Members of the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) have linked the endemic nodding disease that continues to desolate Acholi sub-region to the suspected usage of chemical weapons by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) during the two decades brutal war between the government of President Yoweri Museveni and the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony.
Addressing journalists at parliament last week, Olanya who was flanked by Kitgum Woman Member of Parliament Hon Beatrice Anywar said that investigations into the matter were completed two years ago but the government has failed to release the report because it contains implications.
He said that the same agency carried out similar investigations in South Sudan, a region that was also embroiled in conflict for over 20 years and was devastated by the nodding epidemic; and it concluded that there was a linked to chemical weapons used during the war to the disease.
Olanya said that APG is wondering why government is shelving this report which should have been made public; if it is not trying to hide something.
Anywar called on President Museveni to desist from calling for war with Sudan and said that in the event that Uganda goes ahead to assist South Sudan in the fight against Sudan (North), it must find another place to platform its war and not northern Uganda because the people there now want peace.
Anywar called on Parliament to declare the region a disaster zone, because the response that would normally be marshalled by such an outbreak is completely lacking and that victims are not only dying but suffering due to lack of treatment, food, and basic information, adding further that while the Ministry of Health puts the number of the victims at 3500, WHO has elevated it to 5000 and that the Village Health Teams say the number so far affected by the disease is over 8000 with the number of deaths estimated at nearly 600.
Meanwhile, Parliament has for a second time last week deferred voting on the motion to declare Acholi sub-region a humanitarian emergency, after government interjected that it would immediately engage in dialogue with the affected stakeholders.
The same motion was two weeks ago deferred when Parliament failed to realise quorum after scores of NRM MPs walked out of Parliament before voting.
Having debated for about two hours and failing to reach a compromise on the matter, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi moved that an impromptu meeting be called between the movers of the motion and him to come to a consensus, a position Parliament adopted immediately.
It was therefore resolved that legislators Alice Alaso, (Serere Woman), Chris Baryomunsi, (Kinkizi East), Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Woman) and Gerald Karuhanga (Youth, Western) will meet with the prime minister to map out a way forward, after which a final position would be communicated to the House.
Mr Mbabazi resisted calls by some opposition MPs wanted Parliament to vote on the matter by show of hands. The Prime Minister reasoned that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass a motion that had financial implications without the Executive’s input.
The MP for Bugweri County Hon Abdu Katuntu in disagreeing with Mbabazi said that the matter did not have any financial implications but only required government to look for more money other than the Shs15 billion it says is already earmarked to combat the disease.
On realising that government might lose to the opposition, the Prime Minister called for dialogue: “I suggest that we stand over the matter and get together with the movers of the motion, discuss it and agree on a final position to be communicated to you.”
The motion to declare the affected region a disaster area was moved by Hon Alice Alaso and at least 125 MPs are needed to realise a quorum in Parliament.
The aim of the motion is that government declares the area a disaster zone so that support is drawn from international humanitarian agencies. It also aims to make public the report published by the Centres for Disease Control on the epidemic, and that the Social Services Committee of Parliament takes charge and makes quarterly reports to the House.
The NRM MPs who were in favour of the motion, following an earlier NRM caucus meeting, switched positions and started demanding to understand the implications of declaring the region a humanitarian emergency area.
Similarly, in March 2004; inspite of a resolution from Parliament and appeals from the donor community to do so; the government vehemently refused to declare north and north eastern Uganda disaster areas. It followed intensity of attacks on civilians, and the increase in deaths resulting from government imposed conditions in the concentration camps, which stood at 1500 per week.
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President Museveni instead attacked donors and opposition MPs who had moved the motion in parliament saying that they were interfering with the budgeting process and were the people responsible for the mess in the north because they were allies of Sudan whom he said were supporting the LRA.
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