Museveni, CEC, ethnicity feature in second face off
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The second battle for the Speakership of Parliament between Rebecca Kadaga and Jacob Oulanyah threatens to be more bruising than the first in 2016.
Speaker Kadaga and her deputy Oulanyah are wooing a House that has 527 Members of Parliament (MPs) of the 11th parliament that is to be inaugurated in May. That is roughly 100 more MPs from the last round in 2016.
The two leaders also have different members of cabinet in their respective corners and since they are both members of the ruling party; National Resistance Movement (NRM), they may have to do more canvassing among the Central Executive Committee (CEC); the party’s highest decision making organ, if the race comes down to the decision of CEC.
According to a source close to Oulanyah, ministers; Ephraim Kamuntu, Kahinda Otafiire, Betty Amongi, Peter Ogwang, Betty Namuganza are rooting for the Deputy Speaker. Oulanyah has in the last few weeks been travelling across the country to meet MPs from the sub regions of Karamoja, Lango, Acholi and West Nile.
Oulanyah’s most recent campaign event was held on March 13 in Lyantonde district. It was also a thanksgiving ceremony for Enos Asiimwe, Kabula county MP-elect. The event was attended by Lyantonde Woman MP Pauline Kemirembe, Kiruhura Woman MP, the Bukoto West MP, and a host of new MPs from Kasambya, Kazo, Rakai and elsewhere.
However just two days later, a statement by Asiimwe, the new MP showed what the race may boil down to. “I’m backing my friend Jacob Oulanyah in the Speakership race. If the NRM chooses another person, I will go by that. It won’t be betrayal.” He said in a television interview.
Unlike in 2016, Oulanyah now sits on CEC. He was elected NRM vice chairman for northern Uganda which gives him a degree of clout in CEC, where Kadaga also sits as NRM second national vice chairperson.
Kadaga has a different strategy from Oulanyah’s. She has been meeting new MPs in her office at parliament probably enticing them with trips abroad and other parliamentary privileges. No known minister has publicly expressed support for Speaker Kadaga. The Speaker’s recent clash with Government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa seems to be the reason why ministers rooting for Kadaga have kept mum on the issue.
Some of the MPs rooting for Kadaga’s third term as Speaker include Henry Kibalya (Bugabula County South); Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality); Geoffrey Macho (Busia Municipality); Elijah Okupa, (Kasilo County); Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala Central); Jackline Amongin (Ngora Woman).
“We are going to give Kadaga the vote,” said Macho. “We respect the party organ. They are right to come in but we should respect the voters more.”
According to Macho, NRM has to create a balancing act to avoid the debacle of 2016 when President Museveni had to intervene personally in both the race of Speaker and Deputy Speaker. “CEC refused Nsereko but he almost won.”
Nsereko mounted a strong challenge for the position of Deputy Speaker in 2016 against Oulanyah although he is sitting out the race this time round. The position has a huge field of contenders including Jacob Oboth (West Budama), Thedore Ssekikuubo, (Lwemiyaga County), Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North) and Mawokota South MP-elect Yusuf Nsibambi.
Those rooting for Kadaga have also been vouching for a Speaker’s panel to reduce on the workload of the Speaker. This is a panel comprising about four people to assist the Speaker in their duties. In line with this, Kadaga presided over the launch of the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies. The institute is for induction and training MPs on parliamentary and legislative procedures.
“We should help members to be more efficient through continuous training. In the past, we have done training in the first one month and we have realised that what they learn is not enough and they get challenges,” Kadaga said as the board of the institute swore in.
In meeting the newly elected MPs at her office, the Speaker was courting hundreds of potential voters with a training institute named after her.
The race for Speaker also has tribal loyalties as a factor. Oulanyah who hails from Omoro district in Acholi sub region was endorsed by the Acholi Parliamentary Group and the Busoga Parliamentary caucus is firmly behind Kadaga. She is the woman MP of Kamuli district in Busoga sub region and also chairs the caucus. Some of the lead campaigners of either teams are from the respective caucuses.
Ojara Martin Mapinduzi, the MP-elect for Bardege-Layibi Division of Gulu, has been one of the lead campaigners of Oulanyah. Maurice Kibalya, an MP from Kadaga’s home district is one of her main agents. However individual MPs have also openly campaigned for their preferred Speaker.
Barnabas Tinkasimiire of Buyaga West has also been very vocal while campaigning for Kadaga’s third term saying a large parliament like the 11th will need someone like Kadaga who will look out for the new large number of timid and inexperienced MPs.
MPs on Team Oulanyah have meanwhile said the deputy speaker should be rewarded for NRM’s strong performance in northern Uganda in the recent general elections. President Museveni trounced Robert Kyagulanyi in districts like Gulu, Pader, Amuru, Omoro including a significant win in West Nile districts.
Analysts also say Kadaga’s failure to deliver Busoga region for Museveni and NRM should not be underlooked. According to election results, Museveni won only three districts in the region; Buyende, Kaliro and Namutumba but lost to Kyagulanyi in major districts like Iganga, Jinja, Bugweri, Bugiri, Mayuge and Kamuli where Kadaga comes from.
MPs say the entry of the outspoken legislator Ibrahim Semujju, the Kira Municipality MP will not have much bearing on the Kadaga Oulanyah battle. FDC MPs seem to be indifferent to their party colleague who as Opposition Chief Whip has been very active but will be heavily outnumbered by the cliquing of the Kadaga and Oulanyah camps.
Sources say there has been a lot of money involved in the campaign for Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Thomas Tayebwa who is gunning for deputy speaker is a money lender who a number of MPs are indebted to. According to sources close to him, he is banking on MPs’ financial vulnerability for the vote of deputy speaker.