Faced with a raging moral crisis in Cabinet and a limping economy, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni heads to Parliament today (Thursday) to lay out plans for economic recovery. This as the country awaits action on ministers and other leaders mentioned in the scandal of diversion of iron sheets meant for poor people in Karamoja sub-region.
The iron sheets saga has dominated headlines for weeks and captured the attention of the president, the Inspectorate of Government and Parliament. In a recent Cabinet meeting, a visibly angry Museveni talked of “thieves” and called abuse of relief items “unacceptable”.
Mr Museveni, who has not publicly discussed the iron sheets scandal but ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) boss to deal with Karamoja minister Mary Goretti Kitutu and others involved in the diversion of the iron sheets and other items, is expected to make off the cuff comments but without touching on the merits and demerits of the matter which is being handled by police and other authorities.
Last week, the president questioned Parliament and IGG’s involvement in a criminal case, and ordered the prosecution of ministers and all other key government officials involved in the scandal.
It is not yet clear whether Mr Museveni would digress from the practise and use Thursday’s address to announce changes in his Cabinet, whose senior members have been named in the iron sheets saga.
Whereas the iron sheets saga has rattled the executive, some sources in State House called it “a small matter” and maintained that the police and courts of law would effectively deal with the culprits involved in the scandal.
But others said that it might be inappropriate for the head of state to call a special sitting of Parliament and begin discussing a criminal case that is before the police. However, in a disclaimer, they told the Monitor that “nothing stops the president from revealing the action he took on the suspects”.
In Thursday’s special sitting, State House sources say Mr Museveni is expected to paint a hopeful picture of a government that has built a base for socio-economic transformation in view of the prevailing peace and stability, but struggling to rescue 39 percent of the population who are trapped outside the money economy on account of land fragmentation, illegal evictions and rampant corruption that has delayed service delivery.
The last time Mr Museveni addressed a special sitting of parliament was in 2018 following the murder of one of the devoted National Resistance Movement (NRM) supporters and Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga. This particular murder case remains unresolved.
Explaining the purpose of today’s special sitting, State House sources talked of emerging structural challenges in the implementation of the Parish Development Model (PDM), an ambitious government anti-poverty plan that was launched in February 2022 as a multi-sectoral strategy, targeting 39 percent of Ugandan households that are currently stuck in the subsistence economy.
Some MPs who spoke to Monitor ahead of Mr Museveni’s address argued that “the economy is doing so badly” that the financial demands and the revenue being collected are not matching and that that corruption remains a big challenge.
“We are spending taxpayers’ money on non-priority sectors and corruption has now become part of the system. These issues have affected the government to the extent that the presidency cannot wait for the state of the nation address and budget speech,” Shadow Attorney-General Wilfred Niwagaba said.