On December 7, some 149 NRM MPs and a few independents voted to give the Energy and Mineral Development minister powers to negotiate and seal oil contracts.
Only 39, the bulk from opposition and a handful from NRM, opposed this move. What the public needs to be reminded is that we were not actually voting on something new but on a clause already passed by Parliament.
Parliament, in its wisdom, had removed the absolute powers to negotiate, grant and revoke oil licences from the minister and given it to the Petroleum Authority.
The authority would negotiate, license and revoke, with the approval of cabinet. This clause (9) had been passed by Parliament. President Yoweri Museveni, who has gathered both pace and skill in micromanaging the country, was the only Ugandan displeased by this development.
In fact, he told the NRM MPs that they had legislated him out of the oil sector. Mind you, the seven commissioners on the authority will be appointed by him and approved by Parliament. It is, therefore, not that he feared the authority, but simply wanted to negotiate, license and revoke the licences himself.
The man looks at oil as a personal and family business, probably the reason his wife, who had missed previous parliamentary sittings that considered the oil bill, descended on the house during the reconsideration of Clause 9. I use the word ‘descend’ deliberately because each time Ms Janet Kataha Museveni comes to Parliament, we are besieged by her elaborate military escorts.
The uniformed ones will take charge of all entrances and non-uniformed ones will be all over the corridors of Parliament. I believe this display of might is intended to intimidate the average NRM MPs in Parliament, and in truth, they look frightened each time she shows up.
And of course Lt Gen Kale Kayihura had also ferried dozens of policemen to Parliament to ensure that the public did not access the House. We honestly passed the oil bill at gunpoint. A colleague raised this matter with the Speaker but she also faced her own intense pressures from a powerful clique that has, literally, taken over our country.
Even MPs who had not stepped in Parliament for months were all mobilized for this vote – the likes of Sam Kutesa, Aronda Nyakairima, John Nasasira, Mwesigwa Rukutana, etc. Even Maj Gen Jim Owoyesigire, who was recently sacked for his role in the choppers crash scandal and had hardly been seen since, reemerged.
There are lessons for the public in all this. First, you should trust the majority of NRM MPs at your own risk. On major issues, especially those that threaten the life presidency and personalization of the state, they will vote against their conscience. The advantage with an institution is that you share credit and criticism in equal measure.
The public is excited about the performance of the 9th Parliament, but it also has individuals who are worse than those who endorsed the life presidency project. About 100 MPs cannot even comprehend the complex matters before them. And they are unhappy to be labelled ‘voting machines.’ Just forget about all this excitement about the 9th Parliament moving to restore presidential term limits.
But most importantly, our ‘fights’ in Parliament have raised the profile of the oil sector in the country and I am sure it will never be the same again. You will recall that even accessing the oil wells was once an insurmountable task. Everything about oil was classified. Museveni’s son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, it was reported, was the overall commander of the oil protection unit.
It was also reported that Museveni’s younger brother, Gen Salim Saleh’s private security firm, Saracen, provided the bulk of guards. So, oil was, and probably still is, a Museveni family business. What our debates have done is to remove the veil on oil. Yes, the clique can still loot the proceeds from oil but we have made everybody aware of what is going on.
This, to me, has been the biggest achievement of the oil debate. Every Ugandan is now aware that we have oil deposits capable of turning around our fortune. The oil debates have also resurrected the dormant civil society. This had been more interested in organizing workshops and didn’t want to be seen fighting the dictatorship.
In this vein, ACODE has earned my respect. It equipped us with relevant knowledge on oil and the dangers facing Uganda if we mess up the sector. Therefore, while we may have lost the vote, there is a lot that we have gained as a country. Finally, let me take this early opportunity to wish you a good end to the year 2012.
The author is Kyadondo East MP.
|< Prev||Next >|