The US Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac, yesterday used her courtesy visit to the Speaker of Parliament to send a veiled caution against passing the anti-second hand clothes law.
In what looked more like a friendly chat, the diplomat sought Parliament’s view on the East African Industrialisation policy proposed by the regional Heads of State calling for an end to the importation of used clothes, shoes and cars.
As if to ask Uganda to tread carefully, Amb Malac said if adopted, the policy will negatively impact Uganda’s benefits from the AGOA programme.
Information on the AGOA website shows that in 2012 (the last it was captured), US exported to Uganda goods worth $100 million and imported goods worth $65 milion.
Last year, the made in Africa Bill was tabled in Parliament. The Bill proposed high preventive taxes on second hand clothes. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga allayed the Ambassador’s fears, telling her that the proposal for increased taxes and a possible ban on used clothes was thwarted.
“We rejected the taxes because used clothes are a major source of employment for many of our people,” she said.
The 30-minute meeting also came off as a fact finding and assurance mission for the ambassador who inquired on a range of issues that are of interest for the American government.
“Anything on the Biotech Bill (the proposed Bill on GMOs)?” she asked.
The Speaker answered: “We did our part as Parliament. I receive several delegations that are for and against the Bill and I have to smile with everyone. We also got a petition from farmers and we sent it to the concerned committee for handling.”
Ambassador Malac further asked: “What about the communication amendment Bill which seeks to review Parliament oversight. Wouldn’t be a shame if Parliament loses its authority?”
The Speaker replied: “This Parliament will consider it. New members don’t have copies of the Bills so we will have to give them copies first so that they understand it.”
Ambassador Malac was, however, quick to say she had simply paid a courtesy call because the last time the two met, Ms Kadaga had not become Speaker. She also visited, she said, to express her appreciation about Parliament’s position on the police brutality issue.
“It was interesting to see that Parliament was vocal on the issue of police brutality. It is good to see that at least checks and balances are working a bit,” she said.
The conversation, however, couldn’t end without a discussion on the fight against graft.
“What role can Parliament play in the fight against graft?” Amb Malac inquired.
The Speaker replied: “We should first of all not involve in corruption ourselves. But also, our committees are working and I have asked members to raise issues any day during plenary.”