Uganda: Last week, two ministers almost punched each other before Members of Parliament and technical staff at Hotel Africana and turned a meeting organised by the Lands ministry to plan how to stop the serious matter of land evictions into entertainment.
Saturday Monitor reported that the meeting turned rowdy when the ministers began calling each other names, shockingly attracting wild cheers from legislators and technocrats who seemed to enjoy the unfolding comedy.
We find this conduct horrendous and unacceptable.
We are appalled that people holding ministerial positions would find no shame in brawling at a public event convened to find solutions to an issue as critical as land evictions.
We are equally dismayed by the behaviour of the legislators and technocrats who cheered such dishonourable behaviour!
The ugly exchange started when State Minister for Lands, Ms Persis Namuganza, who was the chairperson of the meeting, told the State minister for ICT and Communication, Ms Aidah Nantaba (she previously held Ms Namuganza’s docket) to be brief because they agreed to have a half day meeting. This guidance, however, infuriated the ICT State minister who accused her colleague of disrespect.
As Ms Nantaba continued with her submission, the chairperson, Ms Namuganza, reminded her to wind up but Ms Nantaba ignored her, prompting the junior Lands minister to start shouting at her ICT colleague. The Lands minister, Ms Betty Amongi, looked on in disbelief as Ms Nantaba told her: “Next time you invite me for such meetings, ensure you get a better chairperson.” This enraged minister Namuganza who stood up, yelled at Nantaba as the exchange degenerated further. Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze faulted Ms Namuganza for embarrassing a fellow minister before storming out of the meeting in protest. It took the intervention of the ministers’ bodyguards to calm tempers.
It is unfortunate that the two ministers, by failing to exercise maturity and restraint, derailed the otherwise well-intentioned meeting and diverted attention from a core national issue – land evictions – to an unnecessary fight. What transpired at Hotel Africana between ministers Nantaba and Namuganza was embarrassing, uncalled for, and unacceptable! It is unbecoming for public officials who are expected to lead by example to disgrace the offices they hold with such petty brawls. They must be called to order.