Government will ignore parliament's resolutions halting the distribution of relief food in Kampala and Wakiso starting this Saturday.
On Thursday, in a heated plenary, speaker of Rebecca Kadaga halted the food distribution in Kampala and Wakiso until a comprehensive programme for countrywide beneficiaries is formalized. The MPs questioned the methodology of distribution starting with Kampala and Wakiso districts yet the entire country is under lockdown.
However, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda says parliament's directives are only advisory and government will go ahead with its distribution come Saturday. Rugunda said much as the entire country is under lockdown, Kampala and Wakiso have the highest concentration of vulnerable people in need of relief food. Ruganda said the food distribution is a countrywide programme but they decided to start small in Kampala and Wakiso.
Government intends to distribute food items of 3 kilograms of beans, six kilograms of maize flour and salt to each of the 1.5 million Ugandans in Kampala and Wakiso. Lactating mothers and the sick will be given an extra 2 kilograms of powdered milk and 2 kilograms of sugar. The government says the relief will be distributed through the local council system and will base on data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS)
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said that government doesn't agree with the advice of parliament to stop the distribution in Wakiso and Kampala.
Julius Mucunguzi, the head communications and the Office of the Prime Minister said government is currently discussing the modalities of distributing the food. Asked if the food will be distributed countrywide, Mucunguzi government had already communicated its position through the prime minister.
Hillary Onek, the minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees says that the relief is for vulnerable people who are in Kampala and Wakiso but are from different parts of the country and have a daily income which has been interrupted but also do not have a fallback position like a garden or source of income to rely on.
He says that the government’s focus is Kampala and Wakiso is because most of the people in the other parts of the country can easily walk back to their homes and they are not stranded as people in Kampala and Wakiso.
"The youth who live in Kampala doing petty work; when they miss one day, it means to sleep hungry. When they work they earn about Shs 5,000. From that Shs 5000, they use Shs 3000 for eating and the following day they go through the same routine." he said.
He says people have come from every part of the country to do petty jobs in Kampala such as riding boda bodas and taxis, market vending, car washing in Kampala and Wakiso. He says compared to people in Kampala who totally don’t have a fallback, upcountry people have a fallback position.
Onek says for people upcountry, they should be given seeds to plant through the Operation Wealth Creation, and the National Agricultural advisory services (NAADS).
"Where do they come from? Their homes are just the next door? Gulu, Hoima, I don’t know where their homes are just nearby…They ride the boda boda to ride around and earn some extra money. In actual sense they just walk home," said Onek about other vulnerable youth upcountry.
Onek said if there are cases of boda boda riders, taxi drivers and any other workers who get daily income stuck upcountry, the government will also look into this and support them, but not the natives who live there.
Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP says that unfortunately, parliament's role is mostly advisory. He says that MPs raised issues, and wanted to know if government was going to ensure equity and equality while distributing food. He says although parliament halted the distribution of food, all parliament can do is cautioning Government.
“Parliament resolutions are advisory, government can take them on or reject them. But if the government ignores recommendations from parliament, it can be called to order. What MPs wanted was not to stop the program but to ensure that it is rolled out across the country urban towns of Jinja, Mbale among others and these are not agricultural towns and they have been equally affected as the people in Kampala," he said.
The draft budget for the purchase of the relief being discussed by the committee on budget is Shs 54 billion shillings for the 30 days.