By Max Patrico Ocaido
Donors have reportedly bankrolled Opposition MPs to a tune of Shs3billion to frustrate the pending Constitution Amendment Bill (No.2), 2017 dubbed Age limit Bill.
According to highly placed sources, the Shs3bn Age limit cash has been advanced to the office of Leader of Opposition in Parliament that is headed by Winfred Kiiza, Kasese Woman MP.
Apparently, the money has only benefited opposition MPs who returned the Shs29m consultation facilitation that was wired to the bank accounts of each MP to consult their constituents on the age limit Bill that among others intends to scrap article 102(b) to allow any candidate who qualifies to be an MP to contest for the office of the president without being limited by age.
“Yes, the money is there. And the condition to benefit from it was simply on ground that one returns the Shs29m consultation money. Those who returned Shs29m have been given Shs3bn,” a source who spoke on condition of anonymity said, adding returning the Shs29m was merely a public stunt for the MPs to secretly swallow a fat frog behind the curtains.
One DP MP who preferred anonymity, but was not among those who returned the Shs29m expressed dissatisfaction why a few MPs betrayed them to pocket Shs3bn.
“I don’t want to be quoted on this matter. Please leave me alone, this matter is still very hot, this is not the right time to talk about it,” the DP MP said as he laughed the matter away.
Over 10 MPs opposed to the removal of age limit have returned Shs29m and among them include; Winfred Kiiza, Moses Kasibante (Independent, Rubaga North), Angeline Osegge (FDC, Soroti), Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala), William Nzoghu (FDC, Busongora North), Medard Sseggona (DP, Busiro South), Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, Kyadondo East’s Robert Kyagulanyi, Nakawa’s Michael Kabaziguruka, Roland Mugume Kaginda (Rukungiri municipality) and Gerald Karuhanga, Ntungamo Municipality MP.
Unconfirmed reports have it that the source of this secret funding is the United States (U.S.) Embassy. The Nsambya based U.S Embassy has been critical on governance issues and has on several occasions warned government and institutions like police against oppressing the rights of the people especially those who hold divergent political views.
When Dorothy Nanyonga, Information Assistant, U.S. Mission Uganda was contacted on telephone to comment on the matter, she tossed our reporter for over an hour before telling him to resubmit the questions on her email and later on asked for our media company profile before responding to the matter.
At the end of it all, Nanyonga still could not give us a substantive comment and neither refuted nor admitted to the allegations that the Embassy has bankrolled opposition MPs.
“I can’t assure you what time the embassy will be ready with a response because I have forwarded the matter to my supervisor who is yet to respond,” Nanyonga said.
An insider within parliament has revealed that several Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Uganda and across the globe have expressed interests to fund opposition MPs in the 10thParliament to frustrate the age limit Bill.
It is said that opposition MPs were in October set to receive a whopping Shs4bn from ActionAid an international NGO with branches in Uganda.
However, Bank of Uganda (BoU) hastily froze their accounts and stifled their plans. The decision to close ActionAid's accounts came a few weeks after its offices were raided by police in the run-up to the debate over the scrapping of article 102 (b) of the constitution.
Whereas BoU officials insist that the decision to freeze ActionAid’s bank accounts is because of their involvement in money laundering, Arthur Larok, ActionAid’s country director for Uganda, says the closure is politically motivated considering their divergent position on age limit Bill. It is said that after ActionAid’s efforts to fund opposition was crippled, that U.S Embassy decided to step in to have the job done; funding opposition MPs.
Opposition leaders respond
Leader of Opposition (LoP) Winfred Kiiza said the allegations are a total fabrication meant for government to cover up their source of the Shs29m that was given to each MP for consultations.
“Let them prove because I am one of those who returned the money and I don’t know if I have any dealings with the U.S embassy. Those are falsehoods they fabricate to cover up for their misdoings. There is nobody who has given anybody money; maybe we can also say that the money that was given to the MPs was got from terrorists because that money was not from the budget and we have not been told where it came from,” Kiiza said.
She added, “I have been asking government (to explain) where the money (Shs29m) came from and why they did not make it go through the right channels so that we can take it cleanly but they have not explained to us. Now they are fabricating that those who returned Shs29m received Shs3bn that is stupidity of untold magnitude.”
Roland Mugume Kaginda, Rukungiri municipality MP who also doubles as the deputy opposition whip told Kampala Post in a telephone interview that the allegations of opposition MPs pocketing Shs3bn from U.S Embassy are baseless and are being traded by state machinery meant to derail them. He also asked those who are circulating such information to produce any evidence of them receiving this money.
“Let me tell you my brother, I am happy with what I am seeing in Zimbabwe and President Mugabe is now off. You, journalists if you want to help us fight Museveni then you should do the needful and stop trading such propaganda,” Mugume said.
“You remember when Bongole Lutaaya said that he had HIV and people were like he is trying to play around. We are losing lives, the doctors are on strike, state attorneys and lecturers are also going on strike. The state machinery is bringing such stories because they are in a tight situation since they released Shs29m which was not in the budget and now doctors are striking, Ugandans are dying.”
He added that he did not return Shs29m in a bid to benefit from the purported Shs3bn from the US Embassy, saying that parliament pays a salary which covers monthly consultation expenses and there is no need to receive another Shs29m.
“The money (salary) parliament is paying us is supposed to enable me go to the constituency every month to carry out my oversight work and there is no need to pocket the Shs29m. Now because we returned the money, they are now tarnishing our names to show the world that we are getting money from donors or other agencies.
The government itself has completely blocked banks or even individuals and you cannot bring any money here. Let them come out with evidence to show that we got this purported money,” Mugume said.
He added that the opposition will not be derailed by any nature of allegations whatsoever and that they are ready to fight for this country.
Finance Minister’s Take
On Thursday at Uganda Media Centre while addressing the media on Uganda's Anti-Laundering and Combating of Terrorist Financing Effort, the Kampala Post asked Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija about the Shs3Bn believed to have been wired on opposition MPs’ accounts.
Kasaija said he had heard about the money although he said he was yet to get credible information.
"These are rumours my ears are also getting but I don't respond to rumours because my intelligence has not yet brought me that information," Kasaija said.
He added that Uganda has now curbed money laundering activities and that investors should no longer fear bringing money to the country.