By Wycliff Odong
The phrase Let Another Person Also Eat waves into my ear as a very naive, myopic, self-centered call. But to be honest, this is what the common man is inadvertently calling for from our current Uganda Members of Parliament (MPs) and more especially those who represent the people of Acholi.
In spite of the freedom of speech promoted by Article 29 (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, almost none of them has come out to voice this out, even in writing, to the people of Acholi.
Yet, to the common person’s agreement, Juliana Namirembe in her study report, contends that in the recent years, Ugandan MPs have approved and passed resolutions for increment of their own emoluments on several occasions. The move has always triggered sharp criticism from human rights activists, Civil Society Organisations, the general public and even some MPs, including John Ken Lukyamuzi and Eddie Kwizera, both former legislators.
Well aware that the cardinal functions of a Member of Parliament are to; 1. Legislate, 2. Perform oversight function, 3. Represent his or her constituency and 4. Appropriate the national budget. A lot, but to the chagrin of the voters, the contrary have taken place, all pointing out to an eating spree in the August House.
Our Members of Parliament, irrespective of their political colors, have demonstrated a consistent pattern of uniting under one color called eating – be it money meant for Coronavirus, lifting of Presidential Term Limits, lifting the Presidential Age Limit, exempting themselves form paying income taxes accruing from their huge allowances or outright arm-twisting the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
All these are happening at the cost of the Ugandan taxpayers who largely starve, live from hand to mouth, struggle to meet the costs of education and health, to mention but a few. With this background, the common man is asking: have we sent you to Parliament to eat or to represent us? If it is all about eating now why don’t we rotate the eating? – the voters are asking.
In any case, even though we voted for an opposition or a ruling party Member of Parliament, we would still not change the trend of eating. They differ on everything else except the eating of taxpayers’ money. Some even eat loans from international financing institutions, laying the loan servicing burden on the next 2-3 generations!
Probably, when the eating is rotated by sending new faces to Parliament, the voters can hope to once again begin seeing a new breed of leaders whose eating could be tamed. The MPs who are currently eating are trees too old to be bent.
Talking about hope in our leaders, it is gone to a miserably very low level. Both the opposition and ruling party MPs we send to Parliament are not ideally representing us, are not equitably appropriating the budget to serve the poor and vulnerable Ugandans, are not playing the oversight role and have instead put more energies on amending the constitution to misrepresent the aspirations of the majority Ugandans and Acholi people to be precise.
To add salt to the wound, the MPs who are really fighting for their electorates are either humiliated or arbitrarily arrested by the state; the ones who have been elected on the tickets of the ruling party are simply caucused into making decisions that are largely not pro Ugandans or the common Acholi in this case.
In my opinion, the factors listed above have always rendered the MPs ‘lost’; only interested in taking home their emoluments. Notably, they squeeze out resources meant for the ordinary Ugandans through government ministries. They decided to also partake of the Coronavirus response money by shamelessly appropriating shs20 million to each of them. The pretext is that they are going to ‘mobilize’ the people against Coronavirus in their respective constituencies.
The public is left wondering whether the MPs are in their offices just to eat or loot from the national coffers. Therefore, it appears the real work is yet to begin; most of the MPs are still in an eating spree.
The loud question in the subconscious minds of the voters is: why not let another person also eat? Probably it must get worse before it gets well.
For God and My Country.
The writer is a concerned citizen. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org