'Befitting the legislature'

New Vision said Justine Lumumba, parliamentary commissioner, had said the government would have to spend $45,000 to $67,000 on each vehicle because government policy discouraged buying second-hand cars.

The government said it would also pay for drivers and maintenance.

Lumuba said: "We want the vehicles immediately. You have seen permanent secretaries and commissioners, who are below MPs, being driven in Land Cruisers. Ours should be befitting the legislature."

Local newspapers have been inundated with letters and editorials accusing the MPs of greed.

Last week, Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president, made a public plea for restraint in order to lower expectations from the cash-strapped treasury.

Among legislation that had been delayed as a result of the impasse is a vote on the deployment of peacekeepers to Somalia.

Poverty

Uganda is one of the world's poorest nations, ranking 145th on the 2006 UN human development index, out of 177 countries.

It would take the average Ugandan earning $300 a year over 200 years to earn the cash needed to buy one of the more expensive vehicles.

In neighbouring Kenya, MPs regularly vote to give themselves big salary increases and allowances to buy expensive cars, despite criticism from many Kenyans who are trapped in abject poverty.