Our country has so far paid nearly Shs 100 billion to promoters of the removal of the presidential age limit from the Constitution to allow Gen Yoweri Museveni seek reelection in 2021.
Members of Parliament from Gen Museveni’s ruling NRM alone have pocketed more than Shs 40 billion so far.
He first authorized parliament to give each MP Shs 29 million for consultation on whether age limits should be removed or not. I am talking about Article 102(b) of the Constitution which stops a 75-year-old person from contesting for president.
The total amount spent on fake consultations by MPs was over Shs 12 billion. The NRM MPs then initially demanded Shs 800 million each because passing the amendment was going to make many of them extremely unpopular.
The money asked was too much and, after negotiations, it came down to Shs 200 million each. But I think because there are many people offering support in order to get money, eventually each MP has been given Shs 40 million.
This is what they have been picking from a building near Housing Finance Bank in Kololo. A female bodyguard to Museveni was the one distributing it. She spent two days at Kololo. An NRM MP told me of a room full of money stuffed in (budeeya) sisal-made bags.
Each MP given money was made to sign in a book. Some opposition MPs also pocketed this money. Theirs was delivered through agents.
We are 451 MPs in parliament, which means at least Shs 20 billion was spent on them. The NRM MPs who sit on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee were each given Shs 300 million to sign the report on this bill.
This amounts to Shs 6 billion. In total, therefore, more than Shs 40 billion has been spent on bribing MPs. You remember the money Museveni gave out to the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) members to popularize the satanic proposals?
Police and the military are on high alert nearly every day waiting to pounce on the protesting population. I think when you add all this, the total cost comes to over Shs 100 billion.
That is on the monetary side. There is another huge cost that awaits our country. Here I am not talking about the possibility of a rebellion or violence about being ruled by a vulnerable person.
I think Museveni has made too many mistakes that have eroded his clout as a leader. And sinning in public has left him extremely vulnerable. The push to remove age limits has exposed him more than the removal of term limits did.
It is the reason NRM MPs can publicly ask him for “logistics” and he delivers. The classic case of this vulnerability played out on Monday morning during a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office near Parliament.
Museveni drove in at about 9am to chair a cabinet meeting called specifically to discuss the extension of a term of office from five to seven years. Museveni told his cabinet that since the mandate that the population gave us was five years, extending the term of the current Parliament would bring a backlash.
Gen Moses Ali told Museveni that during the same election, the population elected a president for the final term, since he would be more than 75 years old come the next election.
“But we are now changing it,” he said.
Moses Ali, himself an old man of about 84, told Museveni that since “we are giving you something, let us also take something.”
But what moved Museveni most was the revelation that if he stops MPs from extending their term by two years, they will automatically sabotage his push for the removal of the age limit.
If that is the case, a senior minister told me, Museveni said go ahead and give yourself two years.That is how much we have degenerated. I am told Rebecca Kadaga was initially opposed to this legal gerrymandering but she eventually gave in.
For me, that is the great risk that we face as a country. In Tanzania, the new leader has been saying no to many things including unnecessary travels by MPs. He is able to reign in on his ministers. Ours has been overcome by so many personal mistakes in his insatiable appetite for power.
That is why I am not talking about smaller things like our suspension from Parliament. [Ssemujju and five others were suspended on Monday by the speaker for improper conduct] Of course we were suspended illegally but that is no cost to the country.
The real cost is on Uganda being ruled by a vulnerable person unable to contain his human resource. The vulnerability is increasing by the age.
The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament. by Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda