Opposition MPs’ walk-out will not solve any problem

George Muhimbise

What you need to know:

  • More so, politicians including MPs looking for cheap popularity have also joined the chorus of those condemning Parliament including telling outright lies.

For a couple of days, Parliament has been in the limelight over a standoff which caused opposition MPs to walk out.

The walkout was caused by failure by the government to provide a comprehensive plan to deal with issues regarding harassment of opposition leaders and supporters. This included disappearances of NUP supporters, charging civilians in court martial, narrowing space for opposition parties to operate, among others.

Certainly, this standoff is a symptom of a larger problem that has cropped up over time and therefore judging it based on the current events without looking at the broader picture would be a miscalculation.

Whereas some political analysts have blamed Parliament leadership for the controversy, this issue can be handled by Parliament singlehandedly!

There is certainly a lack of objectivity in judging Parliament and everyone finds it as a punching bag to blame. Because negative news sells easily, a few unfortunate incidents will overshadow the many good things that are being done by Parliament.

This has been exacerbated by the negative attitude that many have had towards Parliament stemming for decades and so the current Parliament is paying for the sins committed by previous Parliaments!

More so, politicians including MPs looking for cheap popularity have also joined the chorus of those condemning Parliament including telling outright lies.

A case in point Bubulo MP John Musila was quoted saying that MPs get Shs2m daily for sitting allowances, which was not true but because he has to appeal to the voter’s sentiments, he had to make such statements!

The other challenge is the opposition using these issues as a political tool, which creates suspicion and misunderstandings. For example, the Leader of Opposition presented before Parliament 400 names of people who disappeared, then NUP presented only 30 names to the Uganda Human Rights Commission. So where are the 370? Were they released? Where they discovered? Was the number being inflated?

This is not to say that people didn’t disappear but the moment the debate shifts from facts and goes into politicking, you will have two competing egos; the opposition blaming government and vice-versa, and at the end there will be no justice for the real victims.

For example, the role of Parliament is to call the Executive through line ministers to account, which has been done several times. In a situation where the Executive repeats the same mistakes with impunity, MPs can either invoke their powers during the budget process to deny responsible government agencies money or can censure relevant ministers.  

However, this is a process that involves mobilising even NRM MPs. But if the opposition MPs fail to do that, should they blame the leadership of Parliament?

If the opposition cannot achieve their objective through Parliament, but is also aware of the previous experiences where the Executive has dishonored Parliament resolutions, walking out may serve a political end but will not address the challenge at hand.

If indeed Gen Museveni doesn’t respect Parliament as they say, then he may not mind whether they attend or not. In a worst-case scenario, he can mobilise NRM MPs to attend plenary and they would have enough numbers to pass whatever they want!

Therefore, the opposition MPs ought to understand that Parliament is operating in a larger governance and political system, it cannot work in isolation or be detached from this system. And so, in an event of no breakthrough in Parliament, dialoguing with the Executive would be the most ideal thing!

Walking out of Parliament may give you political mileage but won’t have the missing persons to be seen. If it means to dialogue for one’s rights, let it be; Mandela did it and his people got freedom.

Dialogue is not a sign of weakness but strength, reconciliation is not a sign of giving up but rather maturity.