A new dawn Parliament, but questions linger over Among and Tayebwa experiences

Bukedea Woman MP Anita Annet Among, Ruhinda North MP Thomas Tayebwa, and Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake,  interact ahead of a special sitting of the 11th Parliament to elect Speaker and Deputy Speaker at Kololo in Kampala on March 25, 2022. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Whereas both Ms Anita Among and Mr Thomas Tayebwa hold Bachelor of Laws degrees, that is the only similar aspect that they share with other persons who have occupied the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker. A further look will, however, show that their profiles fade quite considerably in the face of those of their predecessors, writes Isaac Mufumba.

Parliament is set to resume business after a period of near inertia that it was plunged into following the demise of Jacob Oulanyah on March 20 in a hospital in Seattle, the United States of America, where he had been flown for specialised treatment early in February and his subsequent interment on Friday.

The provisions of Article 82(4) of the Constitution, which provides that “no business shall be transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker at any time that office is vacant” forced an immediate election that saw Ms Anita Among elected Speaker and Mr Thomas Tayebwa elected Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

This is the first time in a long time that two largely inexperienced persons, both of whom are only serving their second terms in Parliament, have been handed the responsibility of shepherding the House.

Ms Among and Mr Tayebwa certainly do not compare favourably to those who have held the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s jobs before.

Previous Speakers

James Wambogo Wapakhabulo, who was the first Speaker of the 7th Parliament, had chaired the Constituent Assembly (CA) between 1984 and 1995. He had prior to the CA worked as a clerk and legal draftsman with the Assembly of the East African Community and as a senior legal draftsman and later a principal legal officer in Papua New Guinea, experiences that came in handy.

Francis Ayume, who took over as Speaker in 1998 following the appointment of Wapakhabulo as National Political Commissar, had a wealth of experience in matters of the law having earlier risen through the ranks from a State Attorney to become first a Director of Public Prosecutions and later Solicitor General.

Mr Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, who was Speaker of the 7th and 8th parliaments, had been Ayume’s deputy. Prior to that, the man who was to later serve as vice president for 10 years had represented the Bukoto County Central in the CA and was part of the team that crafted the 1995 Constitution.

Mr Ssekandi had previously served as a State Attorney, lecturer and head of Department of Law at Makerere University, head of Postgraduate Bar Course and director at Law Development Centre. He had chaired the Parliament Committee on Rules, Discipline and Privileges and later the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who was Speaker of the 9th and 10th parliaments, had been Deputy Speaker for 10 years. The Kamuli Woman MP who had been in private practice prior to her entry into the murky waters of politics, had also held various positions in Cabinet, including that of minister for Parliamentary Affairs.

Among, Tayebwa records

Their profiles perhaps match only that of Ms Betty Okwir, the late Lira District Woman MP, a former teacher who rose to become Deputy Speaker between July 1996 and July 1998.

Whereas both Ms Among and Mr Tayebwa hold Bachelor of Laws degrees, the former from Kampala International University and the latter from Makerere University, that is the only similar aspect that they share with other persons who have occupied the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

A further look will, however, show that their profiles fade quite considerably in the face of those of their predecessors.

Ms Among had been Oulanyah’s deputy for only nine months and 24 days when she was elected to replace her former boss.

Former Speaker Jacob Oulanyah’s casket is wheeled out of Parliament, for the last time on April 5, 2022. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Her only other claim to fame in terms of execution of parliamentary duties was that brief spell when she served as Mr Abdu Katuntu’s deputy when the parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) carried out a probe on the closure and sale of seven commercial banks.

Mr Tayebwa had only served as Government Chief Whip for seven months and 22 days when he was elected to deputise Ms Among.

All that Mr Tayebwa can show in terms of experience at parliamentary level had been his work as a member on the Committee on the National Economy and the Committee on Natural Resources in the 10th Parliament.


The biggest fear is that the two lack the kind of experience and maturity that would be required to steer Parliament in a sober headed manner.

A video of the parliamentary proceedings of March 10 that ended in the ejection of Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake from the Parliamentary Commission for allegedly disparaging Ms Among on social media, has been circulating on social media, suggesting that Ms Among employed foul language.

That debate and subsequent vote were the culmination of two weeks of an investigation by Parliament’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline, chaired by Mr Katuntu, which as expected, found Mr Zaake guilty of misbehaviour and misconduct.

The case drew parallels with what happened in Parliament in 2008 when then Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, dragged Kibuku County MP Saleh Kamba to the same committee for alleged defamation.

The charges arose out of remarks that Mr Kamba made during a meeting of the NRM parliamentary caucus where he accused Ms Kadaga of having campaigned for Mr Katuntu against Kirunda Kivejinja in the November 2007 Bugweri parliamentary by-election by addressing Katuntu’s rallies. The petition collapsed because Ms Kadaga was the complainant, prosecutor and judge at the same time.

Again during the 10th Parliament, Ms Kadaga sought to have junior Lands minister Persis Namuganza censured, but Parliament deemed it necessary not to involve itself in a matter that was deemed personal between Ms Kadaga and Ms Namuganza, even when Kadaga was the Speaker.

Whereas Ms Kadaga had sometimes been accused of letting her emotions override reason, she would make attempts to appear before committees that were investigating matters in which she had an interest.

Ms Among, on the other hand, did not do that when Mr Zaake was under investigation. She was accused of being prosecutor and judge in a matter in which she had an obvious interest. 

There has also been talk of an air of fear among legislators and journalists at Parliament.

Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, the Manjiya County MP, who is the Opposition Chief Whip and National Unity Platform’s (NUP’s) deputy president for eastern Uganda, is quick to defend Ms Among, saying she was misled.

“The challenge we have are the handlers. The unfortunate bit about Mr Zaake’s irregular removal was because of her bad handlers. What is, however, important is that she had second thoughts about the matter. The two met and hugged and they have since buried the hatchet,” Mr Nambeshe says.

That is, however, not the only problem around her leadership. Legislators and journalists alike have been talking of a stifling environment at Parliament and acts aimed at muzzling them.

On February 22, Mr Lawrence Kitatta, a journalist at Bukedde newspaper and Television, was beaten up by Ms Among’s security detail as he covered a demonstration outside her residence in Nakasero by a group of torture victims who were protesting Parliament’s alleged indifference to acts of torture and what was then a pending censure motion against Mr Zaake.

Another journalist, Mr Chris Semakula, and a cameraman attached to Channel Television were also dragged to CID headquarters on charges of criminal trespass. They are out on police bond.

Some other journalists were reportedly barred from covering plenary sessions because of casting Ms Among in bad light.


There are also fears that Ms Among and her deputy will follow the line of their predecessors who have been accused of serving the interests of Mr Museveni and NRM and not those of democracy.

The former Leader of the Opposition in the 8th Parliament, Prof Morris Ogenga-Latigo, told Sunday Monitor in a previous interview that Mr Ssekandi turned Parliament into a rubber stamp institution that served Mr Museveni’s interests.

“As the Speaker, he ensured that whatever the President wanted he got, only that he (Mr Ssekandi) has a demeanour of calmness and innocence that used to make people believe that he was not responding to pressure from elsewhere,” Prof Latigo said.

Dr Frank Nabwiso, who represented Kagoma County in the 7th Parliament, told Sunday Monitor on Friday that Ms Kadaga had made the situation worse.

“Every institution has its own rigid structure, but there are three categories of operators. You have those who maintain the status quo, those who do something by manner of speech or behaviour to try and bend those structures and those who accept to be sycophants. Ssekandi was for maintaining the status quo, but Ms Kadaga took it to another level. Her duty was to make sure that her party and whatever the President wished would be granted,” Dr Nabwiso argues.

Can things change?

Mr Yona Kanyomozi, who represented Bushenyi South in Parliament in the 4th Parliament and also served as the minister of Cooperatives and Marketing during Obote II government, says the biggest challenge that Mr Tayebwa and Ms Among have is to free Parliament and MPs from the clutches of NRM and Mr Museveni.

MPs, he says, should put the people and the nation ahead of NRM and Mr Museveni if any good is to come out of the 11th Parliament.

“There is a feeling in Parliament that people are there because of their party and not because of the nation. If that one persists then the level of debate and contribution will be completely negated. The people will be supporting something even if it is rotten just because they belong to the party. They will not be as critical as they should be on issues concerning the nation,” Mr Kanyomozi argues.

Mr Kanyomozi and Dr Nabwiso believe that Oulanyah would have in time been able to free Parliament from the fangs of NRM.

Ms Among has on several occasions told the public that Oulanyah was her mentor. Will she and her deputy be able to return some measure of respect to Parliament? Dr Nabwiso does not believe so.

“You cannot detach Ms Among and Mr Tayebwa from the President’s statement that he had put in place a Cabinet of fishermen and fishmongers. You might think that he was alluding to only his Cabinet, but it also encompassed Parliament. How can they operate above those people?” Dr Nabwiso wonders.

Mr Nambeshe is more positive. He says the duo has a chance to learn and become knowledgeable about the rules of parliamentary procedure. This, he says, will hand them the chance to redeem Parliament.

“Nobody has a monopoly over knowledge, wisdom and understanding. If a person has the passion for the office and takes keen interest in measuring up to the expectations of the mandate that has been bestowed upon him or her. Anybody who is passionate will take trouble to learn. What I am not sure about is how passionate they are,” Mr Nambeshe argues.

Faded hopes

Mr Godber Tumushabe of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), does not share in Nambeshe’s optimism, insisting that nothing can change at Parliament regardless of the passion or the person who leads the institution.

“Parliament is configured to perpetuate the Museveni agenda and whether the Speaker was Oulanyah or Anita Among, or whether the Deputy Speaker was Among or Tayebwa, fundamentally there is no difference on what they can do because Museveni has definitely captured Parliament and he can use it for whatever and he wants to use it,” Mr Tumushabe says.

It is from the foregoing clear that it may be a new dawn at Parliament, but no one knows whether it is a foggy, smoky, sunny or rainy dawn.