Friday, 28 October 2011

Museveni cows parliament on oil debate

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

The steam on the oil debate has died out following a week-long meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling party members of parliament at the ideological school in Kyankwanzi that proceeded parliament’s oil debate which implicated his ministers on bribery. The president sweet talked the MPs to drop parliament’s demand that the implicated ministers step aside as parliament investigates the said 17 million Euros in bribes that foreign affairs Sam Kutesa allegedly got from Tullow Oil Company. Museveni reportedly told the MPs that by implicating his ministers and slapping a moratorium on oil exploration transactions the NRM MPs were falling in the opposition's trap.

Two weeks ago parliament heard that current minister of internal affairs Hillary Onek while minister of energy received bribes from Tullow Oil worth 5 million Euros.  During the same debate Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was also accused of having received bribes from oil firms to connect them to government for oil deals.

President Museveni greeting Ndorwa West MP David Bahati at Kyankwanzi
After the debate turned tensional parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga ruled that an adhoc committee be formed to investigate the oil corruption allegations. In the process, the House which had been recalled from recess veered off the main theme of forcing government to reveal the agreements it signed with oil exploration firms. Even when parliament convened its normal plenary the fewer opposition MPs who wanted the implicated ministers to first step aside from their positions to enable a free investigation into their actions had lost the support of majority NRM MPs whom Museveni had asked to keep off his ministers arguing that the documents tabled before parliament to accuse Kutesa and Onek were forged. Parliament had slapped a moratorium on oil deals in the country for 3 months pending clarification on corruption allegations surrounding the nascent oil industry. Museveni argued that moratorium had diverse implications to the country's economy and with this argument the NRM MPs nodded their heads in agreement with the president.

Although Kadaga has named the investigations committee many doubt the NRM dominated parliament can stand up against Museveni’s wishes. When NRM legislators met at Kyankwanzi they were still bent on censuring the ministers implicated in oil bribes if they didn’t heed the caution to stand down for investigations. However, Museveni threatened MPs with ‘going back to the bush’ if they did censure his ministers. The NRM legislators were cowed by Museveni’s tone except 7 MPs who disagreed with him and walked away from the retreat in protest. In spite of the Speaker’s announcement of a 7 man investigations committee analysts doubt it would come up with tangible findings since it dominated by NRM legislators who are likely to toe Museveni’s party line. With a stroke of a pen the steam with which the 9th parliament began the oil debate with has died a natural death following Museveni’s intimidation of his MPs with another bush war.

But be that as it may, experts are warning that secrecy and bad governance in Uganda's oil sector could cause war. The 9th parliament which would be the centre of hope to enforce transparency in the oil sector is now being driven right left centre by the president. When the Speaker of parliament indicated that she would not allow rescinding of resolutions of the parliament's special session on oil Museveni summoned her together with the leader of government business in parliament Amama Mbabazi. The outcome of this meeting is for now subject to speculation but it does not mean good for the institution's independence.

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