Ugandans in the United States under their umbrella UNAA Causes have thwarted a proposal by some of their counterparts seeking to have a representative for the diaspora in parliament.
In a statement issued Monday by the association’s chairperson, Mr. James Serumaga, UNAA Causes members argue that the position is unnecessary as it only serves the selfish interests of those seeking for it and has no overall benefit to any Ugandan abroad or back home.
“Some individuals and Diaspora based organizations have started lobbying the Uganda Government and Parliament for a Uganda Diaspora based Member of Parliament. UNAA Causes position is, it’s unwarranted, not practical and it will stretch Uganda’s expenditure, once again taking away resources from the people who need it the most,” the statement reads in part.
Mr Serumaga’s statement comes at the heels of a proposal by UNAA (a rival association) chairman, Mr Mande Atigo, to parliament through the speaker, Rebecca Kadaga to consider a position for a Uganda Diaspora based Member of Parliament.
Mr Atigo according to parliament’s Communications Director, Chris Obore, paid courtesy visit to Ms Kadaga last month where he made an informal proposal regarding the matter.
“There is no formal proposal to parliament. The President of UNAA mr Atigo mentioned it to the Speaker whether there is a possibility of having UNAA represented in parliament. The Speaker asked how that would be possible given that Diaspora is wide as Ugandans live many countries. It was a by the way after the formal meeting which discussed a range of issues on how best parliament can work with Diaspora community. The meeting was between the Speaker and UNAA executives led by Mr Atigo,” Mr Obore says.
“We want parliament to be relevant to Ugandans in Diaspora. We are not interested in politicking. Nobody has thought about the (Diaspora MP) because it looks practically difficult to implement,” Mr Obore added.
However, speaking to this reporter, Mr Atigo reiterated his position on the Diaspora MP spot saying it has worked for other countries.
“South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia have directorates setup entirely for its citizens in diaspora. All these are thriving economies that Uganda can emulate,” Mr Atigo said.
Mr David Muwanga, a Ugandan in US also weighed in on the matter, saying that a Member of Parliament for the Diaspora brings nothing new to the table except increase the expenses of the country that is already struggling to put up with a bigger number of legislators.
“Mr Atigo should take the example of the USA where we all are at the moment; this country is more populated and far wealthier than Uganda, but they have around 450 representatives in Congress, that is almost the same number as those in Uganda and he wants more? We have an embassy here and it should be more financed to enable it carry out its activities,” he said.
Ugandans have time and again complained about the number of legislators in parliament , during an interview with the Guardian website, Kitgum Municipality MP, Beatrice Anywar said that the “The country is crying [out] for more doctors … not MPs.”
Denis Hamson Obua (NRM) also argued that focus should be on a smaller parliament, one that taxpayers can afford. Basics such as drugs in hospitals should be the top priority.
Ugandan MPs are among the best paid public officials in the country, earning at least Shs20m annually on top of other allowances. Parliament starting last year also proposed to spend Shs 67.7m on burial expenses for each legislator.