Let’s start with the first basic question. Should Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu, who is also the Chair of the parliamentary Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), be granted an extension to finish the inquiry he has superintended so far? The second basic question is how should this extension, if desirable, be handled?
To answer the questions, we start with some of the principles at stake. The first principle is that MPs who are elected on a party ticket represent the electorate but they also represent their respective political parties. It is for that reason that the NRM flushed out from Committee leadership positions all those who opposed the constitutional amendment lifting the Presidential age limit.
Irrespective of what we think of that obnoxious amendment, the NRM felt that those MPs could no longer be relied upon to promote the positions of the party on whose ticket they were elected. Of course, the MPs made a choice to side with the overwhelmingly popular sentiment against the said embedment. Their party then also made a choice based on the principle that whoever holds a position serves at the pleasure of the appointing authority and can be removed for good cause in accordance with established procedures.
When the sweeping changes from the NRM (read President Museveni) came, the Speaker allowed them without question. The changes were effected immediately. And then came the leadership election in the FDC which saw Gen Mugisha Muntu ousted from the presidency of the party. After losing, he announced that the new leadership of the party and himself were not singing from the same hymn book. He launched a countrywide consultation to determine whether FDC still represented his world view and convictions. In response, the new leadership of Patrick Oboi Amuriat announced changes in the parliamentary leadership of Uganda’s official Opposition party.
New leaders were named for the accountability committees, the parliamentary commission and other parliamentary bodies where the party enjoys exclusive right to fill positions. The Speaker only allowed the change in the office of the Leader of Opposition. She insisted that the rest of the changes would abide to the expiry of the two and a half year tenure stated in the rules of Parliament. As to how the Speaker came to bow to the NRM changes and to defy the ones made by FDC can only be attributed to power play and the signals that a big number of FDC MPs were either wavering in their support of the new leadership at Najjanankumbi or outright hostile.
The Cosase inquiry on the Bank of Uganda is significant because it has opened up a pandora’s box. The inquiry has revealed criminal negligence, impunity, corruption, incompetence, greed and highhandedness in Uganda’s central bank. It has been dramatic and on occasion a whipping post for those accused of self interest in the closure of troubled banks. The Speaker reportedly requested FDC to agree to an extension which request FDC flatly rejected. In response, the Speaker simply overruled FDC and ordered that Katuntu and his deputy will continue to head Cosase until the BoU inquiry is complete.
This shouldn’t be a matter of do or die. It is desirable that this important inquiry is concluded with minimum disruption but at the same time rules of the house should be respected and adhered to.
This kind of situation calls for negotiation in order to determine whether an exception should be made to a clear rule. For the Speaker to apply the rules selectively sets a very bad precedent and further mars her already tainted record of poor judgement. Kadaga’s decision can only stand if the FDC consents. Ideally, the negotiations to secure that consent should have taken place behind the scenes. Even commonplace good manners would have required that.
As matters stand now, the debate is no longer about rules but rather party interest versus national interest. With due respect, the framers of the rules must have taken all that into account. Someone please tell Kadaga that she is the Speaker but, for God’s sake, she is not above the law!