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The fundamental problem with Museveni’s Oil Handshake

President Museveni has promised not to stand when he turns 75
President Museveni has promised not to stand when he turns 75

Since the expose of the outcome of the London litigation case between the Uganda Government and UK’s Heritage Oil and Gas Company, there have been a spate of vitriol in the traditional and social media on the spat. Some FM radio anchormen have made a song and derogatory dance act of it.

At the center of the controversy are mainly two issues: firstly, that the 54 people who were awarded the cash donations were public office bearers – who ordinarily were doing the job(s) they are paid to do, in the traditional Civil Service. In other words, why should the President reward some public servants, differently from others? The other Civil Servants must be equally doing laudable jobs – but unrecognized and not hailed. What of the peasants who contribute to the bulk of the Gross Domestic Product?

Secondly, what are those officers being employed for, then, if at a turn of the day, they are paid so very radically differently from others? How did they qualify to do that job that they are now being differently paid for, if not through the Civil Service?

Where does the administration of Public Service lie, in rendering the work the citizens are supposed to accord the country? Isn’t this merely the role of the people as citizens of the country – if you like, a patriotic duty?

This has created another aside: giving out medals for exemplary service rendered to the country, is either superfluous, redundant or diversionary. Again, in other words, either renounce this show – of what may amount to false acclamation – or if the Golden Handshake is to be maintained, it be done in a manner that accords every Ugandan equal measure.

This brings in the legality of the “Golden Handshake”. Whatever the President’s prerogative, as the “fountain of honour”, doling out State money in this manner leads to suspicion; that is why it has been an irritant in the public eye.  This money is the collective property of the Republic of Uganda; the President is just a custodian of it on behalf of the people. It is not morally ideal for him to donate this money to a selected group at the expense of the majority of the citizens.

Remember that a mere 54 people are sharing six billion shillings in a country where the majority of the 35 million people live on less than 3,000/=, a day. As the majority are struggling to merely survive, those 54 are talking of putting up mansions and buying tracts of land, most probably from among the starving majority. This is inconsistent with the tenets of fair play, patriotism and justice.

It is incumbent upon Parliament to revisit the practice of the draconian legislation such laws give to the Fountain of Honour. This is a clear case where such laws are misconstrued in their application, for reasons that may not be in the interest of the people of Uganda, as a whole.

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