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Ugandan Activists Plan to Take their Protests to Parliament

  • Douglas Mpuga

A Ugandan activist group is calling for what they have termed a Walk-to-Parliament protest tomorrow [Monday].

Activists for Change (A4C) says it stands in solidarity with all Ugandans who are outraged by news that parliament is seeking to increase their emoluments – pay and benefits -- in the face of rising inflation.

Media reports say the Ugandan parliament, in a closed door session last week, proposed granting members of parliament low-interest loans, tax free vehicles, and advance payments. They would help cushion legislators from high interest rates that Ugandans pay for bank loans, and increase their pay as a buffer against double digit inflation.

“This is immoral,” said Matthias Mpuuga, a member of parliament for Masaka municipality and national coordinator for the Activists for Change campaign.

“At a time when the rest of the country is suffering [from] inflation and all problems caused by increased government expenditure,” he said, “parliament should be the last institution to even think of increasing their emoluments before the rest of the country gets relief from the down turn in our economy.”

The Walk-to-Parliament campaign, Mpuuga explained, “is about ordinary citizens going to tell their parliamentarians that they will not support them when they attempt to increase their [pay and benefits].”

Mpuuga’s group has been organizing Walk-to-Work campaigns every Monday and Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with government behavior, especially what they call its neglect for the welfare of Ugandans.

He said he didn’t expect the police to stop constituents from meeting the legislators.

But he added defiantly, “We do not need to seek their [police] permission. People should be free to present their memoranda signaling their dissatisfaction with the situation in the country to their MPs.”

Mpuuga said it is critical to have the voice of the people heard. Last week Activists for Change started a drive-ride-and-hoot [honk] campaign to supplement the walk-to-work efforts. Every day last week starting at 5pm, drivers and passengers hooted their car horns. Those who couldn’t banged on any tool or instrument that could produce noise for five minutes.

“It’s a protracted struggle to change the character of the state,” explained Mpuuga, “[including] the behavior of members of parliament and other state institutions.”

He said before members of parliament demand a pay increase, they should first improve the general welfare of all Ugandans.

One way of doing that, he added, “…is for government, for example, to consider reducing taxes on petroleum products.”

The government blames a drought and a global oil crisis for high prices and for inflation, which is running at about 11 percent a year.

At least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the protests, staged every Monday and Thursday since April 11.
Human Rights Watch said last week that most of those shot dead by security agencies were not involved in rioting and called for an independent investigation. None has been announced so far.

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