By Morris Komakech
NRM MPs who are the majority in Parliament live in a herd; like the cows at Kisozi Ranch
The revelation by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, that MPs are not doing research and therefore not illustrating depth in their debate is not farfetched.
Strangely there are some MPs who felt insulted by this glaring truth. In Uganda, truth has no place in society. To attract enmity and hatred at home and abroad, one just has to tell the truth or a semblance of it.
In fact I was shocked that this observation even made its way into headline news in the very first place. Anyone who spares time to read the Hansard would agree that the quality of debate in Parliament has deteriorated.
The genesis of the current problem of lack of depth characteristic of this parliament goes back a couple of years. It is linked to the surging numbers of NRM Parliamentarians in that House and began with President Yoweri Museveni’s three step instructions that NRM MPs should enter into the House to sleep, wake up, and vote. By these orders, President Museveni single-handedly killed the spirit of debate in Parliament.
The President’s instructions made simplified the job of MPs and rendered Parliament a lame duck branch of government. Anyone now aspires to become an MP, a position with very attractive remuneration, where the earner just sleeps and wakes up to vote. By far, this is the ideological purview of Parliamentary democracy in Uganda which has attracted peasants and scoundrels into it.
The NRM MPs who are the majority in Parliament live in a herded community like the cows at Kisozi Ranch. The tradition of NRM caucus in Parliament is to enforce obsequiousness to NRM lines as prescribed by its leader – President Museveni. The Chief Whip always is good at issuing directives and threats to MPs inclined to be independed during debates. The objective is to gag independent thinking. The plight of the so-called rebel MPs has illustrated clearly that being independent minded in a herded community can lead to a torturous experience.
The herding of members of Parliament deprives that institution of independence, discourages innovation and exploration of current research and evidence to inform debates.
In the end, the MPs represent the President and his vested interests which are mutually exclusive to those of the struggling electorates. Being an MP is not rocket science and does not require reasoning, research, reading or critical thinking because the formula is already set into three simple steps – slumber during debate, wake-up when debate is over, and vote. Period.
The cumulative effect is that most of the legislation made under the current Parliament is not pro-Ugandans. It is intended to entrench the life Presidency, and at a very high cost. In addition, the use of bribes to sway voting patterns on contentious issues makes the Parliament stink from lack of credibility even to perform its basic oversights function. They bribed Parliament to remove term limits, offer medical treatment favours, loan baits, scholarships etc to soften hardliners and well informed legislators. The legislative arm of government is the most vulnerable to the mighty hands of the executive.
The current environment in Parliament and the nature of elected representatives that occupy it makes it very hard for informed debate because no one is there to hold them accountable. I have agreed with analyses made by Andrew Mwenda and Timothy Kalyegira on the subject of shallowness and pettiness among the elite class. In explaining the inability of our elite community to produce and reproduce genuinely independent-minded progressives, Mwenda diagnosed prevailing “mediocrity” and Kalyegira believes that “generational inferiority complex” is responsible.
In Uganda generally, reading is a disease that needs to be treated more urgently than even the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The majority of the MPs do not know the content of most of the laws that they pass in the House. As some people say, if you want to keep some information from a black person, keep it in a book.
Morris Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Can contact via [email protected]