Oulanyah apology was the right thing to do
Posted Thursday, October 10 2013 at 01:00
It is unlikely for Speaker Kadaga to bother herself in small bore issues of disciplining junior MPs or expelling them. She benefits from maintaining her brand above the fray as an increasingly important centre of power.
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah in the last few days sounded like a high speed train about to derail. Frustrated, dejected, annoyed and temperamental. He had just ejected Kyaddondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda from Parliament in an episode that dragged the last few vestiges of Parliament’s decorum with it.
At the heart of the dispute is growing sense in ‘Oulanyah land’ that the Deputy Speakership has fast become a poisoned chalice that may ruin him forever. Always carrying a winning smile, the smile had worn thin due to pressure from his compatriots in greater Acholi who repeatedly ‘disown’ him in public fora.
In the workplace, by appearing eager to please the government at each turn, he has earned the chagrin of his boss, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who seems to have mastered how Parliament works. She has proved the queen of power politics, building a power base by ingratiating herself to both sides of the aisle that even the most legitimate of Oulanyah complaints cannot attract more than a few sympathetic nods but no action from MPs.
By resorting to physical force to eject MP Nganda, Oulanyah ran into a mouse trap set by his opponents to run him aground. Ejection is common. Among the high profile parliamentary ejections in 2013 included that of Tony Abbott, now Prime Minister of Australia in the run-up to the Australian general election by the sitting Speaker of the Australian Commons.
Next door in Kenya, Speaker Justin Muturi of the National Assembly ejected the Minority Whip Jakoyo Midiwo recently on grounds of use of unparliamentary language.
A Speaker in Executive centered systems is supposed to be a dead-end job. The colour and robes of the Speaker are vested in a senior MP trusted somewhat by the government but more importantly, a seasoned MP with the trust and respect of the House.
In Uganda, owing to the paralysis in the Executive branch, the stature of the Speaker continues to grow a sense of frustration with the politics in both the government and the opposition. In such a position it is unlikely for Speaker Kadaga to bother herself in small bore issues of disciplining junior MPs or expelling them. She benefits from maintaining her brand above the fray as an increasingly important centre of power.
Ugandan speakers have had a mixed bag of fortunes. Francis Butagira returned as a backbencher in the NRC before becoming a diplomat. James Wapakhabulo’s high profile exit to become National Political Commissar ended up removing him forever from the imaginary queue to succeed his boss. Francis J. Ayume briefly became Attorney General before meeting death in a car accident. Edward Francis Ssekandi is now vice president.
Where Oulanyah, the trained draftsman sees compliance, Kadaga seems to have found a way to stretch parliamentary prerogatives to the limit. If you are in doubt, ask the ongoing music in one of the once most compliant parliamentary committees- the Appointments Committee. They have not been able - as yet - to “summon” Ag. Justice Benjamin Odoki to consider his nomination as Chief Justice. Maybe they will in the future.
A Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected as a team. Oulanyah has probably rightfully returned to his senses. His job is to salute his immediate boss, and move on. By his unreserved apology for actions that prompted a physical brawl on the floor of Parliament, Oulanyah has removed a dangerous precedent that in the future could be used to physically arrest MPs in the debating chamber; or in the language of the modern Public Order and Management Bill that passed under his hand, occasion the use of tear gas to “restore and maintain” order in Parliament.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and Advocate. email@example.com