LA, the Jozi of California

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Having lived in Johannesburg (Jozi as we call it) for many years and now finding myself in Los Angeles (LA), both large cities in their regions, I cannot help but draw parallels between the two.

Both cities have got large black African and foreign national populations. For Jozi, the foreigners come mainy from the rest of Africa through South Africa’s northern border while for LA they come mainly from the South American countries through the US’s southern border. In California, Spanish is the second language to English, being found on major official documentations and signage in leading stores next to English. I’m told chances of getting a job in California are enhanced if one is able to speak both languages the same way it used to be with English and Afrikaans in South Africa.

Next similarity – fear of crime in both cities. I have been advised by a number of people not to venture into LA on my own. The dangers one is warned of in LA are similar to those we used to hear of in Joburg. I have encountered people who live just outside the city and never want to venture into the city just like there are people in Sandton or Midrand that would never wish to step in Jozi. I have been told there are guys in LA that can shoot for no reason and that I could be attacked for being in the wrong place, being in the right place at the wrong time, saying the wrong thing, saying the right thing to the wrong people, being different or even wearing a different colour. This is how Joburg used to be and though some of those things still remain, it has greatly changed. Outside LA, one usually gets the impression that the city is a no-go area and with my Jozi backround, I know very well what this means.

When one visits LA, there is that inner feeling that one may see a film star just like people come to South Africa and ask where Mandela is. The truth of the matter is that LA is so vast, everybody minds their own business and super stars are seen by people who move around their circles. Similarly, people in Jozi hear of Mandela the same way people in LA or London do.

As for infrastructure – roads, highways, shopping malls, shops, suburbs, airports e.t.c, it’s the same in both cities except that they tend to be so big in LA due to its size. Motorists drive on the left in South Africa and on the right in California, something I am with much difficulty getting used to, but the rules are pretty much the same – with one notable distinction, one can turn right at a red traffic light in California (and I guess the rest of US) if it’s safe to do so. Also people respect traffic rules to the dot because traffic fines are given without mercy and are unflatteringly steep.

The other area one would be concerned about in a city is service. When one is being given a service in LA, they are attended to more than they are in Jozi and service is given with more courtesy. One enjoys the service they are given. Public transport is almost equally poor in both cities and is despised as much in LA as it is in Jozi. London is miles ahead of both cities in terms of public transport and the help one would get in moving around the city. If one asks how to get around in Jozi, he will be directed – but in the wrong direction. In LA, the most likely answer will be ‘I dunno’, with a shrug of the shoulders. In both cities, people know very little beyond their areas of operation.

People around LA will advise you to go to places like San Diego, San Francisco and of course Vegas but never LA. Las Vegas….. everybody asks ” you haven’ been to Vegas…? Meeeen…. you gotta go to Vegas!” Indeed I will, and that will be my story for another day.

As somebody who hasn’t watched many movies in my life, I’m struggling to understand the accent of especially African Americans due to the speed of the words. While being dropped at a shopping mall this morning, I was told by the friend who dropped me that the area is called ‘Sanita’. It’s when I looked at the signage later that I realised it is Santa Anita. Right now as I’m writing this story, I’m at Sanita.


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Lessons for Uganda from South Africa’s Defiance Campaign

By Stephen Twinoburyo

The post-1948 period in South Africa saw the African National Congress (ANC) abandoning its traditional reliance on tactics of moderation such as petitions and representations. The 1950 -1952 period in particular saw the reshaping of opposition to apartheid and culminated in the Defiance Campaign, the largest scale non-violent resistance ever seen in South Africa and the first campaign pursued jointly by all racial groups under the leadership of the ANC and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC).


On 6 April 1952 while white South Africans celebrated the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape in 1652, Africans and Indians boycotted the day and instead held rallies in major cities under the theme “A National Day of Pledge and Prayer”.

Sunday 22 June 1952, a “Day of the Volunteers” was held and Volunteers signed the following pledge:

“I, the undersigned, Volunteer of the National Volunteer Corps, do hereby solemnly pledge and bind myself to serve my country and my people in accordance with the directives of the National Volunteer Corps and to participate fully and without reservations to the best of my ability in the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws. I shall obey the orders of my leader under whom I shall be placed and strictly abide by the rules and regulations of the National Volunteer Corps framed from time to time. It shall be my duty to keep myself physically, mentally and morally fit.”

On 26 June 1952, the Defiance Campaign was officially launched where the first group of volunteers, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, defied apartheid laws in Johannesburg and other major city centres. During the campaign more than 8 500 people went to jail for defying apartheid laws and regulations. The resultant repression by the apartheid government only contributed to building momentum for the campaign as more and more resisters joined the struggle. The Campaign generated a mass upsurge for freedom and the ANC’s membership rose by tens of thousands. Nelson Mandela, President of the ANC Youth League, was appointed Volunteer-in-Chief of the Campaign.

SA Defiance Campaign Pic 1

It was during the Campaign that the late Chief Albert Luthuli was deposed from the chieftancy to which he had been elected, for refusing to obey the orders of the regime to dissociate from the ANC. He was elected President-General of the ANC in December 1952 and earned the respect of world opinion for his steadfast resistance to apartheid until his mysterious death in 1967

The Campaign led to the foundation of the Defence and Aid Fund for South Africa by the late Reverend Canon John Collins in London and the American Committee on Africa by the Reverend George Houser in New York, initiating the international solidarity movement with the South African struggle.

The Defiance Campaign and the subsequent bus boycotts and other acts of non-violent resistance in South Africa were an inspiration to the black people in the United States in launching the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

SA Defiance Campaign Pic- Martin Luther

Although the campaign did not immediately overturn apartheid laws, it was successful in making the United Nations recognise that the South African racial policy was an international issue, saw the movement of the ANC from moderation to militancy, demonstrated the potential power of African leadership, organisational skills and discipline, and marked the beginning of non-racial co-operation in the resistance to apartheid. As the apartheid regime cracked down on the Defiance Campaign, its brutal nature became more noticeable to the rest of the world. This Defiance Campaign planted seeds that bore the fruits of freedom in the later years.

A major tactic employed by the resisters was choosing to be imprisoned, rather than paying a fine, after arrests. This allowed demonstrators to burden the government economically, while giving them a theater to voice their opinions on apartheid when they were tried in court.

Seeing what is happening in Uganda, more especially the manner in which the 2016 presidential election was conducted – described by EU and Commonwealth observers as falling below key democratic benchmarks, I think it is high time that Ugandans took a leaf from South Africa’s struggle history and in particular the methods applied to help the country to freedom. During President Obama’s last State of the Union address, he rightly said that America cannot put out all the world’s fires wherever they flare up – and definitely cannot physically uproot every dictator in the world. We should realise that much as America will issue statements expressing “grave concern” at human rights violations, they can only support local people who are advancing freedoms of their nations on their own and America should not be expected to do the job them.

M7 posters burnt

Protesters burning Museveni’s posters in Kampala

After every election, Ugandans will lament, a few will be shot, opposition leaders will be arrested but eventually life will go back to normal with the hope that things will change after 5 years but it’s an illusion that such will ever happen. Instead repression at the hands of Museveni’s government increases. The bottom line is that Ugandans will have to rise up and take the destiny of their country in their own hands.



Much of the information in this article was derived by the author from:

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Posted by on February 20, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Can Uganda’s 2016 Elections Produce a Legitimate Outcome?

By Stephen Twinoburyo

At the time Museveni changed the constitution, he had so much credibility and was highly respected both within and outside the country.

Him and the country had so much to lose and many people (including Mandela) begged him not to change the constitution. After the constitution was amended, I told people that if Museveni was willing to sacrifice all that to meet his personal ends, nothing else was going to convince him to leave presidency. Uganda has never been the same and 20 years on, we are still stuck in the same mired gutter.

We have been going through the motions of elections, often with torture, terror, blood and questionable results, to legitimise his incumbency. Ugandans need to accept that elections under the current leadership will never reflect the will of the people. From where I stand, the 2016 elections and the conduct of the electoral commission, the president, the military heads, the police boss and any NRM zealot that holds any office of some sort, make the 1980 elections look too good.

Besi Arrest

Below is an amazing statement by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission about the main opposition leader. How will such a man act impartially towards the candidate?

Kiggundu on KB

There is a big difference between winning an election and being declared the winner. Sadly in Uganda, the declaration is everything.

From the results already declared, at a polling station in Museveni’s home area, he is reported to have got 760 votes, his main rival, Kiiza Besigye, got 2 votes and all the other candidates got nothing. It’s interesting however to note that the number of votes cast reportedly exceeds the names on the voters, register by 325. Maybe this gives meaning to the joke that always makes rounds after every presidential election that in that area, even cows vote.

Another bizzare thing is that in the Kampala and Wakiso area, where the electoral commission is headquartered, almost all the polling stations opened late and it took more than 8 hours for voting material to get to some polling stations. Is it a coincidence that this densely populated area happens to be the opposition stronghold?

We are of course being asked to respect and accept the result that will finally be announced by the Electoral Commission chair. That’s indeed a big ask considering what’s been happening. Listening to results is one thing. But respecting and accepting them is another. If the 1980 elections could not be accepted, I wonder how much more these should. If I stand out to say I don’t accept and respect the outcome of an electoral process out of the way it has been managed, I’m at liberty to say so.

Elections have become the best gift to have come into the hands of African dictators. They give legitimacy to their repressive and corrupt regimes, and endlessly keep them in power.

If Ugandans rejected the 1980 outcome, they can still reject this one if they believe it does not represent their will. It doesn’t mean they have to go to the bush like Museveni did or act violently but they can still reject an outcome that does not represent them. I am ready to be counted among those who stand and will stand against any unfairness and injustice of the electoral process.

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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


We prefer being in the dam, not the swimming pool

By Stephen Twinoburyo

When a frog lives in a bucket and it’s thrown into a swimming pool, it’s easy to convince it that it’s living the best life ever and should forever be grateful.

If it finds other frogs, it’ll be difficult to convince them that they can actually live better in their natural dam nearby but the proprietor is keeping them in the pool so as to harvest fish in the dam – and show other animals that these frogs are living a superb life.

When by a matter of chance, I started looking at Ugandan stats recently, I was horrified to find that much as we have moved from a bucket to a pool, we are doing badly – even in the region.

The graphs below show the number of people living below $1.25 as well as the poverty gap at $1.25.

Poverty Trend

The trend shows a worsening situation – i.e more people living under $1,25 while the rate of reduction of the poverty gap has almost come to a stop.

It appears as if Ugandans have been lied to in various ways and we’ve swallowed everything that has been thrown at us. For instance, along we’ve been told that Universal Primary Education (UPE) was the creation of NRM. This is however a UN project across many countries and Uganda has not managed its part well. UPE is the second goal of the UN Millennium Development Goals that was aimed at “ensuring that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike would be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Of course this target has been missed. According to the Global Competitiveness Report of 2015-16, out of 140 countries, we are number 88 in the primary education enrolment rate and number 113 in the quality of our primary education.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enrol in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years. Last year it was reported that since 1997, the government had not revised the amount of money it paid to educate a child annually, which stood at 7,560 shillings. A 2012 study found that in primary seven, two out of 10 pupils could not read a primary two-level story. This is compounded by the low salaries paid to teachers.

In 2007, Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce universal secondary education (USE), a very commendable step. At the time, a UN report said Africa had the worst secondary school enrolment rates in the world. Only 34% of secondary school-age children were enrolled in class.

It’s the management of USE that has been our problem.

According to the 2014-15 Global Competitiveness report, our secondary school enrolment rate stood at 27.6% putting us at number 138 out of 144 countries and at number 132 out of 144 in the quality of education.

A year later, the 2015-16 Global Competitiveness report put our secondary school enrolment rate at 26.9%, showing a drop to 138 out of 140 countries (only Mozambique and Chad were worse than us), while the quality of education dropped to 133. Note: Note: only 133 countries were recorded in this section and we were last. On a scale of 1 – 7, with 7 being the best, we scored a 1.

Some of the challenges USE faces are inadequate teaching space and materials, improper teaching infrastructure, a shortage of properly trained or knowledgeable teachers, a poor quality education, low pupil achievement, and inadequate and late disbursement of government funds. Of course there is also corruption and red-tape. As such, standards have fallen. However, it remains an important development if only it can be well managed.

When I was in Uganda recently, I was happy that we no longer in the tiny waters of the bucket and were now in the sparkling blue waters of the pool. Having subsequently looked at the bigger picture, I’m now convinced that the pool is not where we should be.



Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Uganda’s Troubling WEF Stats

By Stephen Twinoburyo

I got up the morning of 22 January 2016 to write about Uganda’s positive development stats because it’s important that we look at the positive strides the country has made over the past years.

I started by looking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) report of 2014-2015. My findings were very depressing. I struggled to find something positive to report about Uganda.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report of 2014/15, Uganda’s GDP per capita grew from approx US $120 in 1990 to $626.03 in 2013. Of course we are glad that there was growth. If, however, we compare with Angola that grew from approx US $2, 200 to $6, 000 during the same period, we then realise that we have a long way to go. In the same period, we have consistently been about $1, 000 below the Sub-Saharan average.

GDP PPP 1990-2013 Trend

The 2015-16 report actually shows the gap widening:

GDP PPP 1990-2014 Trend

Let me look at the key findings of that report where a total of 144 countries were assessed and ranked. Our overall rank was 122/144 but I’ll delve into some individual findings:

  • In public institutions we were ranked at 115 and we are on a declining trend i.e getting worse. Rwanda is number 1 in Africa followed by Botswana and then South Africa.
  • In ethics and corruption, we were ranked at 131. This is course not surprising. I shudder to imagine how the 13 countries behind us are.
  • In wastefulness of government spending we were ranked at 109. This is also another non-surprising finding.
  • In the burden of government regulation, we were ranked at 42
  • Quality of overall infrastructure: we were ranked at 104 and we are hardly growing.
  • Quality of roads: we were ranked at 105 and the rate of growth is very low. The top 5 countries in Africa in descending order are Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda and Morocco.

Roads 1

  • Quality of air transport infrastructure: we were ranked at 124. I was actually surprised that there are 20 countries that we beat.
  • In mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions /100, we are ranked at 134 (I found this surprising because I thought we are way ahead of this). We beat Madagascar, Chad, Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi and Myanmar, in that order. Surprisingly Gabon is number 2 in the world, after Hong Kong SAR. Botswana surprisingly is at number 11.
  • In overall health and primary education, we are at number 122, with health alone at 128 and primary education at 105. In the quality of primary education, we are at number 115 and this is either stable or declining. And here I thought UPE was a saviour.


Nyakika Primary School



The block that contains the office at Mukokye primary school Ndorwa East Kabale Distrit (Source: Redpepper Uganda)


  • In quantity of enrollment for higher education and training, we are at number 132, and the quality of maths and science education at number 117. However, in the quality of the education system (secondary & university), we come at an impressive number 78 behind Kenya, Zambia, Gambia, Lesotho, Rwanda, Cape Verde, Ghana, Cameroon, Swaziland, Senegal, Tunisia and Ethiopia in descending order in Africa.
  • In the number of procedures needed to start a business, we rank number 141 out of 144. No wonder many Ugandans resort to informal businesses or simply ‘kuba njawulo’. In buyer sophistication, we are number 136 out 144. In short, apart from bargaining and pretending to drive off when we actually want that item badly, we are unsophisticated buyers, period!
  • In technological readiness, we are at number 119, in ICT use at 130 (Prof Barya please help) but in technological adaption, we are at 88.
  • In employee productivity, we are at number 126 (that says a lot about how productive we are at work) and in our willingness to delegate authority, we are at 124. I wonder if this has a relationship to reluctance to hand over leadership within political parties.

We do fairly well in the macroeconomic environment. In the government budget balance as a percentage of GDP we are at number 87 (here I need economists to help explain to me because we are ahead of S Africa at 97 and US at 130). In inflation annual percentage change we are at number 97 and in government debt as a percentage of GDP, we are at an impressive number 49. We are at number 131 for exports as a percentage of GDP and one will naturally expect countries whose GDP relies a lot on exports, like some Arab countries with oil, to appear in the upper segment.

In labour market efficiency, we are at number 27 and at number 2 for flexibility of wage determination (i.e ease of employers to determine wage – probably an indication of no wage guidelines).

I had an utterly disappointing start to my day due to my choice of reference – WEF reports. I will nevertheless continue searching for positive stats and I hold hope that there must be some out there.


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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Vital Stats of Uganda’s Health Sector

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Recently the state of Uganda’s hospitals and health sector in general has become a hot topic of discussion and more especially after opposition leader, Dr Kiiza Besigye, visited Abim hospital in Teso.

Abim 1

There’s an argument, which I even heard Pres Museveni himself putting forward, that Besigye chose to visit Abim Hospital instead of ‘good’ health centres in the area. The fact however remains that Abim hospital exists, it has got patients and is under the condition we saw on TV.


I passed by Kiboga Hospital last month and it didn’t give a good sight. It doesn’t matter if there was a good health centre somewhere else in the region.

But let me look at Uganda’s health stats in perspective.

Infant mortality rate is 59.21 deaths/1,000 putting us at number 21 in the world, just behind Burundi (OMG!). This means that we are among the top 21 countries in the world where a child is likely to die before the age of 1. Our neighbours Kenya, Tanzania and even Sudan are far ahead of us.

The Maternal mortality rate is 343 deaths/100,000 putting us at number 37 in the world. This means that we are among the top 37 countries in the world where a woman is likely to die during pregnancy, at childbirth or immediately after childbirth. This rate is way above the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of 131 for 2015.

Life expectancy at birth is 54.93 years putting us at number 211 in the world. Only 13 countries are below us, the only non-African one being Afghanistan. Even the people of DRC live longer than us. According to World bank danta, we are below both the Sub-Saharan average and the low income countries’ trend.

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines a health system as “as comprising all the organizations, institutions and resources that are devoted to producing health actions. A health action is defined as any effort, whether in personal health care, public health services or through intersectoral initiatives, whose primary purpose is to improve health” and goes on further to describe health systems as having six building blocks: service delivery; health workforce; information; medical products, vaccines and technologies; financing; and leadership and governance (stewardship). The analytical summary of WHO states that “The overall health status of Ugandans remains poor, with a low level of life expectancy and a high level of mortality.”

The MDG Report for Uganda 2010 coming at a time of assessment of strides towards the Millennium Declaration in the last five years leading to the 2015 deadline acknowledged the achievements of the Ugandan government in the health sector. It however also noted that “for several MDGs, the progress has been too slow to meet the national and international targets—and, for some, there has been outright reversal. In some cases, improvements in national averages mask inequalities in progress, e.g., among the various regions of the country.”

The 2015/16 budget allocation to health (Sh. 1.27 trillion) is just over 5% way below the 15% agreed to at the Abuja Declaration 15 years earlier – and this share seems to have been continually dropping over the years.

We are lagging behind in the region and it’s important that we stop priding ourselves in mediocrity or comparing ourselves with low achievers. We should instead acknowledge that we have underachieved and aim higher. We are currently at a very low level social-economically, even in the region where we live except war ravaged South Sudan and eastern DRC.

The country’s 9.8% of GDP expenditure on health as of 2013 (including private health care) putting the country at number 53 in the world is very commendable – never mind that our annual GDP growth rate, even in 2017, is forecast by the World Bank to be lower than the Sub-Saharan average.


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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


NRM Should Bear the Parliamentary Loss of Expelling Its MPs

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Earlier today, I had an intensive debate with Mr Rugaba Hussein Kashillingi regarding the position of the four ruling party Members of Parliament, Mr Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga county MP), Mr Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala central MP), Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga), that were expelled from the party for expressing independent opinions in a party where this is anathema.

I have been wondering if the NRM for some reason took a leaf from South Africa’s African National Congress that expelled its Youth League members last year. The circumstances though are completely different and few people in Uganda would regard these MPs as indisciplined while in South Africa, there was near unanimity on the indiscipline levels of the expelled members.

Rugaba Hussein Kashilligi’s argument is that these people should now vacate their seats since they no longer represent the NRM, and that’s where we disagree.

These MPs were not appointed to parliament by the NRM but rather elected by the people in their constituencies. In my opinion, the only thing that the NRM can do now is to count their losses in parliament and wait for the next elections. The other option is for the people that elected them to recall them – not the party.

 Image Two of the expelled MPs.

I took a look at Chapter 6 of the Uganda constitution which deals with the establishment, composition and functions of Parliament.

As for the composition, I only concern myself here with the election of members, as the other parts are not relevant to the matter at hand and this is what it says:

78. Composition of Parliament.
(1) Parliament shall consist of—
(a) members directly elected to represent constituencies;

In short, it’s the people’s power:

However, the most important part pertinent to this matter is the section below that explains the circumstances under which a member of parliament may lose his/her seat:

83. Tenure of office of members of Parliament.

(1) A member of Parliament shall vacate his or her seat in

(a) if he or she resigns his or her office in writing signed by him or
her and addressed to the Speaker;
(b) if such circumstances arise that if that person were not a member
of Parliament would cause that person to be disqualified for
election as a member of Parliament under article 80 of this
(c) subject to the provisions of this Constitution, upon dissolution of
(d) if that person is absent from fifteen sittings of Parliament without
permission in writing of the Speaker during any period when
Parliament is continuously meeting and is unable to offer
satisfactory explanation to the relevant parliamentary committee
for his or her absence;
(e) if that person is found guilty by the appropriate tribunal of
violation of the Leadership Code of Conduct and the punishment
imposed is or includes the vacation of the office of a member of
(f) if recalled by the electorate in his or her constituency in
accordance with this Constitution;
(g) if that person leaves the political party for which he or she stood
as a candidate for election to Parliament to join another party or
to remain in Parliament as an independent member;
(h) if, having been elected to Parliament as an independent candidate,
that person joins a political party;
(i) if that person is appointed a public officer.

(2) Notwithstanding clause (1)(g) and (h) of this article, membership
of a coalition government of which his or her original political party forms
part shall not affect the status of any member of Parliament.

(3) The provisions of clauses (1)(g) and (h) and (2) of this article shall
only apply during any period when the multiparty system of government is
in operation.

From the above, it appears to me that a Member of Parliament may only lose a seat out of reasons due to his/her making, like incompetence or criminal activity, or as a result of the electorate recalling him/her.

The only part that would have affected the expelled MPs is 1(g) above. However, these MPs have not left the NRM to join another party or become Independents. The NRM has decided to expel them from the party and they the NRM should bear the parliamentary loss and cannot make a choice for the people that elected them. If they had left the party out of their own volition, then that would be another case. The other alternative the NRM has is to go to those MPs constituencies and ask the people that sent them to parliament to recall them.

Some people have argued that we should look at what the NRM constitution says. Firstly, the NRM constitution is subordinate to the Uganda Constitution. Secondly, the role of the NRM constitution stopped at the expulsion of these members (not MPs) from the party. As far as parliamentary matters go, it’s that Uganda Constitution that applies.

Summarily put, the Uganda Constitution does not provide for a party removing a member from parliament. I guess the people that drafted it didn’t see this. The NRM too at that time must have been more interested in putting as many members into parliament as possible and did not foresee that a time will come when some of their own will turn against them as they slide further away from the people.

From my assessment therefore, the NRM members in Parliament are four MPs less.

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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs