KAMPALA: The Ugandan taxpayer may soon be relieved when a hefty Shs1.7billion is credited to the consolidated fund account. This will be courtesy of Acholi MPs who are seriously considering to produce the amount as a refund of what was used to charter a place to fly Speaker Jacb Oulanya to Seattle on the West Coast of the United States last week.
The legislators hailing from Acholi sub-region have threatened to refund the half a milllion dollars (Shs1.7 billion) which Parliament spent to fly Speaker Jacob Oulanyah for treatment abroad.
The lawmakers under their umbrella body, the Acholi Parliament Group – APG were on Thursday made the offer while responding against protests by Ugandans in the Diaspora objecting to the admission of Oulanyah in Seattle, USA for treatment.
The protestors who are allegedly allied to the opposition National Unity Platform – NUP party, took the streets of Seattle with placards written on “Officials from Museveni government are not welcome in Seattle.”
“Join our colleagues in Seattle in a peaceful protest against the Uganda dictatorship flying one of their corrupt and brutal officials for medical treatment in the US, while the regime has rundown hospitals in Uganda,” a post on UK Official People Power – NUP Facebook page read.
The protesters congregated at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for the demonstration that started on 7 February 2022 while chanting, “Jacob Oulanyah, not in Seattle’s backyard,” ridiculing the Government for spending Shs1.7 billion tax payers’ money.
It is against this background that Anthony Akol questioned the motive of the demonstration yet several Ugandan dignitaries have been in the past flown abroad and many still continue to be referred overseas for treatment by the Uganda Medical Board.
Akol accused the NUP leadership for fueling the protests because they have not officially denounced the unpatriotic deeds of their diaspora supporters.
Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi MP in Gulu City described the protest as a barbaric attack on the health and life of the right thinking Ugandans rather than an attack on individual citizens.
But there is some agreement among the Acholi MPs as not all are for an immediate refund. Lucy Akello, the Amuru District Woman Representative asserts that they will only refund the money only if other previous government dignitaries who were flown abroad to seek specialized treatment are also compelled to refund.
And David Lagen, the Agago County Legislator expressed surprise that fellow Ugandans who have sought refuge overseas can have the audacity to block their compatriots from seeking treatment given the ailing health facilities back home.
Oulanyah was airlifted in the wee hours of Thursday 3 February 2022 aboard a chartered Uganda Airlines’ Airbus A330-800 neo that cost Parliament 500,000 USD for one-way trip. He was first admitted at Mulago National Referral Hospital before being discharged and flown.
The airbus registration code 5X-NIL reportedly flew from Entebbe to Keflavik, Iceland in a flight time of 10 hours 42 minutes before starting its second leg from Keflavik to Seattle which lasted 7 hours and 28 minutes.
Several Ugandans in the past who sought medical treatment overseas include President Museveni’s eldest daughter Natasha Kainembabazi. She was flown to Germany in September 2003 to give birth to her second born at an estimated cost of GBP 26,000, approximately Shs126 million shillings.
In August 2021, Government flew 82-year-old First Deputy Prime Minister, Moses Ali, the Adjumani West Constituency MP to Ankara in Turkey to seek better medical treatment.
In March 2019, Rebecca Kadaga Alitwala, the Speaker of Parliament and now First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Community Affairs was flown out of the country to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for specialized treatment. She returned to mock some unnamed people whom she said had been expecting her to die outside under treatment.
In August 2018, Francis Zaake, the Mityana Municipality legislator was also flown to India for specialized treatment of deep wounds he sustained following his torture by Special Forces Command (SFC), an elite unit of UPDF which protects the President.
In 2014, the government spent Shs270 billion on treatment Shs418 billion on travel and upkeep for its patients abroad. In 2016, the government sent 5,000 people for treatment in India in 2016 spending Shs455 billion on the treatment of its officials on the recommendation of the Medical Board under the Ministry of Health.