Monday, October 24, 2011
TIME IS NOW TO FIGHT CORRUPTION IN UGANDA; THE WAY FORWARD
Organizations involved in the corruption war in Uganda are the only solution to the scavengers that are turning Uganda broke and inducing abject poverty to our people. We must stop this business of just talking about thieves as they accumulate at the expense of Ugandans and posterity. The way forward is for organizations involved in the anti corruption crusade to raise money from all possible sources and advertise to pay handsomely whoever can give concrete information leading to exposure of those who are looting the country. This will help to get information as it is a fact that the deals which lead the country broke are undertaken with the knowledge of many people who if given incentives may easily give details of the information so that recoveries are made or a record is kept so that recoveries are done at the appropriate time if the NRM Government is reluctant to see recoveries made.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
Why Law Makers made a U- turn
Most lawmakers baying for the blood of ministers who allegedly pocketed billions of shillings as kickbacks, and demanding their resignation, have dramatically made a u-turn and are planning to rescind decisions they took on the floor of Parliament during the explosive debate.
Uganda’s Parliament, on October 12, unanimously voted to have Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and internal affairs minister Hillary Onek step down and give way for an ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of bribery against them.
“Enough is enough on corruption; there is no smoke without fire. I don’t see any problem in resigning a job once you’re suspected. The President can send them on leave to give way for investigations,” Gen Elly Tumwine, an army representative and close confidant to the President, argued then.
The resolution was one of the ten for which MPs voted after two days of heated debate.
But how did intense lobbying and President Museveni’s charm offensive at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi put out a fire that nearly gutted the chambers of Parliament?
Nous and isolation
According to sources that attended the Kyankwanzi retreat, Museveni used political nous and isolation, and was even cunning enough to win over the hearts of the majority of lawmakers who only a fortnight ago seemed they would not budge on the resolutions they had agreed upon.
Aware that it would be difficult to sell his message across the spectrum, Museveni began by isolating a group of lawmakers who have historically refused to budge and accept government positions during controversy. Sources told The Observer that Museveni on Friday morning took to the floor after acting Chief Whip David Bahati.
Bahati had initially attempted to debate the NRM performance in the last presidential election, but Museveni immediately commenced debate on the ten resolutions the House had adopted during the oil debate. But before debating the details of the resolutions, Museveni went on the offensive, asking why rabble-rousers Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) “were mobilizing people not to attend the retreat”.
Niwagaba then asked: “Whoever I mobilized not to attend, please stand up”; and without any response, the accusation lost legitimacy.
Ssekikubo also denied preaching any sentiment against the retreat. But the Mbarara municipality lawmaker, Medard Bitekyerezo, said he had listened to a radio programme where Nsereko said he would not attend the retreat — although he failed to name the radio station in question.
Nsereko sprung up to defend himself. “I appeared on CBS [radio] and said that we need to be more practical than simply going to Kyankwazi.”
Explaining why the Kyankwanzi retreat might turn out as a superfluous event where taxpayers’ money will be put to waste, Nsereko cited a similar previous exercise: “Some months ago, we met at State House and agreed that the country should be divided into agricultural zones, but this has stayed on paper since then.”
Feat of rage
In a feat of rage, Museveni warned: “So are you [Nsereko] saying that the organizers of the retreat are stupid and the old man [Museveni] is stupid, so he does not know what is practical?”
Amidst heckles from other MPs who felt it was a sign of disrespect for their colleague to sustain a personal exchange with the President, Nsereko continued: “We [MPs] recently visited a children’s ward in Mulago hospital and there were a few oxygen masks that the health workers rotate [among the children] depending on the condition of the patients. If we buy more, we can make NRM stronger.”
Museveni persisted: “So, you did not want MPs to come to the retreat. You think I don’t know what I am doing?”
Nsereko was not done either: “This is what I believe in, and it’s my opinion and conscience,” he said, his voice nearly drowned by the howls of those heckling him, shortly before Museveni called for a lunch break.
Upon resumption of the debate on Friday afternoon, Museveni said the parliamentary resolutions cannot be implemented and that “if it means going to the bush, I can go back to the bush.”
But Ssekikubo told Museveni: “Your Excellency, you went to the bush to restore constitutionalism and one of the institutions of this Constitution is Parliament. So, please don’t go back to the bush.”
Museveni, while debating the first Parliamentary resolution — which demanded that a moratorium on executing oil contracts and transactions be placed on the government until the necessary laws are passed — said this is unacceptable because the government would lose revenue.
He said if the government adopted such a radical position, it would lose a lot of money, including the country’s $404m tax claim from the $1.45bn sale of Heritage’s stakes in two oil blocks to Tullow Oil Plc. An arbitration process is underway in London.
“If this money is refunded, it could be used to build Karuma dam,” Museveni said.
The President, who had asked the deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi to complement his arguments, said the moratorium would also affect revenue collection from the sale of three exploration blocks to Total SA and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Ltd, bought from Tullow at $2.9bn.
However, sources told The Observer that Niwagaba, a lawyer, articulately explained why the moratorium would neither impact on revenue collection nor affect the reward of the $404m tax dispute. But many MPs agreed with Museveni, saying they would rescind the decision to place a moratorium in the oil industry.
However, a few lawmakers who had rejected this position quietly left the venue at about 7pm and have since not returned to Kyankwanzi. They include Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Cerinah Nebanda, Ssekikubo, Nsereko and Niwagaba.
Museveni had warned lawmakers not to be sucked into such flawed debates as the allegations of bribery, which are mere proxy wars within the NRM party.
“Baryomunsi is fighting Mbabazi’s wife, while Niwagaba is fighting battles on behalf of Father Gaetano [Tibanyenda] against Hope Mwesigye [former Agriculture minister and sister-in-law to Mbabazi],” he said.
Museveni, in a thinly veiled statement, revealed that Fr Tibanyenda tried to get close to Mwesigye, in vain. “Ssekikubo is fighting Kutesa,” he added.
However, Museveni said the position to rescind the resolution should remain within the confines of the NRM and in Kyankwanzi, and should not be misinterpreted.
“We don’t need to go to Parliament and people say, ‘the Sabalwanyi (chief fighter) is fighting [Speaker Rebecca] Kadaga and Parliament,” he argued.
Former Uganda Law Society president Bruce Kyerere told The Observer on Saturday:
“The executive can constructively engage the legislature to review the resolution if the President came up with positive information he thought is of much importance. But speaking of reversing the whole resolution without constructive engagement will be abuse of the doctrine of separation of power.”
Sources reveal that although Museveni courted lawmakers through an impassioned plea, Mbabazi also quietly marshaled support using regional caucuses. Sources say Sembabule Woman MP Anifa Kawooya, a close associate of Mbabazi, almost traded blows with the Wakiso and Butaleja Woman MPs, Rosemary Sseninde and Nebanda, respectively, who insist that the ministers should step aside before the parliamentary committee begins investigations into the oil bribery allegations.
Mbabazi also relied on Yona Musinguzi (the Ntungamo municipality), Gabriel Ajedra (Arua Municipality), David Muhumuza (Mwenge North), Judith Amoit (Pallisa Woman) and the state minister for Regional Cooperation, Asuman Kiyingi, to roundly defeat the resolutions that particularly call for his resignation. Prior to the retreat, a majority of NRM lawmakers were defiant, demanding the resignation or censure of ministers who allegedly received kickbacks from Tullow Oil.
Buyaga East County MP Ignatius Besisira, who was vocal on the floor and demanded the resignation of those implicated, has since changed position. When The Observer contacted him on Friday, he declined to comment on his change of heart. Several MPs had earlier vowed not to be swayed by President Museveni.
“The Kyankwanzi retreat is all about interaction, and as a President, he should respect our conscience as MPs, lest we invoke other means if he is being contemptuous of Parliament and the Constitution,” Baryomunsi told The Observer prior to the retreat.
Peter Okeyoh (Bukooli Islands) shared this sentiment, saying the MPs would resist any attempts to be whipped.
“They can do whatever they want to do; for us we shall just wait for them in Parliament. This is not a party issue; we should put the national issues ahead of our political parties,” said Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo), who was away in Nairobi on Friday.
Firebrand Rwampara MP Vincent Kyamadidi left Kyankwanzi on Monday and did not return after the President rebuked him. He had asked Museveni what had gone wrong within the ruling party, to which the President curtly replied: “It’s because of your indiscipline that we are facing this problem.”