Parliament must wake up and smell the coffee

Members of Parliament during the special sitting to honour deceased Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile on Thursday. PHOTO / DAVID LUBOWA    

What you need to know:

The issue: Coffee deal

Our view: We believe that measurable strides can be made if the GoU’s legislative branch plays its oversight role.

The executive branch of the Government of Uganda (GoU) has recently found itself having to fight various complicated situations in the public eye. If it isn’t runaway prices ensuring an Easter of discontent, then it is a coffee processing deal with an Italian ‘investor’ getting a frosty reception.

A confluence of political and economic forces has prompted the country to lurch from one trouble to another. The executive has responded by stopping short of denying that Uganda is drowning in a flood of problems. Juxtapositions of inflationary pressures in Uganda with other countries have particularly come in handy.

The GoU’s executive branch has been more categorical in holding that any state interventionism will have the country thrown into further turmoil. The public greeted this position with horror and dismay, forcing President Museveni to summon the Central Executive Committee of his ruling party.

Since the committee members are not known to have in their possession a magic wand (not least fiscal and monetary tools), the beat is expected to go on. The GoU will continue agonising over what to do. But while the writing is on the wall insofar as a state of despair is concerned with runaway prices, such hopelessness shouldn’t be the outcome of the discussion around Uganda’s coffee sub sector.

The GoU has dealt with a hefty share of scrutiny since we exclusively published the contents of a processing deal it entered into with Enrica Pinetti’s Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited (UVCC). The conclusion from most Ugandans has been that the GoU officials responsible for a deal riddled with so many asymmetries took leave of their collective senses. The sweeping rebuke delivered goes on to add that Uganda’s coffee sub sector is primed to take root in barren soil thanks to that deal.

With rebukes hitting new heights of bitterness, some GoU officials have looked panic-stricken and immediately gone into damage limitation mode.

We, however, believe that measurable strides can be made if the GoU’s legislative branch plays its oversight role. Parliament has unfortunately been seen to be tenuous when it comes to counterbalancing the executive’s overbearing power. More so when Ms Pinetti is part of a complex—if unsettling—equation. A few years ago, the legislative branch of GoU was showered with plaudits when it red-flagged sweeteners in a deal extended to the Italian businesswoman to erect a 264-bed International Specialised Hospital in Lubowa.

The NRM legislators, however, had a change of tune after caucusing with President Museveni. Lightning should not be allowed to strike twice. If it does, and the legislative branch acts like an appendage—even rubber stamp—of the executive, an existential malaise will duly be brought to the fore. Ugandans will in that event have every right to question the practicability of the doctrine of separation of powers.

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