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Threat to sue over Museveni party's $1.3m bribe to MPs

Tuesday November 9 2004

By BARBARA AMONG KAMPALA, Monday

The opposition in Uganda is questioning the source of the Ushs2.4 billion ($1.3m) given to legislators supporting the amendment of the Constitution on presidential term limits, with one party threatening to sue.

The Democratic Party (DP) has written to the Registrar General asking for account details of the National Resistance Movement Organisation, President Yoweri Museveni’s party, which two weeks ago dished out the cash to its supporters in parliament.

"We want to know their present financial standing and what they declared during registration and their sources of income," said DP in a letter sent to the registrar general. 

The Political parties and Other organisations Act requires a party to declare its financial standing a year after registration, which Mr Museveni's party has not yet done.

Two weeks ago legislators subscribing to Mr Museveni's recently registered NRM/O party were given Ushs5 million (Ksh240,000) each, allegedly for consultations in their constituencies.

However, the opposition says the money was got from government coffers, possibly the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and dished to legislators to support the lifting of presidential term limits, so that president Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986 can stand again in 2006. 

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"We are going to find out the source of the money, if it is from NSSF coffers as we suspect we shall sue them" said Mr Henry Mayiga, a senior official of opposition party, Uganda Peoples Congress.

President Museveni’s two elective five year terms in office expire in 2006 and he is not allowed to go for another term under the current constitution. 

The drive to amend the constitution has been met with mixed reactions, even with die-hard supporters of Mr Museveni’s Movement system falling out with him. 

They have formed a loose organisation, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that is bringing together all those opposed to the lifting of the term limits.

Prominent among these is former prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs, Eriya Kategaya, former Army commander, Major General Mugisha Muntu and former External Security Organisation boss, David Pulkol.

Outspoken opposition legislator, Odongo Otto last week petitioned the Speaker of parliament, Edward Ssekandi, to ask legislators who had signed for the money to declare it. He also wanted the minister, Ms Hope Mwesigye who was in charge of the assignment, to declare the source of the funding.

In spite of the cash bribe, opposition legislators are upbeat that they will defeat the motion when it comes before parliament.

"Whatever they do, it will still come to voting and we shall defeat the amendment," outspoken legislator Aggrey Awori said in an interview.

While other legislators say they all along expected the government to resort to such underhand deals, in order to push for the amendment of the constitution, they were surprised at how cheaply the legislators were bought off. 

"Let's face it, five million shillings is an insult. How can I take it and remain with my conscience that I am representing my constituency? I did not come to parliament to be rich," said legislator Elijah Okupa.