Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe,
Dear, the Right Honourable, Speaker of Parliament.
Greetings from the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
Thank you for the great work you have been doing for this nation, but CCEDU has a grave point of concern to bring to your attention.
CCEDU is a vast membership Coalition of 972 civil society organizations and over 27,000 individual members spread across the 135 districts of Uganda.
Beyond the district presence, CCEDU maintains an active footprint in each and every sub-county of Uganda. Since inception in 2009, CCEDU has been at the forefront of the advocacy for electoral reforms, conducted voter education and monitored general and by-elections.
Since Mps are elected by the people and are the people’s representatives, CCEDU feels obliged to protest the move by members of Parliament (MPS’) to award themselves each sh20m in the face of COVID-19.
We would like to underscore that since the president announced a lockdown on March 30, 2020, he referred to it as an abnormal situation.
In one of the speeches during the lockdown, the President, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni appealed to rich Ugandans and people who own big businesses and factories to contribute towards the health emergency.
He particularly sounded the need for a fleet of vehicles to hand to the ministry of health to respond to the many health emergencies that the country will be faced with in the time of Covid -19.
Indeed businesses, banks and individuals have responded to this call and the president in subsequent speeches has thanked those who cared to donate. Apart from Hon.Lutamaguzzi, Hon. Betty Nambooze and Hon. Kyagulanyi Sentamu, no other MP has donated part of their wealth to resolve the issue especially of hunger that most of their constituents are faced with.
Since the unfortunate news of the sh20m broke out a number of MPS have also expressed shock: Mps like Nandala Mafabi, Francis Zaake and several others have written saying it would be a shame for MPs to award themselves with the said money when many Ugandans are struggling to find a meal for a day in the face of the COVID lockdown.
According to the Uganda Bureau of statistics 2019 projections, over 9 million Ugandans are poor and some have no meal a day. The President singled out food relief for the urban poor because he knew the budget to support all the poor in the country was impossible for his Government to handle. The Government, therefore, settled to find relief food items for 1.5 million Ugandans, but even these have not yet been covered and yet the lockdown was extended for another 21 days. Social media is awash with stories of hungry people in Mukono, Kayunga, Kampala begging their LC1 chairmen for food. How and when did members of Parliament forget their mandate of raising awareness in their constituencies and begin to demand for separate remuneration.
The speaker on the other hand argued for all the poor in the country and it could partly justify her action to pay MPS so that they help the poor people in their constituencies.
However, reading from the past, MPS have hardly used their resources to support the people they represent.
Ever since the Corona Virus started spreading in countries around the world the travel by most MPs has been halted and so the per diem they used to earn in foreign trips has also been curtailed.
Therefore, MPs awarding themselves sh20m per head portrays greed and insensitivity of the MPs towards the poor people they purport to represent, struggling to find a meal a day in the face of a lockdown that is being implemented by ruthless security agencies.
Yesterday alone in mukono a poor old woman who was trying to take her grandchild to hospital was arrested by the police and instead of helping her get her sick grandchild to hospital they started to torment her and the boda boda rider who was helping her.
A helpful MP would have been one who would swing into action to rescue such a grandmother and her grandchild plus the boda boda.
Right Hon. Speaker, our neighbours Kenya and Rwanda have a different story to tell. The Kenyan President and the MPs have cut their salaries to provide food for the poor.
In Rwanda, government officials and MPs have done the same.
In Ecuador, a similar action has been taken, but in the case of Uganda the precedent you set is very unfortunate and we encourage you to reverse it.
From the foregoing, Ugandans will perceive their MPs as greedy and not willing to understand the plight of the poor citizens whom they represent in Parliament.
In our view, all national resources must be availed to resolving the complex disease COVID-19.
Resources should also be channelled towards providing relief services to Ugandans who are struggling to have a meal daily.
The Lockdown has meant that markets, shopping arcades, hotels, schools, bars, lodges, churches, taxis and bus parks and many other work places remain closed because private cars are also not allowed to move.
Those who run petty businesses are consuming their capital.
Those who remain open like banks, media houses and factories have been forced to scale down significantly because of the high costs of operation.
Even most Government offices remain frozen until the lockdown is lifted.
Different small and medium enterprises have appealed to the government to intervene so that even after the lockdown they can start their operations especially seeing that many have loans.
Such a situation the president has been explaining is not a normal situation, but an abnormal one that calls for patience and careful scrutiny of events.
It is, therefore, clear that at the end of the lockdown there will be need for a stimuli for the economy to start to function normally.
Cognisant of the fact that in the UK, MPs were handed an additional 10,000 pounds to enable them work at home.
The United Kingdom is a rich country and does not have as many hungry and poor people like Uganda does. The economic and social cost for Uganda in the face of a lockdown is graver than it is on the UK.
As the people’s representatives, MPs should be seen to be more committed to resolving the more complex problems that the COVID-19 emergency poses, than to be seen to operate like the situation is normal.
We, therefore, call upon the institution of Parliament to review their actions and join the millions of poor Ugandans in finding a solution to ending the COVID-19 infections in the country.
CCEDU remains committed to defend the citizens of Uganda, whenever faced with a situation that does not espouse democracy, justice, fairness and respect of human rights.
The author is Acting Coordinator, CCEDU