Parliament is broken, MPs will vote accessible Speaker,  says Ssemujju

Sunday March 28 2021
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Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda. PHOTO/ALEX ESAGALA

By Zadock Amanyisa

Kamara:Aside from being the Opposition Chief Whip, chairperson COSASE [Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprises] and MP Kira Municipality, what makes you best suited to take the position of the third most important leadership position in our land?
I have the experience, more than many of the MPs. My experience is more than 20 years. I have seen how different speakers interacted, socialised and handled MPs under very difficult conditions. And that’s why I thought having been part of Parliament chaired by Honourable [Rebecca] Kadaga for the last 10 years that I will come and use that experience and knowledge that I have acquired to be able to chair the 11th Parliament and do the administrative work better than the sitting Speaker and her deputy.

It’s going to be difficult for you to convince your colleagues in Parliament that you can come and actually do it better than Kadaga because what I have heard from those who support her is that Honourable Kadaga is considered to be the key defender of the Independents of Parliament and that is key as far as the separation of power is concerned
The moment you bring someone with partisan government interests to preserve, it becomes very difficult for that person. You can posture that ‘I am a friend of Independents in Parliament,’ but you are part of the ruling party. Honourable Kadaga and Oulanyah are senior members of the NRM. The Constitution says your job is to check government. You cannot check yourself. It simply cannot happen.  

Can you not stand against partisan interests and stand for Uganda? What makes you think that other colleagues cannot do the same? 
But we are talking about people who are aspiring to become Speaker, not people who are currently speakers and when the test comes, it shows they have both failed.

Let us look at the practicability. You have almost 400 MPs in NRM and you have about 144 directly elected MPs on the affirmative action representing their districts. You have a woman who has almost reached a global stage and showcased what she can do. Why would NRM change their winning formula and go for Honourable Nganda who has not been tested?
I took a decision to contest against Kadaga because I am not sure if NRM will bring her as their candidate. I am not contesting against Oulanyah because I am not sure if it is him that they will bring.  I am contesting for an office and I don’t care eventually who the NRM brings because this has nothing to do with their performance. It has something to do with the next Parliament.

In most cases, even when MPs consider choosing anybody for that position, again, it goes to back to the chairperson of the party. What he decides is probably what is going to happen. So now, again, they are going to sit in the central executive committee and chose somebody, just like the way you have reported about these things before. How are you going to compete for that position?

Numbers work, but sometimes depending on who is confronting those numbers. I remember we faced the same problem when Honourable [Raphael] Magyezi brought the law to change the Constitution to change the age limit. We said numbers can be supplemented either by your intellect or by your body. I have written to Opposition parties that the path to victory is very narrow, but that’s not the only motivation. We go into the general election knowing that odds were against us, but we continue fighting for freedom.


I met a senior citizen today and I told him I was going to host you. He said, “He is a good man, but his plan is dead on arrival.”
I know all these things. I have spoken to many MPs, they want a Speaker that they can easily access, a Speaker who will not make them need prayers before they enter his or her office.

Somebody in your party, including others like Francis Mwijukye and Cecilia Ogwal, have already endorsed Honourable Kadaga. In your own house, people are not believing in you

One of the assurances that I have been giving to MPs is that I am going to institutionalise Parliament. Periodically, I think Honourable Kadaga has installed herself as Parliament and I saw some MPs going for her coronation in Munyonyo [Commonwealth Resort].
The institution of Parliament broke down long ago and it was replaced by a personality called Honourable Kadaga and I am shocked by Mwijukye. We nominated him as commissioner and he was here crying for six months that he was being stopped irregularly by Honourable Kadaga, and now he says, ‘Oh, this is an angel’ for the independence of Parliament. 

If people who are so close to you do not trust you with this leadership, then what would that say to those who are not even in your family of FDC?

Did you hear anyone of them saying Ssemujju is incompetent? Many of them are fearing that we may not have the numbers. I have listened to all my colleagues and I respect their positions. FDC has 32 MPs. As an institution, we sat last Thursday and made a decision as the national central executive committee of FDC that we will support the Opposition candidate and in that case, I was the only one who had offered myself. There are people who are on personal pursuit, but they are pretenders. What is killing politics in Uganda are the opportunistic decisions that individuals make.

We have already heard that money is exchanging hands and you are campaigning against the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Already claims of voter bribery have been cited in the race. Ibrahim, who is your quarter master?

On the issue of money, I don’t want to blame Parliament, I don’t want to blame the individuals involved. The other day, Honourable James Kakooza brought that matter. When I met him later, I told him, “You NRM MPs have no moral authority to speak about money. You have been bribed here by Mr Museveni to change the Constitution, at least twice. 
The first, I covered it as a journalist. The second, I witnessed it as MP. You were all driving to Kololo and picking up money and you changed the Constitution to allow Mr Museveni die in office.’ Yes, I don’t have money. I am giving no body money. I hear those stories, nobody has reached me to give them money because I am also a voter.

Democracy is about numbers and the NRM has the numbers. In fact, Ben Wacha, Nandala Mafabi and others tried and failed. Why don’t you learn from these examples as someone who even covered Parliament before you became a parliamentarian? If you want to swim against the current, you will drown

Human beings are human beings. They are not tools and they can surprise you. When you are dealing with human beings, they are not predictable. One plus one for a human being can be four. The same way you see some Opposition MPs go to support NRM, there are NRM MPs who support me and they have valid reasons. I interact with them, but because of the nature of our politics, many will keep quiet. They don’t want to land that risk, but on the voting day, you will be shocked.

Why would you, an MP who chooses to give his vote to somebody, feel that is endangering?

In our rules, the election of the Speaker is secret ballot. Why do you think it is like that? We need to protect some individuals. Sometimes, the decisions that they make going to affect their party leadership, party hierarchy, or it may not be a decision that is going to make them popular in their own constituencies. So, human beings are human beings. Sometimes they need protection even from people that are so dear to them and that’s why the election of the Speaker is by secret ballot. Sometimes you have seen by the way, when NRM is not sure, when Mr Museveni is not sure, the first thing is to suspend voting by secret ballot.