Corruption, homosexuality and Muhoozi as seen through the president’s address to parliament
COMMENT | IAN KATUSIIME | In his address to Parliament on March 16, President Yoweri Museveni did not mention a word about the iron sheets; the raging corruption scandal engulfing his Cabinet where the Vice President, Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister have been implicated.
Instead, the President talked about homosexuality, the Parish Development Model, Covid19 and Ebola; the latter of which the country has just closed the chapter on.
Fresh from a state visit to Algeria, Museveni looked haggard dealing with the weight of issues to tackle as president. Meanwhile, his son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, has reiterated his desire to stand for president in 2026. Muhoozi is planning to resume his upcountry tours as legwork for his presidential bid; he and his supporters strongly believe it is time for his father to pass on the baton.
Even Muhoozi through his tweets appears exasperated by the corruption in the country. The theft of iron sheets by over seven high ranking ministers has infuriated the public but Museveni kept mum about the scandal in his hours’ long address.
In his 37 years in power, Museveni’s government has groaned under the weight of corruption from ghost soldiers, the Global Fund scandal where money for malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis was stolen, the sale of Temangalo land, pension money theft, corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the latest iron sheets scandal also associated with the OPM.
The iron sheets were meant as relief items for the people of Karamoja. Kira Municipality MP Semujju Nganda captured the enormity of the scandal during a session in parliament a day before Museveni addressed MPs at Kololo Independence Grounds. “Madam Speaker, yesterday the leader of government business was missing, even today she is missing. I want to find out if she has already been arrested because she took 3000 iron sheets or if she is writing a statement at police,” he asked Speaker Anita Among.
In a cabinet meeting held two weeks ago, Museveni had reportedly grilled ministers about the missing iron sheets. “Muli ababefi?” he asked Agnes Nandutu, the state minister for Karamoja, in her native Lugisu in a report by the Daily Monitor. Nandutu’s boss, Florence Kittutu, the senior minister for Karamoja was not in the meeting probably out of fear of the President’s interrogation.
Last year, Cabinet passed a resolution to allocate Shs39bn to purchase iron sheets and goats for Karamoja and according to reports, the President was furious because the implicated minsters were present when the cabinet passed the resolution.
As NRM MPs grumbled about iron sheets throughout the speech, Museveni chose to address theft of public funds in another area: Parish Development Model. News of theft of PDM monies is awash and even as he vowed to crush the thieves, the mostly ruling party MPs looked on totally unconvinced.
The government allocated Shs1 trillion in the current financial year to roll out the national program whose goal is improved productivity at a household and parish level. Museveni said on a tour of Acholi sub region last month for PDM monitoring, he visited some farms and got intelligence on how government officials were asking for bribes.
Opposition MPs boycotted the address with the exception of Bukoto South MP Twaha Kagabo of the National Unity Platform (NUP) who defied his party and a resolution of the Shadow cabinet. Opposition MPs said they were tired of history lectures from Museveni.
With the weight of corruption and inefficiency bogging down his government, Museveni sought recourse in a topic that appeals to his base and one that unites the government and those in the opposition: fighting homosexuality.
Museveni said Western nations should stop imposing their practices on other people. “Europeans and other groups marry cousins and near relatives, here to marry within a clan is taboo…should we impose sanctions on them for marrying relations?”
He added that homosexuality is deviation from the normal and told the MPs that they shall get time and discuss the matter thoroughly.
However analysts say in spite of his rhetoric Museveni finds himself cornered as another piece of legislation targeting the LGBTQI community makes the rounds in parliament.
The last time such a bill was passed by parliament, in 2013, it was annulled eight months later on a technicality- lack of quorum. Museveni was under pressure from the U.S. and other Western donor nations over the law and it was annulled on the eve of Museveni’s flight to Washington to attend the U.S. Africa Leaders summit in August 2014.
Ian Katusiime is a writer with The Independent based in Kampala, Uganda. He writes about politics, security, foreign affairs and national news in general. Twitter: @GenKatusiime