‘Rebel’ legislators from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) who were blocked from attending the just concluded NRM Parliamentary Caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi have come out to criticize resolutions passed at the retreat, saying they did not address the key national issues.
In a joint statement, the six MPs who said stopping them to attend the retreat gave them an opportunity to critically follow proceedings as outsiders, also criticized President Yoweri Museveni’s remarks on different aspects during the retreat.
The blocked MPs include Theodore Ssekikubo, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Monica Amoding, Patrick Oshabe, John Baptist Nambeshe and Mbwatekamwa Gafa.
The MPs say that after over 30 years of Museveni’s leadership, he should have used the retreat to explain why the income inequality in the country is worsening from 32 percent in 1990 to an estimated 57 percent in 2018.
“You should have explained why the gap between the rich and the poor is worsening every year. We expected you to explain why in a country you have led for all these years, it’s only people coming from the same region as you that have higher chances of accessing available opportunities like jobs, contracts, capital, scholarships,” wrote the legislators in the statement.
“We found it worrying that you (President) seem not concerned about the increasing poverty levels from 19% in 2013 to nearly 28% in 2017 according to Uganda Bureau of statistics.”
They say the President sounded unaware that poverty is on the increase in the country but instead claimed it is only at 21.4 percent.
“If the current trend continues, more than 30% of Ugandans will be under the monetary poverty line in 2020, a year when you promised them middle income status where the per capita income was expected to be averaging $1200,” they added.
While addressing the NRM caucus last week, the President expressed pleasure with the decision by the MPS to approve a request by government through the Ministry of Finance to issue promissory notes (financial government guarantee) not exceeding USD 379.71 million to Finasi/Roko construction SPV limited for the financing of the International Specialized Hospital of Uganda at Lubowa in Wakiso district.
But the ‘Rebel’ MPs say cheaper options were available and they were not considered.
“You should have used this opportunity to explain to the country why you opted for this option of $378 million yet the redundant specialized doctors trained with support from World Bank had cheaper options of less than $45million to provide specialised services in all regional referral hospitals in the country instead of building new concrete walls,” they said.
The legislators say the President “should have convinced Ugandans who thought it was a more expensive venture to finance this project using promissory notes and a bad idea to support a private investor.”
Current statistics indicate that 68 percent of the total population of the Uganda is involved in subsistence agriculture, but according to these lawmakers, the status quo due to government’s limited financing is likely to worsen.
“What we want you to know is that they did not just refuse to earn or enter the money economy as you seem to claim in your speech. It’s rather because for 34 years your regime has not created opportunities for the masses,” the group argued.
“Your government where you’re the only vision bearer has not prioritised
development of subsistence agriculture where majority of the 68% earn a living. For 34 years you have provided no financing for subsistence farmers,” the say in a statement.
The MPs claim that it was a deliberate decision by government to “kill” cooperatives that used to provide financing, adding that Museveni’s government has made subsistence farmers so vulnerable to money lenders who finance their subsistence agricultural activities charging them immoral interest rates.
They add that government has not provided reliable financing for value
addition so that subsistence farmers are not often exploited by traders who purchase their produce at very prices due their raw state.
On the education sector, the legislators say the current system does not ensure equal opportunities especially for the children of the poor. They say learners in rural areas are not able to complete tertiary education and eventually compete favourably in the job market.
It is only children of the rich that go to expensive private schools, access tertiary education and hence dominate the job market, the NRM ‘rebel’ MPs contend.
They argue that 84% of unemployed Ugandans are children of the poor yet these households sold off their properties like land, cows to educate them hoping that they will get jobs.
They also took a swipe at the President for rallying Ugandans to join mineral exploitation yet he would later in 2017 ban artisanal mining which was residents in Mubende allegedly evicted by UPDF. The MPs also cited Museveni’s directive last week stopping artisans from mining gold in Buhweju district.
The legislators say that had they attended the retreat and free debate was allowed during the NRM caucus, many resourceful NRM MPs would have provided better solutions to the President and government.
They say they would have advised that government focuses on supporting the informal sector and providing affordable financing for subsistence farming.
“The 68% [in subsistence farming] need assurance that they will not be evicted from their land because it’s their source of livelihoods, so solutions focused at building a reliable land management system would be more welcome,” the legislators said.
In his speech, during the closing of the caucus retreat on Tuesday, Museveni urged the NRM legislators to place all their efforts on eradicating poverty among Ugandans. He for the second time thanked the NRM legislators for having confidence in him to continue leading the party, assuring them “some very important things will happen”.