Museveni storms out of meeting
Posted Wednesday, September 19 2012 at 01:00
President Museveni on Monday night lost his cool and stormed out of an NRM caucus meeting called to break a stalemate over the budget after he was reportedly challenged by legislators over the government’s failure to fix the health sector.
The presidential ‘protest’ in a manner usually preferred by the political opposition in Parliament, was reportedly provoked by heckling from MPs after he allegedly swore “never to sacrifice the defence budget for anything”.
His dramatic behaviour was still not enough to stop MPs from refusing the government’s request for the national budget to be passed for the third time in as many days yesterday.
Ruling party members, who requested not to be quoted in order to speak freely, accused the President of being insensitive to the health needs of Ugandans, while others described his storming out of the meeting as “an act of blackmail … bearing the hallmarks of a dictator”.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The President said that he couldn’t sacrifice the defence budget for anything and members started heckling him,” a member said, adding, “This was an insult to our people who are dying because of a sick healthcare system. We heckled him and he got very angry. We were talking to him directly without fear.”
Another member said: “He stormed out because the room was getting very hot for him and I seemed to understand because the anger that was evident on his face wouldn’t have been good for all of us.”
The President stormed out of the meeting at about 6:30pm and did not return until past 7pm. Government chief whip Justine Lumumba yesterday said Mr Museveni only went out of the meeting “to ease himself for a break as any other human being.” She added: “His going out just occurred at a time when some members had heckled him but he came back later.”
Ms Lumumba said the caucus agreed that Shs5 billion, which is in the health budget, be used to recruit two midwives at every sub-county where there is a health centre III.
Other members said when the President returned to the meeting, he had put on a “grin face” but “there were no resolutions on anything.”
This could partly explain the behaviour of NRM MPs who joined the opposition in revolt against the frontbench during yesterday’s House plenary.
Twenty-four hours after the drama at State House, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is facing disciplinary action for shifting positions on health budget, arrived to a hostile reception on the floor of Parliament as legislators across the political spectrum demanded for Shs260 billion for health sector before they pass the 2012/13 budget.
Workers MP Sam Lyomoki, also chairperson of the Health Committee, has petitioned the NRM Party’s disciplinary committee, saying Mr Mbabazi be disciplined for ignoring the party position on the money for health sector.
Mr Mbabazi, who had come with a statement, said: “This government is very conscious of the plight of the health of Ugandans and the health workers and the need for additional funding.”
Mr Mbabazi’s pleas that the government would bring a supplementary request during the course of the financial year were not entertained. Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga wondered why the government ordered for a 23 per cent cut for all ministries to finance the war in northern Uganda and cannot do the same to fix the healthcare.
Realising that there was a deadlock in the House, Ms Kadaga advised that the Prime Minister go back and reconcile the proposed budget cuts with the House Budget Committee and report today. Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah last week asked the same Budget Committee to do the same thing without much success. The debate returns today.