It has been a tough week in Parliament for the Prime Minister, also leader of government business, Amama Mbabazi, after his colleagues within the NRM on Tuesday collectively supported a proposal to trim his power as the party secretary general (SG) in what seems to be a calculated move to make him a ceremonial head.
But the same week has seen Parliament celebrate the return of “rebel” MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga County), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central). They were previously dismissed from the House after the Constitutional Court issued a temporary injunction stopping them from accessing Parliament pending judgment of the main petition seeking their removal from Parliament.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the expelled MPs be allowed back in Parliament until their main application is disposed of by the same court. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday delivered the message to the legislators who rejoiced on behalf of their colleagues.
Ms Kadaga, who had last week stopped them from accessing Parliament and chopped their allowances as per the Constitutional Court order, said: “The four members are permitted to sit in Parliament to take part in parliamentary activities, receive payment of all salaries plus other emoluments and entitlements due to them until the Supreme Court decides otherwise.”
Back to the NRM, reports about the two-day caucus meeting in Entebbe that allegedly conspired against Mbabazi dominated news events in Parliament.
Apparently, Mr Mbabazi’s major crime, as per his ‘executioners’, is that he is harbouring political ambitions with a view of extricating his boss from the country’s highest office come 2016.
The President, who has for long enjoyed a mutual relationship with the Premier, chaired the meeting that “stripped naked” Mr Mbabazi and empowered minister without Portfolio Richard Todwong to “work hand in hand” with the SG.
Under the new arrangement, Todwong will manage the party secretariat on Kyadondo Road in Kampala and embark on mobilising NRM members across the country.
He is charged with administration and mobilisation, the roles that have hitherto been implemented by Mr Mbabazi and the deputy secretary general, Ms Dorothy Hyuha.
Explaining the party’s resolution, the NRM Caucus spokesperson, Ms Evelyn Anite, said the Premier cannot effectively handle two offices since he is the leader of government business overseeing government ministries and departments, hence labelling him a “busy man”.
Ms Anite told journalists that Mr Mbabazi, his wife Jacqueline and former Agriculture minister Hope Mwesigye are expected to appear before the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC). Mr Mbabazi would answer as to why he is using party structures to promote himself in preparation for a planned bid to run for presidency in 2016. His wife, who is the leader of the party’s women’s league, and Ms Mwesigye are expected to appear before CEC to defend themselves over the same allegations.
President Museveni, however, issued a statement refuting the youthful MP’s claims that CEC is investigating the trio as he clarified that Mbabazi was still the full secretary general.
Mbabazi, Museveni playing games?
Even after the NRM MPs had unleashed their anger on Mr Mbabazi whom they accused of backstabbing Mr Museveni, the MPs got a shocker after they saw the two sharing a light moment and consulting each other, prompting murmurs from the audience at State House.
A glance at the NRM party constitution shows that only the NRM delegates’ conference has the mandate to elect or remove the secretary general.
It’s upon such a background that Mbabazi asserted in his statement to the Daily Monitor that: “The caucus has no powers to replace me. Whenever we meet, there are always some people raising that. What we reiterated is that Todwong will do more mobilisation and other things.”
The argument that Mbabazi is too busy for the two office may not hold water since the party chairman, who is also the commander-in-chief, becomes the first victim according to observers since he doubles as the President, a job that is so demanding. The minister without portfolio in charge of political mobilisation is also holding a public office that requires him to work efficiently.
But looking at the bigger picture, Uganda has more pressing problems that need urgent attention since the elections are two years away.
Also, Parliament joined the rest of the country to mark the International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8. A statement presented by state minister for Gender Lukia Nakadama on Wednesday highlighted the need for gender mainstreaming, a term used to refer to the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for women and men of any planned policy action.
“We are creating a fund for women to ensure they come out of poverty. Parliament is the one that appropriates [funds], so in case it comes, please support it,” she said.
Parliament now breaks off for a week to allow committees time to dispose of all the pending business and produce reports in the House.
The function of the delegates conference is to, among other things, promote national unity and solidarity, advise members of the NRM Parliamentary Caucus on policies of the NRM, elect the national chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary general, national treasurer, deputy secretary general, and the presidential candidate to be sponsored by NRM in national elections.
IN THE HOUSE
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) Central Executive Committee (CEC) meets anytime this week to endorse three commissioners and to institute the NRM parliamentary committee leadership.
The term of office for the current commissioners has expired and the opposition has already appointed their commissioner Reagan Okumu who replaces Kasilo County MP Okupah Elijah.
The NRM Caucus has also been summoned to meet in State House Entebbe this Monday to draw strategies on the direction they want their party to take. They would also endorse more amendments to the NRM party constitution that will include coming clear on the position of the secretary general ahead of the delegates’ conference.
Parliament resumes officially after one week. The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, noted that the committees had not yet submitted to the House all the pending business. She suspended the House for a week to allow committees table their reports to Parliament.