Seattle, USA | THE INDEPENDENT & URN | The team that flew out Tuesday from Uganda to Seattle to check on hospitalized Speaker Jacob Oulanyah is ready to update the country on his health. Deputy Speaker Anita Among will issue a statement in the coming hours.
Democratic Party (DP) President Norbert Mao stated in a tweet late Thursday that they had arrived in Seattle. He confirmed the team that travelled includes Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo, Health Minister Ruth Aceng and the Speaker’s brother, he did not name.
“I’m with the CJ, the D/Speaker, the Health Minister & the Speaker’s brother in Seattle where the Speaker is hospitalized. A man who is very ill deserves our prayers. Above all let’s respect his privacy and that of his family. The D/Speaker will soon issue a statement. It is well!,” Mao’s tweet read.
Among adjourned the House sine die (indefinitely) on Tuesday afternoon, after which Parliament’s Communication chief Chris Obore confirmed this was because she was heading to the US. “She is scheduled to meet her boss,” he said.
He did not explain the Speaker’s health status, but insisted that “Even if there is a problem, the right person to communicate anything is the Deputy Speaker. Let’s wait for her to return, and we can ask her. For now, let’s respect the Speaker’s privacy.”
Social media was early in the week awash with images indicating that Oulanya’s Wikipedia details had been changed. Obore said they were fake.
“Some people are hacking into Wikipedia and editing the profile of Speaker Jacob Oulanyah. They log in through VPN to avoid detection. Deputy Speaker Anita Among is traveling to see her boss and is the only person to inform MPs and public like she did when he was taken to the US. Ignore speculation,” he said.
Among has been in charge of parliament since February 3, when Oulanyah was flown to Seattle in the United States of America for specialized treatment.
Following the indisposition of Speaker Oulanyah, there were concerns of what will become of Parliament if he doesn’t return soon.
Earlier this month, Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo, the former Leader of Opposition observes that if Oulanyah does not recover and does not resign, Parliament will ‘limp’ with only the Deputy Speaker presiding and in leadership.
“If he is unable to recover fully and highly disabled, he can resign, the Speaker enjoys a full pension not tied to how he/she leaves office,” said the former Agago North County MP.
“In the 10th Parliament, there was a proposal to amend the Constitution and allow for any Member of Parliament to be assigned and preside over the House in the absence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. I don’t think the proposal was enacted into law,” Prof Ogenga said.
“To the best of my knowledge in the absence of both, currently, the House will come to a standstill,” Prof Ogenga observed further.
Joel Ssenyonyi, the Nakawa West Member of Parliament says Article 82 of the Constitution creates the office of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament both of whom are to be elected from among the elected Members of Parliament but renders members of the cabinet or the Executive ineligible to be elected
Uganda Airlines Airbus was chartered to Seattle https://t.co/7pxZmhJto1
— The Independent (@UGIndependent) February 6, 2022
Ssenyonyi points out that the core responsibility of the Speaker of Parliament is to chair business in the house meaning that at any point the position is vacant, no business shall go ahead in Parliament until the position has been filled.
However, Ssenyonyi also observed that Oulanyah’s indisposition has not created any vacuum in the House as yet because his authorities are equally taken care of by the Deputy Speaker as enshrined in the constitution.
While updating MPs about Oulanyah’s absence, the Deputy Speaker assured the House there was no vacuum created as she will steer the plenary sittings until the Speaker resumes office after sick leave.
On 21 November 2019, Parliament failed to conduct plenary sitting following the absence of then-Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, and her then-deputy Oulanyah. Oulanyah was in Rwanda’s capital Kigali to attend The African, Caribbean, and Pacific–European Union conference while Kadaga was attending a State House function with President Yoweri Museveni.
The incident attracted criticism from Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, then Opposition Chief Whip and Kira Municipality MP who proposed for the creation of a panel of speakers so that the house wards off such unprecedented occurrences brought about by the absence of speakers.