Un­ful­filled Pres­i­den­tial Pledges – Who Keeps the Pres­i­dent Ac­count­able?

By: Jacky Kemigisa

In 2015, dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial race, Can­di­date Mu­sev­eni while cam­paign­ing in the Lango sub-re­gion pledged that his gov­ern­ment (if re-elected) would pro­vide girls in pri­mary school with san­i­tary pads.  The gov­ern­ment is yet to de­liver on this promise – like many other promises made on the cam­paign trail.

While ap­pear­ing be­fore the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee in Par­lia­ment, the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Janet Mu­sev­eni, who is also the First Lady, re­vealed that it was not pos­si­ble for the min­istry to pro­vide san­i­tary pads for girls in school. The min­istry did not have the money to cater for the pledge, she said.

There is an en­tire his­tory of pres­i­den­tial pledges un­der the Mu­sev­eni ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Gov­ern­ment As­sur­ances pro­duced a re­port in 2013 on pres­i­den­tial pledges. This com­mit­tee was set up to scru­ti­nise the as­sur­ances, promises and un­der­tak­ings given by min­is­ters and other agents of gov­ern­ment in Par­lia­ment. The Com­mit­tee re­ceived lists of un­ful­filled promises from dif­fer­ent con­stituents and was to re­port on the ex­tent to which those as­sur­ances, promises and un­der­tak­ings have been im­ple­mented. At the time of writ­ing this re­port, the com­mit­tee was then chaired by MP Odongo Otto. This re­port has never been dis­cussed in the Au­gust House. The re­port was dis­missed dur­ing a ple­nary ses­sion in Oc­to­ber 2016 in a rul­ing made by deputy speaker Ja­cob Oulanyah. The Deputy Speaker ruled that pres­i­den­tial pledges could only be ver­i­fies if and when the Prime Min­is­ter – who dou­bles as Leader of Gov­ern­ment Busi­ness – sec­onds and speaks to the pledge.

This con­ver­sa­tion was a mat­ter of na­tional im­por­tance and was raised be­cause the na­tion should know when the pres­i­dent in­tends to ful­fill his promises. And, can Par­lia­ment hold the of­fice of the pres­i­dent ac­count­able for the pledges he makes? If Par­lia­ment can­not, or does not, who can and will?

Ruhakana Ru­gunda, the prime min­is­ter, in­formed the House that there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween a po­lit­i­cal state­ment and a pres­i­den­tial pledge.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2013 re­port from the Com­mit­tee on Gov­ern­ment As­sur­ances, the Pres­i­dent has not de­liv­ered on 817 pledges. There is lit­tle space for us to get into the dif­fer­ent pledges so I will just try to high­light some of the out­stand­ing is­sues from the re­port.

Pledges have in­creased with time, but some are al­most as old as this gov­ern­ment. There is a UGX250 mil­lion pledge made in 1990, to 93 Mashonga-Kya­muhunga tea plot own­ers. It re­mains un­ful­filled, more than two decades later.

When un­ful­filled pledges and gov­ern­ment as­sur­ances are ranked per dis­trict, Ka­muli dis­trict has the high­est num­ber of un­kept promises – at 69. Kaba­role fol­lows with 52, Jinja 48, Naka­songola 45, Kas­ese 26, Bu­giri 25, Bu­sia 24 and Buyende 22.

As per the re­port, Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni has de­faulted more on the promise of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the dif­fer­ent so­cial ser­vice in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing di­lap­i­dated hos­pi­tals and agri­cul­tural schemes the list con­tin­ues.

In that cat­e­gory, there are 156 promises that are yet to be de­liv­ered upon. Six­teen were made to Jinja; nine to Kas­ese, eight to Ka­muli and Luuka each while six promises were each made to Sironko, Ibanda and Bukwo.

One of the most mem­o­rable lines to come out of the last pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns was “Let them touch these elec­tric­ity wires.” Can­di­date Mu­sev­eni said this in Bu­sia when he was chal­leng­ing rhetoric from the op­po­si­tion re­gard­ing sup­ply of elec­tric­ity. The re­port shows that he has made 123 un­ful­filled promises of elec­tric­ity, with the most to Ka­muli at 18 and 10 to Lwengo dis­trict.

There is more to this re­port, but it is cur­rently col­lect­ing some dust even as we now en­gage in an­other de­bate on the pledge to pro­vide san­i­tary pads to girls. The main is­sue, from all this, how­ever, is the ques­tion: does a pres­i­den­tial pledge amount to pol­icy?

When do we hold the pres­i­dent ac­count­able for his pledges? And if the Prime Min­is­ter in­sists that a pledge is not a po­lit­i­cal state­ment then when does the pres­i­dent make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment and when does he make a pledge?