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Gov’t Considers Suspending International Organization Subscriptions Due To Growing Debt Burden

The government is considering the suspension of its subscription to some international organizations due to a growing debt burden, which has reached 49 Billion Shillings. Vincent Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that Uganda has defaulted on several financial obligations to international organizations, negatively impacting the country’s reputation.

During a plenary sitting on July 11, John Mulimba, the State Minister for Regional Cooperation, presented a list of 243 international conventions, treaties, and protocols that Uganda had entered into, though lacking in specific details. A breakdown of the outstanding debts shows that the government owes 14.7 billion Shillings to the World Food Programme (WFP), 10 billion to the African Union (AU), and 7.4 billion to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Additionally, Uganda owes 1.6 billion Shillings to the International Conference on the Great Lakes, 1 billion to the United Nations (UN) Secretariat, 1 billion to the Organization of Islamic Countries, and 109 million Shillings to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Bagiire informed the Public Accounts Committee – Central Government (PAC-Central), chaired by Medard Ssegona Lubega, that the Ministry of Finance only allocates six billion Shillings annually for subscription to global groups, but this amount is primarily consumed in paying arrears.

Eddie Kwizera, a member of parliament from Bukimbiri County, expressed concerns about Uganda’s failure to remit its subscriptions, which could lead to embarrassment for the President and diplomats at international events. He called on the Secretary to the Treasury to assume responsibility and address the situation.

In the Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year 2022/2023, John Muwanga raised a red flag about the growing cumulative arrears owed to international bodies. At the time of the audit, the outstanding arrears amounted to 37 billion shillings owed to various global organizations.

Furthermore, activists have raised concerns about numerous bilateral investment treaties that remain undisclosed, yet they have binding implications for Ugandans. Jane Nalunga, CEO of the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda, led a group of activists in petitioning the office of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament to urge the government to disclose all bilateral investment treaties it has engaged in.

Nalunga highlighted economic partnership agreements under the East African Community Treaty, the European Union (EU), and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as examples of treaties with contentious clauses related to tariffs and food security. The activists called for transparency and scrutiny of these agreements.

In response, Matias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition, stated that he would request the government to explain its motivations for entering into various international protocols and treaties without fully complying with the provisions of the Ratification of Treaties Act of 1998. The act requires the Executive to present all ratified treaties to Parliament, with some treaties requiring parliamentary resolution for ratification.

-URN

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