Kidega on the daunting task as new Eala speaker

Sunday December 28 2014

Mr Daniel Fred Kidega, the new Eala speaker

Mr Daniel Fred Kidega, the new Eala speaker during the interview last week. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Stephen Kafeero

We would like to congratulate you for having clinched the speakership of Eala. Could you please first introduce yourself?
I’m a simple person, born from a very humble background on October 10, 1973, at St Mary’s Lacor Hospital. I went to Christ the King Demonstration School where I did my entire primary. I passed with a good first grade, but couldn’t go to schools in the north because of the war, so I was sent to Ntare School which I joined in Senior Two after a short stint in Nyenga in Jinja [District]. After Ntare, I went to Kyambogo University, then Kyambogo Polytechnic, where I did a diploma in Science, Technology and Biochemistry.
I then proceeded to do a degree in Business Administration at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. After I did a postgraduate diploma in International Trade Policy and later an MSc [Master of Science] in the same field at Lund University in Sweden.

You are going to steer Eala for the next two-and-half years, what is your mandate?
The speaker is supposed to direct the activities of the assembly and they are well detailed in the treaty. One is to legislate, the other to do oversight work and to appropriate resources for the integration process.

Going to the assembly, did you at any one time anticipate being speaker?
No, I didn’t. To be very honest, I didn’t plan to be Eala speaker but the circumstances that prevailed in Arusha left me no option but to stand. All the partner state members overwhelmingly came to me and said, ‘Dan you must stand. Your character and figure cuts out as one who can bring reconciliation and unity among the members.’ My candidature was people demanded. My chairperson of the chapter came to me and said, ‘Dan you must stand, we need you to salvage the situation that is going out of hand’ and that is why I came out an opposed.

In your inaugural speech you talked about uniting the members of Eala and trying to work out the problems bedevilling the assembly. Could you provide a background of these problems?

I’m sure you have access to the investigation material that was used to investigate the speaker. There was loss of confidence in the former speaker, her lack of respect for the members, misuse of resources and several other allegations which date way back to over nine months. The allegations were sent to the committee on legal, rules and privileges which conducted investigations and made recommendations to the assembly. They recommended among other things, the speaker be forthwith removed from the assembly. That led to fronting of a motion and her consequent removal.
However, prior to that, it is important to know why this motion got triggered up. When we were sitting in Nairobi, Margaret Zziwa, the speaker then, came to the House and provided a ruling on a matter that was not on the order paper. This was a matter of one of the members who was supposed to be disciplined because of misconduct when on a trip in Brussels, Belgium. The speaker came and ruled that the motion to discipline the member was in bad faith and infringes on the right of the member.

Who was this member?
It was Bhanji Shy-Rose Sadrudin from Tanzania.

And?
So the other members were not comfortable with the speaker’s ruling. According to our rules of procedure, when a speaker passes a ruling members are uncomfortable with, they rise up. When they do, the speaker is supposed to order the Sergeant at Arms to take a head count, if the number challenging the speaker’s ruling is two thirds or more, the ruling stands challenged and the speaker must rescind the decision. To the contrary, she didn’t but adjourned the house.
We wrote a petition immediately and summoned the clerk to come and constitute the House as per our rules and elected Chris Opoka as the acting speaker. He convened the house immediately and the gentleman who had moved a motion of impeachment against the speaker brought it back. It was referred to the committee of legal.
In that same sitting, a motion was moved that the speaker be suspended from the House for 21 days pending investigations. That proceeded until it culminated into the eventual impeachment of the speaker.

Are you implying that particular ruling by the former speaker sparked off her impeachment?
Actually, there were other problems but her ruling was the spark which angered the members and it triggered the whole process.

Let us look at your image as representatives from Uganda. Do you think you conducted yourselves in a manner befitting the image of Uganda and Eala?

Unfortunately, the information available to the Ugandan public has been very scanty. There has been a lot of blackmail, slander and lies told to the people about what was going on in Eala. The Ugandan representatives are great people; we did everything in our power to ensure our country is well represented. For example, we ensured the five year tenure is for Uganda. This was done in a gentleman’s agreement. It could have gone anywhere but we made sure that even if the speaker is removed the tenure should be finished by Uganda.

After the speaker was removed, we conducted ourselves in an honourable manner. You didn’t hear of any contest yet people showed interest in the seat. At the end of the day we agreed as a family even after honourable Dora [Byamukama], [Mike] Ssebalu and [Chris] Opoka showed interest, they just voluntarily pulled out of the contest and allowed me to go. There was no vote cast. It is just the impeachment of the speaker that has misrepresented a lot of information about our work.

But right from the start during the Zziwa-Byamukama contest, there was evidence of lack of coordination. You saw what Byamukama did to Eriya Kategaya (RIP)
I’m restrained to comment on personal behaviour of individual members.

Don’t you think the bad blood could have emanated from that point and that ended in undermining your predecessor?
Frankly, I can tell you the trouble of the speaker did not begin then. We had buried our hatchets and worked normally. Hon Byamukama had been given the chair of the committee on legal, rules and privileges and she was doing a good job. Trouble began from elsewhere, not from us, but unfortunately they have decided to spin around that it was Dora [Byamukama] who was undermining the leadership of Margaret [Zziwa].

So what was the source of the problem?
The problem started from the issue of rotations and it grew to several other issues.

And how are you going to guide Eala to resolve those issues?
My election was one item towards reconciliation. I was unanimously accepted by the whole house and all other contestants stepping down for me was a sign of unity. What needs to be done is to reach out to those on the other side of the coin, especially those who were against the impeachment.
We must also reach out to the public and rebuild the image of the assembly and this can be done through clearing the backlog of the work that has piled in the assembly, updating the public on a regular basis the work the assembly is doing and improving the speed (work rate) at which we conduct the assembly issues.

That assembly is so rich, it has got very important people in former vice presidents, ministers, very good lawyers, economists and IT experts. One thing we didn’t manage to tap in the last two years is that talent and so we want to engage and deploy them appropriately to propel the assembly to greater heights. Eala’s image has to be reconstructed back to what it used to be. We are in the third assembly, I served in the second and these squabbles used not to be there, yet seven of Uganda’s nine members were in the second one.

It defeats logic how we can think this lot is worse than the other one. This scramble also caused a bit of a problem among the staff of the assembly so we have to motivate them, build their confidence so that they work in tandem with the members.

A case is coming up in court, mindful of that, however, have you talked to the former speaker or any kind of mediation going on?
I have just been elected. But my first cardinal job is to extend an olive branch to every person because we need unity. Hon Zziwa is a member of Eala, we need her cooperation in everything. I’m not in court so I cannot comment on anything about it but what I appeal to every member, including Hon Zziwa, to come back to the House and we proceed.

After the two-and-half years, what next?
If you study my background, I don’t impose myself on the people, they invite me to be part of their leadership. After Eala, will be God-guided, but what I can firmly say, I will be in leadership. All I can say is the brightest star can only best be seen when the cloud is dark. Eala is now perceived as having a lot of problems, this is our opportunity to succeed. My message to the people is don’t lose hope.

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