Kadaga forgot that current situation demands a bit of self-preservation

Thursday October 5 2017


By Karoli Ssemogerere

The country is still painfully absorbing the events of last week. After weeks of tension, the amendment to lift age limit in Article 102(b) of the Constitution is now in committee from where it will swiftly be taken back to the floor for the second and third readings.
It is ironical that the President Museveni has gotten from Parliament what he could not get from his own cabinet. Cabinet has never met to consider the proposals and process comprehensive amendments to the Constitution.

That said, the procedure, intimidation and violence used in the process have cast a dark light on whether Uganda is willing to mature and join the civilised forces of the international community. Fist-fights do happen in many legislatures - South Africa, South Korea, Botswana - but what makes Uganda in a smaller group of countries like Togo, Burkina Faso, etc, is the issue the fights are about.
What makes Kadaga unique is that she actually fuelled the fight by ordering ejectment of MPs in violation of her own rules of Procedure of Parliament she issued a red card where the rules only provided for a yellow card, and the suspension would be at subsequent sittings.

It is very likely in the fracas that the President, a very adept micromanager micromanaged the situation to the end through a live feed or directed that force be applied to prevent forestalling of laying of the motion on the table. We shall never know the truth.

The laying of the Bill comes against a backdrop where NRM MPs slowly have been drifting away from the amendment, the most recent of which include the Members of Parliament from Sheema, Budaka and Rubanda. The bravado of 291 MPs in support being peddled by pro-government publicists does not reflect the situation in the general population.

Government knows it is trying to short-circuit the process by avoiding open consultations, which are different from hearings in Parliament. Parliamentary hearings are to assist MPs harmonise positions and receive expert advice. The purpose of commissions as had been suggested first and abandoned by government are to collect views from the country as a whole; refine them and report to government. The top two finishers to chair the commission government felt would fall short of total capitulation; former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and former Principal Judge James Munnange Ogoola.
It was a pitiful sight of the Speaker turning native on her own members and the resulting images which will be replayed for a long time. The old saying that history repeats itself and each time is a tragedy rung so true this time. The Speaker and her staff decided to clothe criminal actions allowing strangers on the floor of Parliament to rape it of its dignity and conscience.
Kadaga forgot that the current dispensation demands a bit of self-preservation.

At the time of her “call to arms” the Vice President, Edward Sekandi, was comfortably resting in Kalangala celebrating Tourism Week along with his compatriot Ephraim Kamuntu, the Tourism minister.
Trade and Cooperatives minister Amelia Kyambadde whose long service at State House has made her an authority on Cabinet matters was silent somewhere. Foreign minister Sam Kuteesa was abroad with the President. Even the usual rabble rouser Kahinda Otafiire whose ministry ordinarily should have taken the lead on this Bill was first seen enjoying the fracas smiling, but then was nowhere to be seen when chairs started flying.

The lesson for the young MPs, including Francis Zaake from Mityana, is to absorb the fact that the incumbent has no plans of leaving. For this group which was critical in returning Kadaga to the Speaker’s chair, this will be remembered for a long time.
People in the corridors at State House who freely gossip these days say the big man is so relaxed, he put enough pressure on Kadaga and she snapped first.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.