Last year, the country witnessed an unprecedented bitter rift between the Rebecca Kadaga let legislature and President Museveni’s Executive. The source of contention was a decision by Parliament to award each of it’s members Shs20m for a role in fighting COVID-19 in their respective condtituencies.
Members had argued it was incomprehensible for them to miss on the various roles given out in the fight against the pandemic. According to them, this would give their competitors an edge against them since they had been locked up in the city at a time their electorates expected to be in their condtituencies in that particular time of need.
As it clearly appeared that President Museveni was losing the war to the fearlessly determined Speaker, a plan was hatched to appease the MPs and possibly leave Kadaga isolated.
Members of the ruling side (NRM) in Parliament were reportedly rewarded with between Shs40 – Shs100million each for their role in supporting a motion that sought to recognize President Museveni in the commendable fight against Coronavirus.
The news of the reward left the public more annoyed with Parliament and Museveni because the new scandal came only weeks after the controversial Shs10 billion Covid cash bonanza that was openly criticized by President Yoweri Museveni, sparking off a war of words between the House and the executive.
The legislators were so annoyed with Museveni that they passed a motion moved by Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda to express displeasure in the President and advised him to always write to Parliament instead of embarrassing the House in public like he did in his April 28 last year’s address in which he said it was morally reprehensible for MPs to award themselves money when Ugandans were starving due to Covid lockdown.
In meetings that followed, Museveni suggested that Covid constituency taskforces be formed to be headed by MPs and each should get Shs 40 million to help overcome pressure from their voters. But the NRM bigwigs rejected this proposal and told Museveni to revive the Community Development Fund.
Some reports claim that in that very meeting, some members of the NRM Caucus like Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa, her deputy Solomon Silwany and publicity secretary Margaret Muhanga reminded the president of the unfulfilled promise of a reward for the party MPs who stood with him during the process of removing the age limit in 2017. After this, Museveni is said to have ordered the party treasurer to get some Shs 40 million for each of the 317 MPs.
With reports of the reward putting MPs in bad light again, public denial that there was nothing received as alleged seemed not to work. It is this that prompted Burahya County MP Muhanga to suggest that the rebel MPs who first made noise about this money be penalized.
Just a week before, MPs Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monica Amoding (Kumi), Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West) and Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) MP told reporters that the 317 MP had received between Shs 40 million and Shs 100 million at Kati Kati Restaurant as a reward for removing age limit. It is these MPs that Muhanga wanted to be quizzed and punished for soiling the image of fellow MPs through claims that had since renewed public anger against Parliament.
Even as government laboured to deny any such money bonanza to MPs, the public seemed so reluctant to take the new narrative from this argument. Government Spokesperson ofwono Opondo challenged those alleging to produce evidence to prove their claims.
“MPs have not been given Shs40 million, we have challenged the people who addressed the media conference, our colleagues Monica Amoding, Sekikubo and so on. We have challenged them to repeat those allegations outside Parliament because they seem to be taking advantage of the immunity they enjoy in Parliament to make slander. To slander people,” said Opondo.
Even before divulging into the authenticity of the claims, it was evidently clear that the allegations served to vindicate Kadaga who had become the target for public rage over the Shs20 million for MPs. It clearly showed that the matter for the president was not on why the money had been given to the Members of Parliament but rather why it wasn’t given to them by the Executive.
Coming at a time when the public outcry over the unprecedented public borrowing, refusal to remit NSSF savings to workers and the mandatory fraction of the worker’s salaries towards fighting COVID19, the public was certainly going be angry with the President for the betrayal while as Kadaga – the intended target enjoyed the last laughter in the whole scandle.
With the race for the Speakership seemingly taking an unprecedented twist as Jacob Oulanyah seeks to upgrade to Speaker, now it could be the opportunity for all fair hearted members to return the favor for the woman who staked her all in the war with the Executive for the welfare of her Members.
One year down the road, the COVID-19 saga in the tenth Parliament could be the highlight upon which both old and new members of the new Parliament will reflect as they head to cast their ballot for the next head of the legislative arm of government. And the name Kadaga will sure reverberate in their heads all the way.
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