Sunday July 15 2018

Navel-gazing political class has just sunk to a new low



Bernard Tabaire

Bernard Tabaire  

By Bernard Tabaire

It is debatable how close, in the best of worlds, Ugandan MPs are to their constituents. Throw a security blanket around each of them, and they may well get more distant from the people.
They could become even more irrelevant to the wananchi than they already are — which might not be a bad thing because then we could throw them out and we try another bunch, and another, until we hit gold.
Further irrelevance of MPs is what is likely to happen when the security measures President Yoweri Museveni has ordered for each MP are implemented.

The President wants the Finance minister to quickly release tens of billions of taxpayer shillings to provide each MP with several sharpshooters from the army (the number is not stated in the June 29 presidential directive to the minister) riding on re-purposed 4WD follow pick-up trucks protected against small arms fire.

Besides, the sharpshooters will have personal body armour and bullet-resistant helmets. All this is on top of the police detail many of the MPs have.
Why the enhanced security? “The Members of Parliament (MPs) … have been singled out for intimidation and possibly attack also,” says Mr Museveni. Why would anyone want to attack the people’s representatives? Mr Museveni provides no answer.

But we can hazard a guess from previous news reports. A vast majority of the MPs, following a sham public consultation process, voted in December 2017 to change the Constitution to allow President Museveni rule for life. Sensing an opening, the MPs also decided it was a good idea to extend their term, starting with the current term, from five to seven years. They redefined opportunism, these honourables.

It appears some of those wananchi who were left completely unimpressed with this unwise action have threatened danger against a few MPs. Well, who knows exactly why MP Ibrahim Abiriga, an unreconstructed supporter of trashing the age-limit provision in the Constitution, was killed in cold blood.
The self-absorbed fears of the political class, resulting from the accumulated mistakes they have committed despite warnings from the public, is finally costing the taxpayers tens of billions of shillings. This is a shame because it could have been avoided.

First they removed presidential term limits. The people seethed. Then they removed age-limit. The people seethed. Then they introduced silly taxes, especially on movement of money via mobile money platforms. The people seethed.
All these sins of commission have piled up on top of the perennial sins such as MPs determining their own hefty pay, setting for themselves nice gratuity/pension terms, buying themselves fancy cars — all off our tax shillings. They are a class apart.

The people watch all this with outrage. But the self-absorbed class could care less. It is the same people who are voters. It is the same people who are short on jobs, short on medicines, short on quality education, short on quality air even.
But power has corrupted the political gang. As many Ugandans have noted on social media, no number of guns and killer bullets can keep the politicians entirely safe for as long as their rank selfishness continues.

Nobody would begrudge politicians the urgency they have shown for their security and emoluments if they did the same in creating jobs and wealth for Ugandans. Their parasitic tendencies can never endear them to Ugandans over the long haul. In such circumstances, it becomes easier for “terrorists” and other criminals to take full advantage. I wonder, why does Mr Museveni think the criminals infiltrated his own police force, a force under the headship of a hardened military general?
Real peace for the political elite will come from creation of real economic opportunity for the teeming, unwashed of Uganda. That is where the defence doctrine the President references in his letter should focus, not keeping MPs with a bunker mentality in security bunkers sucking up even the few resources there are.