The system of Members of Parliament (MP) corrupts Uganda
Written in 2019. One of the most widespread frustration among many Ugandans is the unchecked corruption of their members of parliament. The stealing of public funds for personal enrichment, also called ‘eating’, is a major cause for poverty and under-development in Uganda. The 298 NRM MPs in particular (out of a total of 426 MP’s) are known for their shameless corruption, often called ‘MPigs’ and portrayed as yellow pigs.
The MP’s are crucial in maintaining the dictatorship of Uganda, as Ugandans are provided with the illusion of democracy, the power to elect their own representatives. Although Ugandans do indeed have power to elect their MP’s, this distracts them from the main goal: to change the top-down system by replacing dictatorship to democracy.
In this post I will elaborate why the MP system is so destructive for the economy, politics, and society in Uganda, and why the Ugandan opposition is making a mistake by focusing on capturing these MP positions during the 2021 elections.
Uganda is rich, not poor
First of all I want you to realize that Uganda is rich, not poor, but most of its riches are not used for the public good, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure, but for self-enrichment. The large majority of 95% live in poverty, where the 5% live more wealthier lifestyles than most presidents and prime ministers in European countries. Uganda is listed fourth on the highest paid legislators in the world (1. South Africa 2. Nigeria 3. Kenya)
The cost of MP’s
There are currently 426 MP’s in Uganda, an amount that is increasing in each national election (in 2011 there were 375 MP’s). Each MP receives a monthly salary of 25 million Uganda shilling, so 300 million shilling per year. 300 million shilling is about 71.226 euro’s per year. So, for 426 MP’s (426 x 71.226) the Ugandan government is wasting 30.342.275 euro’s per year to MP salaries.
On top of this salary, all MP’s receive 103 million shilling for a car at the beginning of their 5 year term. This means another investment of 10.417.404 euro’s after each election for MP cars. It is around elections that most resources are being wasted to buying votes. For the MP elections of 2016, 24 billion Uganda shilling (5.523.984) was invested by MP’s to hold their positions.
Self-destruction of focus and resources
But most expensive is the struggle for MP positions by all aspirants. Each MP aspirant will on overage spend 500 million shilling (70.000 to 100.000 euro’s) on their campaigns. If at least 426 MP’s try to win a seat (remember that there are often multiple aspirants for 1 position), that is at least 500.000.000 x 426 = 213.000.000.000 Uganda shilling, or 49.021.637 euro’s. Just for campaigning.
Realize that funds for campaigning are used for short-term consumer goods. Maybe soap, food, or other basic necessities. They will increase the living standard of a person for a short time, but it will be quickly consumed and leave the voters in poverty.
Also realize that all of these funds to the salaries and cars of MP’s is taxpayer money. So your (in case you are Ugandan) taxes. Instead of your tax being used for public service (education, healthcare, infrastructure), it is being eaten by MP’s. Furthermore, most of MP campaigns are paid by Ugandans themselves. However, all this money is being wasted on political campaigns, instead of building the economy or causing real change.
This has led to one of most monetized political systems in the world. Where in other countries the ambitious young students aspire to become doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs, in Uganda they focus on the most well-being and prestigious position: that of MP. There is only 1 way to real success: to become a MP. This patron-client system, ingeniously designed by the dictator Yoweri Museveni, has corrupted the politics, economy, and society of Uganda.
How many brilliant activists lose momentum
That is why it saddens me to see how many opposition leaders of FDC, NUP, and DP are now campaigning for an MP position. Instead of focusing in changing the system, they have fallen for the trap to become part of the system. You could argue that gaining a MP position is beneficial for the struggle and party, as this fresh MP can then share his high salary with his party and voters. However, the reality is different. When I was doing my internship at FDC, one complaint was that many FDC MP’s (36 in total) forgot the party as soon as they won the seat, and started to eat for themselves.
There are many leaders I respect, because I perceive them as genuine and focused on making Uganda a better place, but now fundraising for their MP campaign. What they are unfortunately doing is distracting and weakening the Ugandan population from the real struggle, the 2021 elections or Plan B. As all these funds being wasted of the MP campaigns will exhaust the economic capacity of most Ugandans. It will deplete funds that could be invested into a non-violent revolution (Plan B) or massive opposition campaign against Museveni. It distracts the eye from the ball: the struggle for freedom in Uganda.
Ugandans are rich enough to fund political campaigns to replace dictatorship with democracy, or to build their own economy. When they realize this, and their money is not wasted on MP’s campaigns and salaries, but efficiently used, freedom and prosperity will be achieved.
War is not so much a matter of weapons, as of money.
Erik van der Zanden
Picture by Office of the Prime Minister of India