings wired to their individual accounts under instruction of the executive, the president to be specific, in the name of facilitation. It is not surprising that many of them have ended up not representing the views of their voters but taking the position of the President.
We have always seen MPs on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party ticket either go to State House or the President’s country home in Rwakitura to receive lectures on what to do whenever there is a serious matter due to be decided upon by the House. At the end of the day, the position of the President is what the House passes.
Considering these, therefore, do we still need Parliament? Do we have value for the money spent on the Parliamentarians? I think not!
If President Museveni dissolved Parliament today, Uganda would save not less than Shs200 billion annually. If used well, this money could gradually mechanise the agricultural sector, set up irrigation schemes to counter climate change, improve the welfare of our public servants and buy more medicine so that our hospitals don’t run dry.