As former Speaker ponders next move amid backlash from NRM
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Aggrey Awori, former presidential candidate and former minister in President Yoweri Museveni’s government has some advice for ex Speaker Rebecca Kadaga; “remain steadfast in National Resistance Movement (NRM) and help inexperienced legislators on parliamentary affairs.”
Awori says Kadaga may have defied NRM’s principal organ; Central Executive Committee (CEC) but he says she does not deserve “sanctions”. Awori, an ex- Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) stalwart who crossed to NRM in 2007 before joining cabinet says “What she did was not unprecedented. We have had people differing with the choice of candidates during primaries but remained NRM friendly.”
The former MP for Samia Bugwe North in Busia district talked about sanctions after NRM Secretary General Justin Kasule Lumumba addressed a press conference days after the divisive election for Speaker of Parliament and stopped short of saying Kadaga could appear before the party disciplinary committee for her conduct and defying the party to run as an Independent candidate.
She was in the company of NRM top officials like the party director of communications Emmanuel Dombo. Some like former Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa are pushing hard for the party to summon Kadaga to appear before the disciplinary committee.
“She is not in the same category as NRM rebel MPs. I recommend she remains NRM in and find a way of reconciling with the chairman of the party,” Awori told The Independent.
President Museveni speaking after the election of the Speaker at Kololo Independence Grounds on May 24 was gracious to Kadaga. As chairman of the NRM where Kadaga is number three in pecking order; second national vice chairperson, Museveni instead said the Speakership race had divided the party and sought to play the role of arbiter.
‘Remain a backbencher’
“My advice is she should remain a backbencher and help the opposition, NRM and independent MPs in parliament. This eleventh parliament is substantially inexperienced in parliamentary matters. She should guide them on how to play a primary role,” Awori, a former Ambassador and veteran politician aged 82 says. He argues that Kadaga can give tips to legislators on how to caution the government when it goes astray.
“A retired Speaker who has served for twenty years also as Deputy, she can guide the state,” he says and adds, “She can guide the opposition on how to look rebellious within certain limits without embarrassing the Head of State.”
Awori says the current multiparty dispensation is something new MPs have a lot to learn about. “Our system is presidential and West Minister (parliamentary democracy) in that the chairman of the party does not sit in parliament.
During his time as an outspoken MP (2001-2006) while still in UPC, Awori said he would tell the President on how to advise his responsible minister on a given contentious issue.
He also advises Kadaga’s successor Jacob Oulanyah to succeed her at an international level owing to the profile Kadaga built while dealing with other international parliamentary bodies.
Kadaga looked lost and forlorn as it dawned on her that she would be no longer occupy the Sixth floor of Parliament as Speaker with a huge support staff where she held court like a queen. Sitting on the front row at Kololo Independence Grounds as the returning officers of the day counted ballot after ballot with Oulanyah building an unassailable lead, the outgoing Speaker would occasionally turn to look at her side as the trappings of power vanished by the moment.
In the end, Kadaga could not even give a concession speech at Kololo during the first sitting of the eleventh parliament where the Chief Justice and the President were in attendance and a nation glued to television screens followed the proceedings. It was only a mumbled congratulatory message to her successor and former deputy Oulanyah that Kadaga could muster.
To some, it was the expected outcome after a rancorous bid for a third term as Speaker where she had a bitter fallout with the NRM; most of whose members say she was being ungrateful for what it did for her in the past. The reality is that by the time MPs gathered for the voting at Kololo, the die had already been cast on her position.