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Mpuuga’s Shs500m service award rocks Suubi Group’s boat

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When Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), who belongs to the National Unity Platform (NUP) party, signed the motion sponsored by Theodore Ssekikubo, the Lwemiyaga County Member of Parliament (MP), that intends to censure four parliamentary commissioners for pocketing a total sum Shs1.7 billion as “a service award”, he called on other Opposition legislators to follow suit.

“We discussed this matter as a shadow cabinet and we made it clear that his so-called service award was wrong and I’m encouraging my colleagues in the Opposition to do the signing because this was irregular,” Ssenyonyi, the Nakawa West MP, said.
Ssenyonyi, who was accompanied by a group of NUP legislators who are part of the shadow cabinet, was quick to deny that they were targeting his predecessor Mathias Mpuuga, now a commissioner, who pocketed Shs500 million as a “service award”, and has consequently fallen out with his party NUP.

“I’m glad that folks [Ssekikubo] in the NRM are rising to the occasion to realise that this is problematic and it is important that they take the lead because they have three commissioners. This now gets to remove the politics as some people have been trying to make it look like it is NUP vs Mpuuga,” Ssenyonyi said.

Though Ssenyonyi denied that his party is targeting Mpuuga, NUP lawmakers, who were interviewed for this story said they have come under pressure from the party leadership.  

“The party leadership… called me asking me to sign. We have a standing order to sign that motion. I had no way out, remember all these things will be put in newspapers; putting names for all those who have signed,” said an MP from Mityana who preferred anonymity.
Although Ssenyonyi rallied the Opposition, Mpuuga’s comrades from the Suubi 2011 Pressure Group have largely steered clear of penning signatures to the motion.  

In the run-up to the 2011 General Election, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Kizza Besigye’s presidential push was buoyed when politicians from Buganda formed a pressure, Suubi 2011, whose main objective was to advance Buganda Kingdom’s interests.

The Suubi members who are currently in Parliament include Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality), Muhammad Muwanga-Kivumbi (Butambala County), Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East) and Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), who unlike the aforementioned three belongs to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
It is Ssemujju who has been clear that he won’t sign the censure motion on two grounds. First, that Parliament passed the sums of money. 

Former LoP Mathias Mpuuga (left) shares a light moment with Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze (in white) and other Suubi members who were part of the DP block that joined NUP in August 2020. PHOTOS/ Michael Kakumirizi, FILE

“It was passed by Parliament as part of the commissioners’ budget which many of us might not have seen like many cases in Parliament. People pay little attention, but that list has former Speakers [Rebecca] Kadaga, [Edward] Ssekandi and below it is where they put the commissioners. So in terms of legality, we can’t win. The only argument is moral argument: Should people get a reward for a service they haven’t even rendered?” Ssemujju said.

This point was also made by Mityana South MP Fred Kayondo, who belongs to the Democratic Party (DP). 
“That money was passed by Parliament. And that’s the core mandate of an MP. If they passed the budget, then it’s a vote of no confidence if a member goes back against what the House did,” Kayondo said. “It’s a disservice to the people of Uganda. What you see here when members are signing is an indication they passed the budget without reading it and understanding it. That’s the issue.”

Another reason as to why Ssemujju isn’t willing to put pen to paper is because he is a long-term friend of Mpuuga, which includes the Suubi days.
“I have said this before: I can’t be a judge in a matter in which a very close friend like Mpuuga is involved. I can’t be a neutral judge and I want people to understand that. Even in courts of law, you can’t be a judge in matter in which a close friend is involved,” Ssemujju said.

Luckily for Kyagulanyi, Ssemujju’s only interaction with NUP is limited to his appointment as the shadow minister of finance, but the former presidential candidate has to deal with the fallout between NUP and Mpuuga.
This fallout has put the Suubi group and Kyagulanyi between a rock and hard place, but of recent he has been holding meetings aimed at seeing that the tensions calm down. 
Last month, Kyagulanyi moved to build fences with Muwanga-Kivumbi after the MP snubbed a meeting which had been called to discuss Mpuuga’s punishment.

“Those who are saying I have doubts about Muwanga-Kivumbi should stop it. I have no doubts about this guy. I call a wrong, a wrong and whatever I see I tell you. I’m a very straightforward person. He has been our minister of finance and he has experience in finance and economics. You should support him because he gives us a lot of confidence. There are big people within our party who do wrong things but not Muwanga- Kivumbi,” Kyagulanyi said.  
In a move that weakened Suubi’s solidarity, Nambooze held meetings with Kyagulanyi and she has since attacked Mpuuga. 
“Somebody said overalls are not welcome here in Masaka. But here we are. We are going to put on these overalls come what may,” Nambooze aimed a veiled dig at Mpuuga at a rally NUP held in Masaka recently.  
Mpuuga had disparaged NUP members who put on overalls following a faceoff with Kyagulanyi at the burial of Pascal Ssekasamba in Lwengo District. 

“We have been dealing with the army which has mambas [armoured personnel carriers] from the barracks and now you hear people coming in overalls,” Mpuuga told his supporters.    
Another Suubi member, who seems to have gravitated towards Kyagulanyi, is Sseggona.
After distancing himself from some of NUP’s programmes following the fallout with Mpuuga, Sseggona was part of the party’s legal team that interfaced with police following the standoff over its recent nationwide tour.

Sseggona had openly led the pushback against attempts to demonise Mpuuga.
“The matter has been handled recklessly, the manner of handling Mpuuga’s situation is gross and shabby. We take a lot of energy and resources to build leaders, it takes you just one day to destroy a leader. The time will come when you will look for this leader but you won’t find them like FDC with Mugisha Muntu,” Sseggona said.  

Some of the lawmakers who turned up for Mpuuga’s function.  PHOTO/ DAVID LUBOWA

Sseggona had seemed to gravitate towards Mpuuga to the extent that he joined the Nyendo-Mukungwe legislator when he visited Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga in the run-up to the Kabaka birthday run.
But with elections around the corner and Kyagulanyi showing that he is still a crowd puller, Sseggona has become more visible in NUP activities.
“I have been key in defending the party,” Sseggona told a group of voters in his constituency recently. “Some people wanted to take it and I defended the party in court.” 
But it is important to note that Sseggona was among the lawmakers who turned up at Mpuuga’s thanksgiving service at Kitovu Sports Arena in Masaka on Friday. Other MPs included Esther Afoyochan (Woman MP Zombo District), Abed Bwanika (Kimaanya-Kabonera) and Joyce Bagala (Mityana Woman MP),  among others.

Although the Suubi group has now been toeing Kyagulanyi’s line, some say they will not sign Ssekikubo’s censure motion.  
“We can’t come out openly to say that we won’t sign that motion, but we shall not sign it,” one of the NUP lawmakers, who was part of Suubi outfit, said.