April 2009
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Day April 27, 2009

Uganda Parliament has no guts,teeth and spine

1/7 The Uganda parliament is made to appear useless because there is simply no socio-political basis for it in countries like ours. This takes me to my tired metaphor: when out of impatience with the slow metamorphosis of the caterpillar you glue wings on it, the fact is that, the caterpillar will not fly. Instead it will chew those wings mistaking them for the leaves that it feeds on. Sadly, West Minster parliamentarism is one of those wings that have been glued on the caterpillar inappropriately named ‘Uganda’.  Those wings must be chewed.  They are historically superflous, unless the country undergoes a root, stem and branch transformation from the current mediaevalism. What do I mean?

2/7 Let us trace the practical and historical origins of parliaments where they first came into existence, using the example of England. In that country monarchs originally survived on revenue from traditional sources: royal lands, taxes on clergy, proceeds of justice and feudal aids (prerogative taxes). Time came when the monarchs could no longer rely on those sources of revenue particularly to finance warfare in foreign lands.

3/7 For example, King Edward I found himself in a fix ahead of the war to conquer Wales. Traditional sources could not finance that war, so he resorted to raising money from wealth producers: merchants, financiers, shippers, grain growers, stock keepers, and other propertied classes. This was tax on trade and movables. The trouble with that tax was that, it could be avoided. If a wealthy person was not happy with the monarch, he could relocate his stock from Sussex in the south and hide it in Sheffield in the midlands. Grain stocks could be hidden similarly and financiers and merchants could move their capital from London to Amsterdam and invest there.

4/7 Therefore taxation of moveable property required the monarchs to bargain, to discuss, to confer and negotiate with the wealthy property owners to get consent on how much they could tax them and the use to which their money was to be put, and agreement on what the wealthy classes would gain materially from the monarchs’ foreign adventures. The other option for the monarch was to starve. The process of negotiation, talking, bargain, (kulamuza as they say in Luganda) is also called PARLEY or in French, ‘parler’.

5/7 Because it was difficult for the King to negotiate with individual wealth owners, the latter nominated from amongst themselves the toughest negotiators to form the body of their representatives. The place where the representatives of the King and representatives of the wealth producers met to parley then became the ‘parlement’ in France. In broken French, also called English that is what they call parliament: the place for negotiation (between property owners and governors).

6/7 In those countries, there is a fiscal contract between the political elite and the population. The population pays taxes, and they take the political elite to task on the use of the tax. In the England of 1865, 52% of the MPs were merchants, industrialists and men of finance. They went to parliament to ensure that their money was not misused and to ask the Monarch, “nfunamu ki”: what do we gain from your projects? They were not desperados looking for a bribe of U Shs 5 million. The monarch had not helped to campaign for them to be in the parley place. They were representing their own interests. The historical mission of our ‘parliamentarians’ is just to share the spoils. Their game is survival: do not annoy the monarch, apologise when you can, be a rubber stamp because you must.

7/7 In countries like Uganda, when the monarch becomes desperate for revenue, donors throw money at him. If there were no donations, our monarchs would negotiate with the wealth producers, if any, or starve. For Uganda, 53% of the budget is from non-domestic sources. Burkina Faso, 103.9%: the donors give them everything plus some bonus. If I am a president of Burkina Fasso, what parley do I need with my population? Therefore, how relevant in parliament to me? Why will I not tell them to apologise if they annoy me? But in England, the wealthy appointed their own IGG, and the King accepted hands down, because the wealthy bankrolled the Monarch. Who pays the piper calls the tune. The question is, who pays the Uganda piper?

Lance Corporal (Rtd) Otto Patrick

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