The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Sam Njuba - Are We Working for Billionaires or the Common Man?

With emotional speeches and glowing eulogies, Ugandans last week bid farewell the FDC national chairman and former Kyadondo East MP, Sam Njuba.

Njuba will be remembered for his role in the NRA bush war that brought President Museveni to power and later, his resolute opposition to Museveni. But he was also an energetic legislator. Sulaiman Kakaire looked at the parliamentary Hansard for some highlights of Njuba's time in the House.

February 16, 1993: Njuba moving a motion for the second reading of the Constituent Assembly Bill:

It took the Movement five years to fight and topple the regime. In the process, there were casualties on both sides and these were Ugandans. They were our people - it involved even foreign elements, because in 1979, we refused to take heed.

When the struggle was going on in the bush, the National Resistance Movement, partly because of this feeling of 1979, and partly because of its leadership, decided to lay down a limited agenda contained in the Ten-Point Programme.

This limited agenda had as its priority, the realistic restoration of democracy, and as soon as state power was captured by NRM, this agenda was published and was known to everybody... I think as soon as we attain the minimum economic recovery, as soon as we achieve peace and stability, the government put proposals in this House and enacted the law setting up the Constitutional Commission and it started in 1988, and the operational law appointed 21 commissioners to go around the country with a mandate to sensitize people, and to interest people, the population, in good governance, the Constitution and related matters.

As debate on the Constituency Assembly Bill gained steam, Njuba reminded the House:

The NRC, besides being a Parliament of this country, also acts as the political organ of the Movement. That alone, is likely to give the impression that the Constitution we are enacting now is for the Movement, because the political organ of the Movement is making it, that is if we are already in the NRC - Mr Chairman, the government wishes ... to clear the air and give everybody the opportunity to elect people who will make the Constitution.

Why? It is because all along we have said this is a people's Constitution. The people must have their input. When they decide they want to participate, by sending a fresh delegation, who are we to refuse them?

This government has always insisted on transparency and that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to have been done, and if you claim to be democratic, you should bow to the demands of the people, if the people want that.

We want to avoid the issue of saying all those people who passed that Constitution were Museveni's men, all of you and, therefore, the others will start disassociating themselves from this Constitution.

On representation of special interest groups:

The National Resistance Army cannot be brushed aside ... it was the National Resistance Army that ushered in this peace... there is need for the soldiers to know what they are going to protect because, in future, they will be protecting these documents... So, we recommend to you, Mr Chairman and members that they should be represented by 10 members of the army.

In 1994, Njuba was sacked as state minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, but returned as a nominated member of the CA and later joined the 6th Parliament. On July 14, 1999, he sharply criticised President Museveni's state-of-the nation address:

I did listen to the speech by His Excellency the President and ... there is a tendency in this country, and it is a problem in many African countries, to take some institutions or people as irrelevant and a nuisance; that they do not matter, or alternatively that the country they lead is owned by a few individuals, if not by an individual ... I have read the speech and I listened to it.

What is conspicuously missing is any reference to the war in Congo ... We should know what we are doing in Congo; we should know the progress being made; we should know how much we are spending, even if, I would concede, it was in confidence. What are our losses? What are our gains? ... This country must know because it is our country.

We are trustees for the future of this country. Now, we have been told in the corridors of power quietly that we are there for defence. Kisangani is several thousand kilometres from the border - even further I am told, that it is like you try to guard Rwakitura and you station your men in Nabugabo.

There must be another motive! With due respect, these are matters of policy of state and, therefore, we should not be slighted as a House or looked down upon. If you think we are a nuisance, we can go home; okay, but history will judge you.

On economic growth:

I want to ask government to please, for once, stop giving us statistics. Statistics are misleading us. To go and ask a professor, what does it mean, what is economic growth? He says: "To you Njuba, a layman, it means these high-rise buildings in Kampala, yes - they say - people are prosperous."

I said but me and my constituents are broke; they go hungry." "Oh, then that is why they talk about economic development." Now whom are we working for? Are we working for the muyindi, for the World Bank or those people who have the money, or are we working for the ordinary person alone who goes hungry?

We must come up with a policy. How can we lift the living standards of our people? These handouts from the World Bank and IMF, I'm afraid, will not work. We have UPE but people are going naked, almost ... What happened with the dreams we had in 1986, the dreams of fundamental change? Others are becoming billionaires; the majority are sinking and sinking.

On March 1, 2007, as Kyadondo East MP (FDC), Njuba criticized the security (black mamba) raid on the High court.

I'm always very careful and I was very reluctant to talk at this stage because I am a leading lawyer for the team and I was in court unlike honourable [Mwesigwa] Rukutana who is basing on hearsay. I was in court.

The judge ordered that the suspects be taken to the registrar to complete the bail process. There was resistance at first by the prison officers. So, we told them this was a court order. The advocate led them to the registrar's office and the process started. It was at that time that somebody in Prisons alerted the so-called Black Mamba and they stormed the High court.

So, what we are saying is a very serious matter. I want the Leader of Government Business to know, and not to talk about "we shall investigate." It is a very serious matter that must be condemned in the full stand. This House must stand on its legs and say something seriously.

I must take this opportunity to thank the court because the judge was firm that the court order must be implemented; not his order, but the order of the original judge. So, we must pay tribute to the court for that. But we must condemn in the strongest terms those who have overridden our Constitution; this is a rape of the court.

On November 18 2009, he contributed to the Land (Amendment Bill);

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity. I find a lot of problems in supporting this amendment ... because the bill seeks to address just a little bit of the problem. The problem of land starts in the land office. The corruption in that place is just too much.

You find four people have got titles to the same piece of land. Some people knowingly or unknowingly have titles which are forged. So, the starting point should have been in the Land Office ... the law is primarily intended to undermine the landlords on Mailo land. It is intended to hoodwink the tenants on Mailo land. That is all. It is also intended to benefit the rulers in the next election.

That is the spirit. It is also intended, with due respect, because I know the prime minister is a landlord; it is intended - (Interjections) - yes, he is a landlord. Can he deny it? I was his lawyer at one time in land matters. (Laughter) This law ... is intended to show who has the power in this country, as if we do not know. People are being beaten into submission. With that kind of attitude, we are going nowhere.

That is the spirit behind this amendment and people were afraid to say it, but now it has come out. The customary people have gone out. Mailo land is being undermined ... But I even pity the tenants because they are going to stay impoverished, thinking they are being protected. And as we were told by my friend honourable Tom Butime, this is only the beginning. I thank you.

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