By Joseph Burite
Uganda, long a footnote of one-party dominance in legislative agenda is witnessing what will probably go down as the golden age of bi-partisanship, thanks to the firebrand anti-homosexuality bill of 2023 that was moved by Asuman Basalirwa, a lawmaker from a party with just one member in the house.
Since its passing last month, President Yoweri Museveni has proactively sought to enhance consensus around the piece of legislation that has Western capitals from Washington to Brussels waxing lyrical about human and minority rights. First, he requested an opinion from his attorney general and in a meeting with the ruling NRM parliamentary caucus last week, it was agreed the bill be sent back for reconciliation of certain clauses before presidential assent can be done.
To this end, another meeting of the legal and parliamentary affairs committee as well as the mover of the bill and the attorney general was held on Tuesday to further discuss elements of contention. Clearly, the president is working overtime on this and by all signals, we are taking the fight to the globalist liberal elite that preaches unanimity of values. Framed as an act in defence of the procreation of the human race and moral values of Africa’s largely conservative society, the importance at least in parliament’s view, cannot be overstated.
So it’s great to see opposition stalwarts like Asuman Basalirwa and Abdu Katuntu on the lawns of statehouse engaging the president on the same – a rare moment of bipartisanship and deliberate consultation manifesting at the highest levels of government in Uganda.
But there was once a bill as important; it deserved the same or even better treatment.
Remember workers MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara’s Minimum Wage Bill of 2015, which lingered through parliament until it was passed four years later in 2019? Do you recall it proposed a minimum wage UGX130, 000, still a shameful upgrade from the UGX 6, 000 set in 1984 before Milton Obote’s fall? Do you recall it also proposed regular reviews and resets of the amount by a more effective Minimum Wages Board?
Well, you must also recall that President Yoweri Museveni, Sabalwanyi (father of fighters), defender of the poor and champion of prosperity declined assent to the bill, reasoning that it introduces nothing new to the current law while also expressing concerns that setting a minimum wage, even as meagre as that offered by the bill was, could scare away his cherished investors. You know them – the hardworking Indians that are unlike the lazy Ugandans, as the president likes to parrot even before foreign delegates at major national events.
Anyway, granted there might be issues with the minimum wage bill of 2015 but why didn’t it receive the same presidential and parliamentary exercise of refinement as the anti-homosexuality bill of 2023 is majestically receiving?
Because I hazard a guess, as only a lazy Ugandan worker could, that for millions of labourers in this country, what’s good for the anti-homosexuality bill of 2023 is certainly good for the minimum wage bill of 2015.
The writer is an analyst and seasoned business Journalist.