Friday, August 10, 2012
Muzzling the Succession Debate: Museveni's Carrot and Stick Strategy
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB–Mak]
The presidential succession debate in Uganda continues to attract attention and is, as expected, beginning to ruffle up feathers. In the latest turn of events, President Museveni is discretely embarking on warding off opposition to his hold on political power and growing pressure for him to quit office. The President is employing the carrot and stick approach in his endeavours.
Concerning the carrot, on Monday, 6th August, 2012, the Government, through the Parliamentary Commission, announced an increase in the allowances of all Members of Parliament (MPs). This is surprising because, there were no public demands for such increments from MPs – for the obvious reasons – they are already paid more than enough. One American embassy official told me that our MPs are paid more than their counterparts in Britain and the US. The diplomat wondered why this was so yet the cost of living in Uganda is far much lower than Britain’s or the US’. I was shocked. Anyway, by these increments, President Museveni has effectively given MPs irresistible bait and his message to them is this: ‘I know the reason why you are making a lot of noise, raising all sorts of troublesome questions. Your problem is money and there it is. So, please, shut up and do your work without disturbing me!’ It is ironical that these increments come at the heels of nationwide demands by civil servants demanding salary increments like teachers who earn about 230,000/= as against MPs’ 20,000,000/=! In his last State-of-the-nation address, the President promised to dismiss all teachers who attempt to go on strike. Since he cannot fire democratically elected MPs, he has no choice but to appease them especially, financially, in order to keep them on his side.
Regarding the stick, on Wednesday, 8th August, 2012, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Lady Judge Irene Mulyagonja stated in Parliament that her office had received complaints against eight MPs, stating that they each failed to account for 10,000,000/=, being the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), received four years ago. All of the suspected MPs are renowned critics of President Museveni’s long stay in power and most (if not all) belong to his National Resistance Movement (NRM). The CDF was money given to every MP annually to boost constituency development projects. It however, turned out to be controversial and quite troublesome to the MPs who decided to abolish it in 2008. Truth be told; many MPs just swindled that money. Basing on the CDF, President Museveni is now trying to intimidate and silence his critical party dissidents. All in all, the President is simply saying this to our MPs: ‘You won’t take my money for free! There is no free lunch. Behave yourselves by desisting from causing me trouble or else you go to jail!’
As the succession debate rages on, Ugandans and the rest of the world should expect to see more drama unfold. There are high interests involved and the stakes are high for the contending parties. For his part, President Museveni will not easily let go of his cherished dreams especially, that of becoming the first President of federated East Africa. On the other hand, his political opponents are also growing very impatient, longing to see his exit, in order to replace him. The MPs’ character, integrity and zeal, is being tested here. For questioning his power and authority, the President wants to teach them politics. This presents an opportunity for Ugandans to determine whether their representatives truly have the national interest at heart or are simply chasing selfish interests.