Fellow Countrymen and Women,
On behalf of the Opposition in Parliament and on my own behalf, I wish to heartily congratulate all the people of Uganda on the completion of the year 2016.
It has been an activity packed year starting with Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government campaigns and consequent elections, to the swearing in of Government and appointment of a new Cabinet, to the swearing in of a new Parliament (The 10th Parliament) and appointment of new Parliamentary leadership.
A number of events have characterized the year 2016, some exciting and others regrettable. We continue to thank God that amidst the challenging and sometimes acrimonious circumstances around us, we have sailed through the year with increased hope and determination to deliver a better Uganda to those whose trust we hold as leaders.
This has largely defined and shaped the year. We started off the year with the finalization of the General Campaigns and eventual election of the President, Members of Parliament and Local Government leaders. This was a hugely contentious election process whose results have largely been challenged both in the public court and the courts of law.
Whereas the Supreme Court returned a verdict and validated the Presidential election results that declared Mr. Yoweri Museveni as President for another five year term, the legitimacy of the current regime has remained under public scrutiny and challenge.
The Parliamentary election has on the other hand seen an unprecedented nullification rate of declared results. The legal battles remain unconcluded at the close of the year pending determination at the Court of Appeal.
The coming year will inevitable witness a number of bye-elections and most likely new faces in Parliament.
The election cycle remains incomplete though with the Local Council 1 and 11 offices yet to be filled. The process is slated for January 2017 much as the legal framework remains incomplete.
We are closely following the process to ensure that true democracy is delivered given that these particular elections have been pending since 2001 and many of the initial office holders have since passed on and had their authority taken over by children or spouses illegally.
The question of Electoral Reforms remains unresolved to date.
We should be reminded that through the Inter Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), President Museveni had committed to consider for implementation, the reforms as contained in the Citizen’s Compact before appointment of the new Electoral Commission.
This commitment is doubtable now that the President has gone ahead to appoint the Commission minus the considerations as promised.
As the opposition, we remain committed to our part of the bargain and await the President’s process for dialogue on Electoral Reforms, the reason we could not participate in the vetting process of the Commission Team. We will not waver from our resolve to put in place workable and meaningful reforms.
I must also point out that we have taken note of the systematic process to clamp down on the opposition activities across the country. Even where the Parties involved have worked out the programs and agreed with the Police on them, incidences of stoppage and inconveniencing have remained.
One wonders whether we should continue to bother our organisers to work with the security forces or just ignore them the way the blatantly ignore us. We will continue to exercise utmost patience and adhere to the laws of the land though we expect e reciprocal effect.
The continued blockades of our political leaders and personalities residences, most especially former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Presidential flagbearer, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, even after a court order to the contrary must stop. This impunity should stop.
Corruption continues to cause hemorrhage to this country’s meagre resources.
The recent trial and conviction of the Former Permanent Secretary and senior officials of the Ministry of Public Service, the interdiction of the acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and the other few cases under trial are a positive commendable step.
The committees in Parliament especially the Committee on Statutory Commissions and State Enterprises (COSASE), The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Local Government Public Accounts Committee (LGPAC) have unearthed more rot.
Government must follow up these and the many more cases of corruption reported, hold the perpetuators accountable and recover the stolen monies.
There has also been an attempt to bring to the House very dangerous pieces of legislation. Examples include the attempt at bringing a Private Members Bill on age limits and tenure of the Electoral Commissioners and the other is the proposal on compulsory land take over by government before compensation.
Whereas the former was decisively dismissed at conception, the latter is still on. We commit to stand with the people of Uganda and defend their rights to land, the most single important resource for a livelihood and development.
On a positive note, I wish to commend the Members of the 10th Parliament in the Opposition for the cohesion and teamwork that they have exhibited and call on them to come closer even more for the task ahead is heavy and daunting.
To the leadership, the Whips and the Committee heads, thank you for the commendable work.
The Ugandan economy has continued to limp on despite the assurances from those in charge. When you see a Bank that has just been awarded the most outstanding financial institution, put under receivership almost immediately then you need not ask what is happening to the whole financial sector.
The poverty continues to bite, food prices have soured over the twelve months and commodity prices are sky rocketing. A kilogram of sugar trading at 5,000/= is not a matter to sweep under the carpet. It is a sign of tough times ahead.
This regime has lost the legitimacy to turn the economy around and we cannot trust them anymore for any miracles.
Related to the above is the question of food security. It is no guess linking the food insecurity to the land grabbing processes that have characterized this regime.
The strain on the environment under the guise of investors and high class settlements has led to unprecedented drought in the country.
As a result, hitherto food baskets like Isingiro in South Western Uganda have registered hunger related deaths. Parts of Karamoja, Eastern Uganda and Norther Uganda have not been spared either.
Walking in the few remaining natural forests and taking pictures pointing at trees will not restore the environment. Deliberate policies must be developed and implemented.
Whereas we commend the Government for the relative calm along the country’s boarders, this year has witnessed renewed armed attacks inside the borders. Reported cases of attacks in Gulu, Kabarole, Bundibugyo and Kasese among others must be studied well and resolved.
It remains mind boggling how immediately after these attacks, security personnel give narratives with a sense of finality suggesting insider information, and then promise investigations that must in the end resonate with the initial narrative.
Innocent individuals must be spared for the zeal of a regime bent on eliminating dissent under the guise of fighting armed rebellion and terrorism.
There has also been an increase in the number of armed robberies and murders of Ugandans this year. The pattern looks similar and should be thoroughly investigated and reports made public.
Those arrested should be accorded speedy trials and justice delivered.
On the international front, this year has seen some of the most interesting electoral processes.
The Americans voted a new President, Mr. Donald Trump, the Ghanaians voted a new President Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo, the Gambia voted a new President Mr Adama Barrow and the long serving President of Angola Mr. Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down.
Amidst these positive steps, the year has witnessed turmoil and bloodshed as a result of a power struggle between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and his former Vice President Dr Riek Machar leading to deaths and human displacements. Uganda hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees as a consequence.
In Zimbabwe, the ruling Party has endorsed 92 year old President Mugabe to run for another term. My prayer is that Uganda looks at all these examples and the many others with a view to inform and form her political future.
Leadership at whatever level is not a preserve of any individual and it should never be.
On a sad not, we as a country have lost a number of great leaders and specifically former Members of Parliament.
Two fine gentlemen of impeccable character; Hon. Major General Dr. Fred Oketta and Hon. Matia Nsubuga Birekeraawo have passed on and we shall continue to pray for their families for strength and provision.
We commit to carry their ideals for the betterment of a transformed Uganda forward.
Education and Sports.
The closure of Makerere University was a serious policy flaw and should be revisited immediately. The wanton throwing of students onto the streets without thought on what befalls them and where they will go was an irresponsible act.
We call upon government to address the issues of Makerere with care and urgency. The money in question is not worth the inconvenience.
This government has previously prioritised lesser issues with bigger money and availed it almost immediately.
I wish to once again congratulate the Uganda Cranes for the African Cup of Nations qualification. This is great excitement for the country and we will support you all the way to Gabon and fly back with the trophy.
I call upon government to prioritise sports and provide adequate funding as opposed to perks that are tied to exemplary performance.
We cannot keep coaches that we cannot pay for months on end and expect miracles to happen. This should apply to all sports disciplines.
This sector directly affects the youth of this country who are over 70% of the population and thus must be a government priority.
Fellow Countrymen and women, as we go through this festive season, I wish to remind you of the need to keep alive.
Let us not let our guard down, let us keep our morality high, let us remain responsible in behavior, drive responsibly on the roads, and be frugal in our expenditures aware that the beginning of next year comes with fresh demands on us.
I take this honor to wish all Ugandans a Merry and Joyous Christmas and a Blessed, focused, fulfilling and prosperous 2017.
May the good Lord continue to bless you.
For God and My Country.