Ugandan Legislators: Politicians or Pickpockets?

Published on 30th January 2007

Politics is a dirty game. Participants use impressive (not necessarily sincere) incoherent speeches and acts to win masses to their side.  According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a politician is someone who is skilled at dealing with people or using the situation in an organization to bring advantage to himself.

Members of Parliament (MPs) in Uganda have not only affirmed the above expressions, but also outdone the brilliant players in this field.  They have proved to many a Ugandan that politics is a stinking, wealth seeking ground for lazy individuals on shortcuts to get rich. How else is an ordinary Ugandan supposed to comprehend the Ugsh. 60million, 4wheel drive car craze, which hit and engulfed parliament recently? 

Barely a year after making numerous promises to unsuspecting constituent members, MPs are already throwing fake tantrums to fleece the poor citizens of billions of cash. Our honorable members of the house are fully operational on the tired cliché that “if we do not get our share of government money, someone else will.” Politicians usually promise to forgo enticements that come with position to cater for the needs of their constituency members, but fall flat on their promises.

What exactly are our “hardworking” legislators priding themselves to have achieved so far, to merit such exaggerated demands from the tax payer? For the last 8 months the 8th parliament boasts of existence, barely 35 items have been concluded, most of which have ballooned the country’s administrative costs. One would be appalled to realize that tax payers vomit a whopping billion in Uganda to cover for MPs passing a motion to thank the president for delivering the state of the nations address!

The “good” government after several twists and turns has made an even more appealing offer to the legislators, a brand new 4 wheel drive car worth Ugsh.80-120 million, complete with maintaince costs and a driver doubling the tax payer’s burden, in a country that is still highly dependant on foreign aid to finance its development programmes. More worrying is also the fact that the government stands to lose since, it will be in the interest of the MPs to have the vehicles in pathetic shape after five years, so as to buy them off for as low as Ugsh.5million. The government may only recover Ugsh.2 billion way below the Ugsh.100 billion spent.

One wonders if our legislators realize that no government disburses goodies unless it first obtains it from citizens through taxation or borrowing. In actual sense, such grants are the last step of the redistribution process, in which government has already seized from others the valuable resources “it gives” and has taken its own cut to cover administrative costs of redistribution. In all this process, the final burden rests on the already poor citizens, who are deprived of the miserable peanuts they survive on. 

Even with the commonwealth meetings coming up in a few months, our roads are still in deplorable shape. Turning to the war torn north, it’s hard to think of any region that deserves to go on strike. Since the government has been pumping billions of shillings into the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the north, one is yet to meet a single Internally Displaced Persons Camp member, who has been resettled. The Global Fund scandal has provoked moral outbursts and storms before. 

All these are symbols of greed and a clear indication that Africa still suffers a huge deficiency in moral principles among the countrymen. Materialism and personal gain is still the strongest inspiration and motivating behind leadership. We have the power to choose and the ability to decide what our leadership should be. It’s not wise to surrender our rights just for a few pennies, salt and sugar. Ultimately, we, the electorate, are the ones suffering the negative effects of a bad choice. 

We hope our Ugandan legislators will consider recognizing tax payers by inscripting some moral boosting messages on their 4 wheel drive cars something like “this car was made available by the sacrifices of my constituency members and a host of unnamed others, who have less that I may have more”! This will be truly inspirational!

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