Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi
OPINION: Members of Parliament be paid a token of one shilling a month .
BY AHMED KATEREGGA MUSAAZI.
In the early days of the Constituent Assembly, mid 1994, a huge man with huge experience, stood out and suggested that a President of Uganda should be paid a token of One Shilling per month as salary.
According to him, to amazement of his fellow delegates, violence and bloodshed in Uganda has been partly due to overwhelming ambitions of individuals and groups that wanted to become President of Uganda and enjoy the power and privileges including a fat salary and other emoluments.
Gen. Moses Ali, representing Adjumani ever since, and now Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of Government Business in Parliament by then he had become Minister without portfolio, Provincial Administrations, Finance and Planning, Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and Youth Culture and Sports. Later after C.A., he became Minister of Internal Affair, and Disaster Preparedness, among others.
Ali, a soldier by profession and later a lawyer by profession, was instrumental in 1971 coup that toppled Obote l and installed Idi Amin, did the same in 1985 again toppling Obote ll and installing Tito Okello, and fell out with Amin in 1978 over a coup plot and suffered the same under Museveni when he was arrested in 1977 charged with treason and terrorism but was later acquitted. He was once a Uganda National Rescue Front war lord that allied with NRM/NRA under the late Prof Yusuf Lule and now President Yoweri Museveni in 1981 and has been part of NRM Government since 1986.
He also suggested that elections should be compulsory to all citizens as it is the case in the Arab Republic of Egypt and Dominion of Australia so that those who don’t come for voting are prosecuted.
Both suggestions were rejected by the Constituent Assembly however 25 years later, such proposals should be revisited as the country starts debating constitutional and electoral reforms.
Personally, l did not take Ali’s suggestions seriously since he had just been acquitted of treason and terrorism and seemed bitter with the government and it was the time when he was being courted by both DP and UPC in order to boost their support in West Nile and Madi sub regions in Northern Uganda.
However after observing what goes on in NRM parliamentary party primaries in 2005, when we had electoral colleges, in 2010 and 2015 when we had universal adult suffrage using secret college, and 2020 when we returned to lining behind candidates in an open voting we had during Resistance Council/Committee system between 1986 and 1995, l wish also to humbly submit that we should revisit the Ali’s suggestions, and on powers and privileges of the President, we should also add those of Members of Parliament.
Ever since peace and security were ushered in by NRM Government under President Yoweri Museveni, there is no threat to national stability. People vying for the presidency using unconstitutional means have minimized most of them are using constitutional means and those are very many and are not a threat at all.
However, the framers of 1995 constitution ended an imperial presidency with as presidency whose actions are subject to parliament’s approval. So, we have a very powerful parliament although we are not a full parliamentary democracy in a Westminster sense as it was the case under 1962 Independence and 1967 Republican constitutions. We are in a high breed of the presidential and parliamentary systems.
In order to ensure that the Parliament is independent, as far as separation of powers and checks and balances of the arms of state are concerned, the framers of the constitution allowed it to determine its emoluments. Moreover, most CADs were potential MPs. That where all the subsequent parliaments have gone wrong by appropriating to themselves huge salaries and allowances with impunity and with no shame.
Government efforts to have a constitutional amendment for a Salary Review Commission has failed since it has to pass through the same Parliament.
Every body, young and old, man and woman, educated and not (there are many forged certificates) is rushing to Parliament to enjoy a huge salary and allowances. Worse still those who steal taxpayers’ money in ministries, departments and agencies are all bribing voters to come to parliament.
Since NRM is the most popular party in Uganda, winning its ticket is a clear air ticket to come to Parliament. So, bribing has started right from NRM party primaries. Similar malpractices are also reported in Opposition parties. For example, a vetting committee in NUP was disbanded over taking bribes from aspirants.
Parties have failed to field candidates on all positions because the stampede is on Parliament. For example, in Makindye Ssaabagabo Municipality, Wakiso District, there is an NRM flag bearer for 20 years, who uses all means including rigging to ensure that he remains the NRM candidate, but is never serious for victory. In the past, others used to contest with him but after realizing that he has a deal with the Registrar probably of sharing official facilitation, they lost interest and he almost this time came unopposed but with a turn out of less than 10 percent, an indicator that he is not likely to go through in a general election.
One would have thought a similar rush for the position of Municipal Mayor and Municipal Councilors, District Councilors, Municipal Division Chairpersons and Councilors, but it is not the case. The party is looking for popular candidates but they are almost all shying away, and it is likely to end up mediocre.
So, if we change our constitution and parliamentary elections act and it is stated that a Member of Parliament shall be a patriotic citizen who will legislate for no pay and that the token will only be One Shilling, we shall get good patriots with experience in public administration, private sector, civil society, communities, that will come and serve. This will cut across all political parties.
The writer is a journalist by profession, and a Deputy Spokesperson, Office of National Chairperson NRM, Kyambogo.