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Monday, 13 October 2014

Uganda : Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah calls the debate on term limits possible but unnecessary, and a lousy limitation to the grace of God: He zealously addressed President Yoweri Museveni as “my hero’ and “an agent of God” and wondered whether the NRM leader uses ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ to govern Uganda for 28 years.

Oulanyah at it again as MPs tell off the poor

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah speaks during the 16th National Prayer Breakfast in Kampala on Wednesday. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE  

Posted  Sunday, October 12  2014 at  01:00
In Summary
Claims. Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah calls the debate on term limits possible but unnecessary, and a lousy limitation to the grace of God

Claims. Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah calls the debate on term limits possible but unnecessary, and a lousy limitation to the grace of God.
First Lady Janet Museveni on Wednesday asked Parliament to stop pampering the poor as Opposition legislators accused the government of balancing the books “on the backs of the poor” in an attack on the disputed House decision to reinstate the paraffin tax.

In a stormy debate that went on for hours, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo and other pro-poor legislators had no kind words for MPs who voted to slap a Shs200 tax charge on kerosene used by the poor Ugandans. Following the presidential directive, the House chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah effectively overturned the earlier decision on paraffin and accordingly approved more taxes on sugar, salt and mobile money transactions.

Seeing his colleagues chastising the poor without pity —the wretched of the earth— Mr Ssekikubo and Krispus Ayena (Oyam North) wondered whether some MPs, especially Fred Ebil (Kole) and Odonga Otto (Aruu) who supported the paraffin tax on the Opposition side, had just come of age and noted that people like Emmanuel Dombo (Bunyole East) were debating as if “they are residents of mars”.

This is what Mr Ssekikubo said: “Why can’t you provide for solar and then increase tax on paraffin? We are putting the cart before the horse and this is why we are getting it wrong. Let’s be realistic, there are leakages in the economy, why can’t we fix them first instead of punishing the poor. More than Shs650 billion is lost in corruption every year and we are here squeezing the poor yet the well-off continue to belch with impunity.”
But in her response to Mr Ssekikubo and members such as Angelina Osege (Soroti Woman) who had linked the paraffin tax with the jiggers and the intolerable poverty in Busoga and in other poor communities, Ms Museveni said: “This government understands the burden the people [go through in trying] to transform their lives. That’s why they [the government] took away the graduated tax because this was a burden. They have brought the free education and the people of Uganda know that if we put a levy on paraffin, it’s because they are teaching the [poor] communities that they have a role to play.”

The First Lady’s reasoning was supported by the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who in his maiden appearance as Leader of Government Business reminded the House that paraffin is not the cure to the jiggers in Busoga and the poverty in other areas, adding that the Budget needs balance. Mr Otto stunned the Opposition side when he applauded the government on paraffin tax and even suggested that graduated tax be reinstated and that more taxes should be introduced.

In the flurry of the paraffin politics, Mr Ssekikubo seems to have a point, especially when he advises the authorities in government to balance the Budget on the backs of the corrupt officials and spare the victims of the vice. We cannot claim to be a compassionate government if we continue balancing the books on the backs of the poor Ugandans.

The argument that even when the government provided the waiver last year, the fuel dealers did not lower the prices is defeatist and is in itself an indictment on the government. It’s clear, the government squeezed the poor not because they wanted them to make a contribution to nation building, it’s because they had failed to stop the leakages in the system and they are now in a complete blind panic about the growing revenue shortfalls.

But the damage is going to be grave if we don’t get our hands dirty as far as fighting corruption is concerned.
Oulanyah on Museveni

In the outburst of our murky politics, it seems the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah L’Okori is at it again, calling the debate on term limit “possible but unnecessary”. He zealously addressed President Yoweri Museveni as “my hero’ and “an agent of God” and wondered whether the NRM leader uses ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ to govern Uganda for 28 years.

The former Uganda Peoples Congress kingpin, who in 2005 chaired the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that controversially endorsed the constitutional amendments which lifted the presidential term limits, described the debate on term limits as a “lousy limitation to the grace of God” and insisted that Mr Museveni had competently demonstrated for the first time that it’s possible to rule more than 10 years.
Oulanyah publicly thanked President Museveni for his contribution to stability and nation building and asked those who have never found the opportunity to thank him and warned the people who attended the 16th National Prayer Breakfast in Kampala on Wednesday that their prayer will be “in vain” because they have refused to thank the agents of God who have helped to create the transformation in the country.

Recalling the country’s bloody past that turned the Pearl into peril, turned religion into “a weapon of mass destruction” and “a seed of division” in our communities, Oulanyah asked Ugandans not to forget their ugly past, adding that there is nothing wrong with Uganda that cannot be corrected by what is right about Uganda. That we should not take these issues for granted. We should not jeopardise our future. And that God works through people like President Museveni. And that God created a miracle by giving us Mr Museveni.

Though Oulanyah’s words sounded like music in the ears of NRM members, to the Opposition and independent-minded legislators, the former UPC man “went overboard” and questioned his neutrality as a Deputy Speaker. They said his views demonstrated “sycophancy of the highest order” and spoke like a troubled politician craving for attention in trying to counter “the nefarious and mendacious” rumours about his political loyalty— forgetting that the choice of words did not speak very favourably about his neutrality.

Some said Mr Oulanyah was trying to soothe the President after rumours permeated the corridors of State House that the Omoro MP was in the camp of the sacked prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi even as other NRM legislators clarified that as one of the “political converts”, he was just appreciating “the simple facts” and that he should not be chastised for stating the obvious.

They have defended Mr Oulanyah even as their Opposition colleagues accuse him of overzealousness and bias and asked him to declare interest ahead of the House debate on the proposed constitutional reforms. Oulanyah owes an explanation to the House.