DERRICK TUMUSIIME: What is wrong with the Ugandan Parliament

Derick Tumusiime is a Ugandan writer based in the United Kingdom. (Courtesy Photo)

Derick Tumusiime is a Ugandan writer based in the United Kingdom. (Courtesy Photo)

“I shall try to persuade first the Rulers and soldiers, and then the rest of the community, that the upbringing and education we have given them was all something that happened to them only in a dream.

In reality, they were fashioned and reared, and their arms and equipment manufactured, in the depths of the earth, and Earth herself, their mother, brought them up, when they were complete, into the light of day; so now they must think of the land in which they live as their mother and protect her if she is attacked, while their fellow citizens they must regard as brothers born of the same mother earth…. That is the story. Do you know of any way of making them believe it?” Not in the first generation,” he said, “but you might succeed with the second, and later generations.” ― Plato, The Republic.

Plato could not have put it better regarding the expectations of those given the mandate to steer the country in the right direction. Parliamentary accountability means the government is accountable to parliament; parliament, in turn, is accountable to the people. When the people speak, then it is the duty of the legislators to listen. The Ugandan people have spoken, they do not want you to have the 10 billion shillings. What is so hard to understand?

What is it with Ugandan MP’s with money one must wonder? On average at best, they are some of the best remunerated Ugandans. Enjoy untold privilege and power. However seldom use it for the benefit of the voters who gave them those powers. I was struck by their exigencies and laughed almost ironically at them.

It is money for petrol for the ambulances? Oh! please… what of the ministry of health obligations? No shame there! Time and again they keep disappointing the electorate with their insatiable greed.

The hierarchy of needs for an average Ugandan MP is self-first, family, clan, tribe, friends then electorate (people} and country come last.

They practice what is known as ‘amoral familism’. No wonder.

The 10-billion-shilling MPs COVID-19 facilitation fund has caused outcry across the country and among a lot of Ugandans living in the diaspora and rightly so.

However idealistic the facilitation payment is it ignores the political bias of the system and the circumstances it has been dished out in.

It has only established what the majority of Ugandans have known that MPs are nefarious, who steal from their own with impunity, it is at best state-sanctioned larceny!

The undisciplined monetary power of the state has culminated into political irresponsibility. There seems to be a cynical ploy to ensure that the Ugandan population is economically contingent on the government. Agriculture, the last bastion for the majority in the rural economy is seldom on the parliament’s agenda. It is underfunded and slowly being commercialised to the detriment of the rural majority who rely on it for survival.

Africa has 60% of the worlds arable land yet time and again agriculture is ignored, always at the bottom of the agenda. With food we would be able to stake our standing in the world. Everybody needs to eat but not everybody needs cars, laptops,etc… With food who needs politicians? Politicians know it, so they set the skewed agenda. When a crisis comes people are bound to run to the state as witnessed with the COVID-19 food distribution, which in turn has taken corruption to a different paradigm!

There has been systematic institutionalisation of corruption [facilitation payments and collusion are categories of corruption], it is not a mystery that the MPs in seeking the people’s mandate, the electorate demand facilitation as well, with the knowledge that the wheel will only carry on spinning. For an ordinary Ugandan, it is not lost on him or her that they are complicit in the corruption and perpetuate the cynicism, however, it is the only way they hold the MP’s to account at the ballot box. At best it is a monetary transaction.

The MPs indifference to nation-building is well documented, The Age limit debacle, B.O.U money scandal, The Katosi road scam, Chogm, Land Grabbing, The Lubowa ‘Ghost ‘hospital…. That is just the tip of the miasma!! Are we are already witnessing subtle ‘State capture’?

All that MPs are good at is preening and posturing, they are not offering value for money to the electorate. Some of them have never made a median speech in parliament. As for the opposition MPs, for most of them they are all cut from the same cloth. For the electorate there are no parameters to monitor an MP’s performance in an effective way, it is sad to say, the only way is at the ballot box. That is the only avenue they can exercise voter’s wrath.

On the conflict between the parliament and judiciary. The legislature thinks it is immune from any form of scrutiny by the judiciary and that they are only accountable to the electorate who afforded them their legitimacy.

However, what’s dumbfounding is they at every turn they ignore the will of the people. Parliamentary assemblies should be accountable not just to the electorate but to the courts.

Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC could not have put it better when he observed at a secretary-general of parliament’s conference in Geneva on 10/10/2013 that “no-one who exercises power is pleased when that power is challenged”. Some degree of conflict between parliament and the judiciary is therefore inherent, as indeed with the executive branch of government.

“What are the proper respective roles of parliament and the courts”, asked Sir Jeffrey. In response, he drew on the work of the philosopher Ronald Dworkin, who argued that:

  • Legislatures must be free to make policy, which is a utilitarian calculation of the greatest good for the greatest possible number
  • The courts must be free to define principle, which is a moral claim on the state in the form of rights. Sir Jeffrey observed that wherever there are grey areas in the interpretation of the law, an authoritative decision needs to be taken. Usually, it is the role of the courts to do so, not parliament.

Ugandan leaders continuously excoriate the venality of their precursors only to outstrip them when they take office.

A word of caution, Leaders who continuously partake in vulturous corruption are dicing with their own political shelf life and run the risk of nurturing revolutions. ‘The Leaders come and go, but the people remain, only the people are immortal’. – Joseph Stalin.

About Author: Derick Tumusiime is a Ugandan writer based in the United Kingdom.

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1 thought on “DERRICK TUMUSIIME: What is wrong with the Ugandan Parliament

  1. A well written master piece about these MPs
    Wake up wake up and stand for your constituates

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