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ATTOTI THIS WAY, ATTOTI THAT WAY: Making Sense of Norbert Mao’s Open Deal With Museveni — and of Oppositions and Positions

Mao with Museveni

The Monetary Corruption of Politics in Uganda: Opposition or Positions? | By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Oweyegha Afunaduula
Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula

When, during his swearing in for the 5th Term as President of Uganda, President Tibuaburwa Museveni said he would make sure there was no Opposition in Uganda by 2020, many Ugandans thought it was the joke of the Century. Many had thought there was Opposition in Uganda.

But the President more than anyone else knew that after putting political Opposition in a gestation period in the womb from 1986 to 1996, it would be difficult for Opposition parties to reorganize themselves in a sea of poverty and rising impoverishment.

He knew he would strategise to use money as a political weapon to disorganise the leaderships of the political parties by buying the political support of key figures in the parties. And Parliament has been good to the President.

It has institutionalised State House as one of the major institutions in the country, which it no longer takes as a residence for the President’s family. Incrementally, it allocates large sums of money to State House.

Even when there is supplementary budgeting for anything, and however many times, State House, benefits. It is true that the President used such money Parliament gives his residence to establish and sustain a scholarship scheme, which helped many children to study in schools and universities, although it tended to be applied segregatively.

It is also possible it is some of such money with which the President has been able to build schools in Tanzania, and, reportedly, in Rwanda, at the expense of Uganda. On 30th November 2021, it was reported that the President spent Shs9.16 billion on Tanzania and Rwanda schools.

Simultaneously, Uganda schools were deteriorating in infrastructure quality. It is, however, in the field of politics that President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is investing most of the money Parliament allocates to State House. According jstor dot org, the President, reportedly, spent more than 76 billion Shillings between March and December 2014 on political and other activities aimed at neutralising his former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi.

The Observer [online edition] of 1st June 2016 reported that the President and NRM spent Shs 2.4 trillion Shillings on the 2016 elections. The Daily Monitor [online edition] of 10th September 2020 reported that the President spent 773 billion Shillings on his 2016 Presidential campaign. This is the real cost of monetised politics in Uganda. It is political corruption by other means: monetary corruption of politics. According to africanarguments dot org, it costs about $130,000 to win a seat in the  Parliament of Uganda.

During the 2016 election, the expenditure of those who went on to win their Parliamentary seats was $142,000 (U.Shs 485m). NRM candidates spent an average of $141,000. Democratic Party aspirants spent an average of $90,000 (U.Shs.309m). Forum for  Democratic Change aspirants spent an average of $69000 (U.Shs. 236m).

Besides, it cost an MP $9,370 (32m) every month to stay in office between 2016 and 2020, which was more than the monthly pay of U.Sh 30m ($8709). In Western Uganda, an aspirant for a parliamentary seat during the 2016 elections  spent U.Shs. 570m ($167,000), but in the Eastern province an aspirant spent U.Shs 310m ($ 91,000). A woman candidate spent more, an average of U.Sh.496.4m ($145,000), perhaps reflecting their often larger Constituencies, which cover whole Districts. 

Since the majority of MPs are NRM, one may be not far-fetched to assume that the Chairman of the political group, who has held onto power for 36 years, has the monetary muscle to intervene on behalf of aspirants. It would be interesting to find out where the aspirants of the other parties get the money from. However, there are claims that some Opposition Members are sponsored by either the NRM or the NRM Chairman.

The use of money as a political tool in Uganda is helping the President in eroding the power bases of the Opposition. It may take a little longer for him to completely erase any semblance of organised Opposition. However, he is on track. He reached agreement with the President of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Jimmy Akena, to cooperate. His wife has enjoyed numerous ministerial posts in the NRM Government, and UPC agitation has been neutralised. The Party is in quiescent stance.

The media have recently been awash with news that the President of DP, Nobert Mao [who previously ridiculed those oscillating been DP and People’s Government or later NUP, using his now famous Attoti this way Attoti that way remark], and the Chairman of NRM reached agreement to cooperate. It is therefore not surprising that Mao has been appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister.  In the past, Opposition Members have ended up crossing to the NRM and donning the colours of the political group. 

If the President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, has been able to neutralise the two oldest parties in Uganda – UPC and DP – no one can claim that he cannot neutralize the smaller, newer parties. When it comes to this status quo, it is reverse thinking back to 1986 when we were told the political parties reached a Gentleman’s agreement not be engaged in political activities other than those of NRM. At that time, however, no written agreement was flashed.

The agreements between the NRM Supremo and the President of UPC and the President-General of DP exist. However, the one with the DP President-General has yet to be ratified by the Party’s top organ. One thing may be said to be true. Uganda’s politics under the reign of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has no truly functional Opposition. It is about Positions.

People from the Opposition operate as if everything is OK and have no problem gaining Positions in the NRM Government at the expense of the traditional members. Accordingly, they are supporting President Tibuhaburwa to extend and entrench his hegemony over Uganda well into the future. For God and My Country.

Oweyegha Afunaduula is a retired lecturer

Read the FULL COOPERATION AGREEMENT between Museveni and Norbert Mao HERE.

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