Museveni sidesteps iron sheets scandal in speech to Uganda MPs

Friday March 17 2023
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who addressed the country's parliament on March 16, 2023 but failed to speak about the Karamoja iron sheets scandal that has touched most of his Cabinet ministers. PHOTO | GUILLEM SARTORIO | AFP


Ugandan Members of Parliament were Thursday disappointed after President Yoweri Museveni failed to address the ongoing Karamoja iron sheets (mabati) scandal that has touched most of his Cabinet ministers.

Expectations were high that the president, in his address to the MPs, would publicly condemn his ministers implicated in the saga, days after he reportedly directed the police to investigate them with a view to prosecution.

Mr York Alioni Odria, the Aringa North MP, led the calls for the president to address the matter as soon as he stepped out of the presidential car.

“We want you to talk about the iron sheets and punish the culprits. We cannot allow this to pass silently,” Mr Odria shouted at the president.

He kept on reminding Museveni throughout his address about the matter.

However, when the president finished his speech and said he did not want to talk about many issues, MPs shouted “iron sheets” in unison.


Report confidentially

The president then asked them to report the matter to him confidentially, adding that he would engage them on it at a later date.

Nevertheless, this did not go well with a number of MPs who said that as the head of the state, President Museveni should have addressed himself on the saga as well as state his position on the censure of Lands State Minister Persis Namuganga.

Agago North MP Amos Okot who moved the motion that led to the censure of Ms Namuganza, said the president sent the wrong signal by keeping quiet about the two matters.

“I don’t know whether it was by choice; somebody can say the President does not respect the separation of the different arms of government because Parliament passed a censure on a minister but he has kept quiet (about it),” he said.

“Now [that] Parliament is battling with his Executive members who have diverted iron sheets from Karamoja, at least he would have mentioned something. This means that he doesn’t have the will to fight such vices in the government,” Mr Okot added.

Fighting corruption

Kilak North MP Anthony Akol said Museveni’s silence on the saga shows that he doesn’t care about fighting corruption.

“You know it is a crisis in his government and he has chosen to keep quiet over the OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) scandal which is very dangerous for the country because the expectation of the people is that they want to see the action he is going to take,” he said.

“The best he should have done [would be] to inform Ugandans that he is still investigating [the matter] and he will come out about those issues later other than keeping quiet,” Mr Akol added.

Arua District Woman MP Lillian Paparu Obiale said Museveni’s silence on the scandal is too loud to ignore.

“We expected him to address Parliament about issues happening in the Executive … but probably he thought it wise not to talk about them now,” she said.

Ms Paparu said despite the president’s silence, Parliament has already set the ball rolling and will act after the Presidential Affairs committee completes its investigations.