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Mr. Deputy Speaker, it’s not just your parliament, it’s the entire government

Editorial

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it’s not just your parliament, it’s the entire government

Deputy Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament Jacob Oulanyah

We have always suspected that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda can be tough if and when he means to and this week he proved us right.

On his return from a two-week working visit to Germany and France, he just did not waste any time.  

The man, who says he prays to God for guidance before presiding over parliamentary debate, had decided to say something that seemed to have been disturbing him for quite some time:
‘Our Parliament is too big. The quality of debate is low because our Parliamentarians don’t do research. They spend a lot of time discussing politics and yet politics doesn’t put food on the table’.

The Deputy Speaker’s strong criticism of his own institution seemed to come from his inner conviction or he was simply echoing what the people of Uganda have been saying outside parliament. He explained how nearly 400 legislators were simply too many for a population like ours of 34 million the majority of whom are poor people.

A few questions come to mind: Has he shared his concerns with President Museveni and if so , what was his response? If not, why hasn’t he? Secondly, there are some members of parliament who have openly called for reduction of the side of parliament and are now in the process of bringing up a bill in parliament that should lead to the downsizing of our House. Has he promised them his support because he sounds to be on the same side – the right side, the side of the people of Uganda?

On our part, we have for a considerable period of time now, warned that it can only be a matter of time before government fails to pay its bills because the size of its obscene government is not affordable given the size of our economy. Now we can’t even pay salaries of teachers and other civil servants as if our visionary government didn’t see this coming.

By the time  a whole deputy speaker comes out publically with this kind of nauseating truth, we can only assume that the powers that be must have also started realizing that the status quo is untenable. For us from outside looking in, we see Oulanyah telling his legislators that if they don’t urgently discuss development instead of politics, they may soon also not be able to earn their big salaries.

Assuming that we are reading his press briefing correctly, you get a feeling that the president may be beginning to feel the same way.  And why not if the leading news items these days is of pictures of patients being turned away from medical centres because the health providers are on strike over non-payment of salaries.

This is what your parliament should be discussing in that House, Mr. Speaker. And by the way, before circumstances force the reduction of the size of both parliament and government, why can’t those ‘representatives of the people’ be legally asked to operate from their constituencies if their interest is to really represent the interests of the electorate? Imagine paying MPs to go back to their constituencies ‘for consultation’!

It’s heartening we are beginning to get scared. Do things have to get worse before they get better? Just asking.   

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