Legislative promotion of socioeconomic human rights in Uganda through the budget process
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Uganda underwent the democratization process in the 1980s with the leadership promising to provide a ‘fundamental change’ and introducing reforms in the political, economic and social arena. Despite these reforms, social inequality, symptomizing unfulfilled socioeconomic human rights, persisted. This study was to evaluate the role that the Uganda Parliament played in promoting socio-economic human rights through the budget process. Relying on the theoretical paradigm of critical historical and dialectical materialism and the human rights-based approaches to development as the analytical framework, this study through qualitative analysis examined the role and influence of Parliament in the budget process. This study’s major findings were that despite an elaborate institutional arrangement and seemingly favourable legal regime to facilitate the legislature’s scrutiny and shaping of the budget proposals in favour of the poor, the primary beneficiaries of the budgetary resources remained western capitalism and the local ruling elites. Through executive pressure and influence, legislative power over the budget was emasculated, and disabled to champion the socio-economic rights of the underprivileged. The prevalent political culture that favoured a Ugandan legislator as a delegate and conduit for accessing patronage from the centre to the local constituent also undermined Parliament’s capacity to negotiate for the rights of the marginalized people. The legislative public expenditure oversight architecture was informed by an audit framework that was found to be tragically inappropriate as it was ahistorical and apolitical and as a result, might have fuelled, instead of reduced, grand corruption. The implication of the study is that optimism associated with neoliberal legislatures as promoters of human rights through the budget process is illusory. Until the disempowering neoliberal policies and strategies are challenged, local politics democratized, and the parliamentary work underpinned with human rights principles, the prospects of deconstructing the current fiscally entrenched tyranny in Uganda will remain a fantasy.