Government to pay former MPs - Museveni

Mr Museveni (R) chats with former Lubaga North MP Wasswa Lule.

PARLIAMENT- President Museveni yesterday announced that his government will begin providing stipends for former Members of Parliament, but gave no specifics or timeline.

The Ministry of Finance last evening said that whereas stakeholders would explore how such arrangement works, the matter has never before been officially discussed.

“If it is kind of a retirement arrangement, one of the [things] that can be explored is for [the] government to contribute towards the pension scheme. There are so many modalities that can be explored,” said Mr Jim Mugunga, the ministry spokesman.

Using the Bible analogy of Jesus calming the tempest over the waters, which relieved frantic disciplines, Mr Museveni told a gathering of current and former lawmakers that “there is no reason to panic” over the hardships they encounter upon losing their jobs and perks.

“On the issue of welfare of former MPs, we have been thinking about how to solve this issue. Now that we have the contacts, we are going to sit down and discuss,” the President said at Kampala Serena Hotel where Uganda’s MPs since Independence in 1962 were awarded Golden Jubilee medals.

He added: “How can we fail to look after one thousand people who have made a special contribution to Uganda? How many civil servants are we looking after? We have been looking at how to solve this issue and it is solvable.”

Uganda has about 300,000 civil servants who complain of that they are underpaid while the teachers, who constitute the biggest number, have regularly had to strike over delayed payment or government’s unfulfilled pay increase.

There is already a growing public outcry over what critics perceive as increasingly profligate and parasitic lawmakers, after they, among other things, sought higher amounts for new cars.

It is unclear how the proposal for additional spending on them would be received, weeks after demonstrators dropped at Parliament building pigs painted in the official colour of the ruling and opposition parties, in protest over the growing expenditure on the legislature.

Pension scheme
Ten years ago, Parliament began a pension scheme with Shs5 million monthly deductions from members to clothe them against financial adversity when voted out.

Yesterday’s ceremony was held under overcast skies, with the five-star Serena Hotel hotel in the city centre ringed off by the military which blocked part of Ternan Avenue and diverted motorised traffic to access roads in the leafy Nakasero suburb.

Inside Serena Hotel, the conference hall was a cacophony of nostalgic conversation by an intergenerational crowd of guests that literally roped together great grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers and children.

Many of the medal recipients had long secluded from public life and were referenced, if at all, mainly by the older generation in a country with predominantly young population.

Among the senior citizens was 90-year-old Ezron Bwambale, who represented Tooro South constituency in the First Parliament.

He grinned after being awarded the medal and praised the 10th Parliament for, at long last, remembering and appreciating the contribution of his contemporaries to Uganda’s development.

“It [the medal] is recognition of the work that we have done. It makes me proud because when I show it (the medal) somewhere, I can easily get recognised,”Mr Bwambale said.

President Museveni decorated the more than 1, 000 MPs medal recipients and his promise of a stipend package was a soothing music to the ears of lawmakers who quickly fall on hard times upon losing their seats.

Six out of every 10 MPs in the last Parliament and 36 per cent of those in the 8th Parliament failed to defend their seats.

If the medal awards ceremony was billed a show of togetherness, having pulled together long-term political adversaries of different generations, the cracks in Uganda’s body politic remained manifest in ways that proved fresh political wounds require longer time to heal.

Ex-legislators that served the Museveni government before breaking ranks --- the Forum for Democratic Change party President Maj Gen (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu, former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, Maj (Rtd) John Kazoora, Augustine Ruzindana, ex-Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and Mr Jack Sabiiti, among others ---- kept away although they were invited.

Still, President Museveni called for a politics that serves the interests of the people, not identity.

The police brass band played heroic battle songs, with the Medal Awards committee head Gen Elly Tumwine, who fired the first shot to start the guerilla war that brought Museveni to power, doing regular renditions.