President Museveni has successfully persuaded Karamoja lawmakers that government will prioritise issues concerning their area in the forthcoming budget, The Observer has learnt.
This follows a meeting at State House, Entebbe, on Monday during which Museveni asked the Karamoja MPs, all of whom belong to his NRM, to put the skids on a petition calling for a special session of Parliament to discuss the remote sub-region’s grievances .
“I know what your concerns are but I request you to be calm because we need to be patriotic,” Museveni reportedly said.
“He told us that the media wasn’t the right channel and if possible it is always better to discuss anything with him before we go to the media,” said one MP, who attended the meeting, but declined to be mentioned.
In the meeting that lasted from 7-9pm, Museveni expressed his displeasure at the Karamoja lawmakers’ continuous use of the media to voice their grievances.
“He gave us attention in a very humble way and I think it was amicable. But we wait for the results,” Remigio Achia (Pian) said.
Last month, the Karamoja Parliament group addressed two press conferences during which they threatened to sever their relationship with NRM for neglecting their sub-region.
Led by Achia (Pian) and Simon Peter Aleper (Moroto municipality), the lawmakers said they would embark on the collection of signatures to petition the speaker for a special session of Parliament to discuss Karamoja affairs.
The group wants the government to honour its promise of paving the Moroto-Nakapiripirit road, end secret mining operations and stop the grabbing of their land. Following their decision to take their grievances to the press, the minister of Karamoja Affairs, Janet Museveni, at first refused to meet the group.
Later on, however, Mrs Museveni, who was conspicuously missing from the Monday meeting called by her husband, invited the group for a separate meeting on June 13. As a result of the Monday meeting, which was attended by all the MPs representing the sub-region, the group has suspended the move to petition Parliament.
The NRM vice chairperson for Karamoja, Janet Okori-Moe, also attended the meeting. Sources told us that the minister of Karamoja Affairs, Mrs Museveni, had excused herself to meet a delegation from Ntungamo district.
During the meeting, we have been told that the two ministers hailing from Karamoja – Simon Lokodo (Ethics) and Peter Lokeris (Mineral Resources) – were in support of the group’s grievances in principle.
Works and Transport minister, Abraham James Byandala, who attended the meeting, was asked to explain why the Moroto-Nakapiripirit-Kapchorwa-Suam road that was mentioned in the 2011/12 budget has not been expedited.
Byandala explained that while it remains a priority, it was observed that the road as it stands does not complete the tarmac link between Karamoja and the rest of the country. He said it would meet that criterion once extended from Moroto through Nakapiripirit to Muyembe (185km). After the minister’s explanation, Museveni pledged that the road would be worked on in the forthcoming financial year.