What you need to know:
- Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa, who heads Ms Kadaga’s campaign media team, argues that CEC, which he described as “a handful of people,” cannot be making decisions on big issues like the job of Speaker.
Unyielding supporters of outgoing Speaker Rebecca Kadaga say her name will appear on the ballot tomorrow as the 11th Parliament convenes for the first time since the January 14 elections to vote Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
Even though the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting deferred declaring who they preferred last night, the Kadaga camp appeared resolute and had no kind words for those asking her to step down for Mr Jacob Oulanyah, her rival for the post.
With or without the blessing of the NRM party organs, the MPs backing Ms Kadaga vowed to defy CEC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling party.
Mr Asuman Basalirwa, who heads Ms Kadaga’s media campaign team, told Sunday Monitor in Kampala yesterday that the job of Speaker and Ms Kadaga’s support are matters too big to be determined by a small group of people.
“The decisive battle will be fought on the floor of Parliament. That has been decided.
We decided so because our support outside CEC is too big to be subdued at that level. Nobody should deceive you that it is a battle to end in [State House] Entebbe. It must end on the floor of Parliament,” Mr Basalirwa told Sunday Monitor yesterday afternoon.
Mr Basalirwa is the president of the opposition Jeema party and MP for Bugiri Municipality.
Mr Gilbert Olanya, the MP for Kilak South (FDC), who spearheads Ms Kadaga’s campaign team in the Acholi sub-region, said the decisions of CEC and the parliamentary caucus are of no consequence to the non-NRM members who support Ms Kadaga’ candidature.
“For us in the Opposition, the position of CEC and the caucus is not important, the most important as far as we are concerned is the stand that she will take from Entebbe. The most important part here is the floor of Parliament,” Mr Olanya told Sunday Monitor.
Both Mr Basalirwa and Mr Olanya were speaking as the CEC meeting was going on.
Whereas Mr Oulanyah seems to have concentrated on courting mostly MPs from the ruling party, Ms Kadaga’s campaign has gone beyond courting legislators from only NRM. Her team has also courted NRM-leaning and Opposition MPs.
This explains why her campaign team has people like Mr Basalirwa and Mr Peter Mugema, who is an NRM-leaning Independent MP and is backed by several Opposition MPs, including Mr Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West, NUP), Mr Francis Mwijukye (Buhwejju, FDC) and Ms Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo Woman, FDC).
Mr Basalirwa says although their decision was made much earlier, but it was sealed during a meeting of the regional heads of Ms Kadaga’s campaign team held in Ntinda in Kampala as the CEC meeting was underway in Entebbe.
Mr Basalirwa argues that CEC, which he described as “a handful of people” cannot be making decisions on big issues like the job of Speaker.
Although not as unequivocal as Mr Basalirwa was yesterday, Ms Kadaga had earlier expressed similar sentiments on Wednesday.
“You don’t listen, you don’t listen. I said it would be undemocratic for CEC to sit five years early and say five years later, so and so will be our Speaker. Why don’t you do that for the President? Every five years, he comes back and says elections are here, what do we do?” she said.
She was speaking at the party’s electoral commission offices in Kampala after expressing interest in retaining the Speaker’s job.
“We cannot sit here, even in my constituency in Kamuli, you cannot say in five years you will be our MP. When five years come, you must go back and subject yourself to them. It will be undemocratic for them [CEC members] to say [that nobody should contest for the position [of the Speaker] since CEC already selected a candidate. You have selected? Are you selecting your cattle?” she wondered.
Mr Basalirwa says even if CEC makes a decision to let the caucus make the final decision, they will not allow Ms Kadaga to participate in such a vote.
“Our calculation is that those who would not want to vote for us in the caucus would most likely not vote for us on the floor of Parliament,” he says.
Even before Mr Basalirwa made the declaration, Mr Mugema, alias Panadol, had already declared that the Kadaga team would defy CEC if it went against their candidate.
“Should they make a bogus decision, we too shall make a bogus decision. The action will be radical. We shall ask her to come as an Independent candidate,” Mr Mugema said.
However, Prof Sabiiti Makara, who teaches Political Science at Makerere University, says Ms Kadaga would be courting trouble if she took such a direction.
“Standing as an Independent candidate can be tricky. It might not favour her because the party might swing in with a lot of anti-Kadaga sentiments. They will say she has left the party even when she is a member of CEC” Prof Makara says.
Prof Makara argues that the NRM would be affected if Ms Kadaga contests as an Independent candidate.
“If a scenario of Kadaga standing as an independent ever arose, it would hit the NRM in some way. There are people in the NRM who want her back. If they vote her and she wins as an Independent candidate, it means the NRM has lost in some way,” Prof Makara said in a previous interview.
He says it would have been best if CEC had let the two to contest tomorrow.
“Zeroing in on one of the candidates would have been necessary if there was any risk of an Opposition candidate taking the chair, but that is highly unlikely,” Prof Makara says.
Opposition candidates for the post of Speaker are Kiira Municipality MP (FDC), Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC), and Mr Richard Ssebamala of the Democratic Party. Mr Ssebamala is a first-time MP, whose claim to fame is tied to having beaten Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi to the Bukoto Central seat. The two are, however, not considered to be factors in the race.
Mr Basalirwa also warned the NRM against trying to block Ms Kadaga. He said her supporters just might turn into spoilers.
“Even if Ms Kadaga doesn’t contest, there is no guarantee that her supporters will support the remaining NRM candidate. Her supporters will most likely rally behind Mr Ssemujju,” Ms Basalirwa warned.
Speakership or nothing
Mr Oulanyah has so far indicated that he will be okay with serving as a backbencher if he loses the battle for the post of Speaker.
“I was elected to be a Member of Parliament for Omoro County for the next five years. Anything else is a bonus,” he told journalist soon after he was sworn as an MP of the 11th Parliament.
He first expressed similar sentiments during a July 20, 2020 meeting that was convened by President Museveni at State House Entebbe. Mr Museveni had convened the meeting for purposes of mending fences between him and Ms Kadaga.
The meeting was convened amid allegations by Ms Kadaga that Mr Oulanyah had ganged up with others, including former ministers Isaac Musumba and Moses Kizige to prop up candidates against her in both Kamuli and in the party where she had come under challenge by former State minister for Lands, Ms Persis Namuganza, for the post of 2nd National Vice Chairperson (Female) of the NRM party.
That would suggest that Mr Oulanyah would accept any decision reached by either CEC or the NRM parliamentary caucus.
Ms Kadaga has on the other hand always maintained that it is either the Speakership or nothing. The first indicator of her line of thinking came on January 23 when she appeared on the political radio talk show, Capital Gang.
“Don’t worry! Come May I will be Speaker,” she said.
Again while addressing members of the Busoga Parliamentary Group on March 28, Ms Kadaga said she would never accept to be Mr Museveni’s deputy because she would have no real power or authority.
“Those who are proposing that I become the Vice President, let that position be given to others. There are many things we have achieved because of that chair (Speaker)…Being a Vice President, you deputise another person. Here, I head an arm of government. That is the difference,” she said.
It should, therefore, comes as no surprise if she contests tomorrow’s election as an Independent candidate.
Regional groupings meet
Even as the CEC meeting was going on, regional groups and national campaign teams aligned to the two camps were meeting in diverse parts of Kampala.
According to Mr Maurice Kibalya, who is one of the leaders of Ms Kadaga’s campaign team, the group, which had held meetings of its regional campaign teams earlier in the day at its tactical headquarters in Ntinda, reconvened late in the evening as it awaited news of the decision of CEC.
Legislators from the Acholi Parliamentary Group and a few elders gathered at Luzira in Kampala at the home of the outgoing Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Mr Hilary Onek, for a luncheon at which they later discussed unity and leadership in the sub-region.
Sunday Monitor learnt that the idea of the regional grouping throwing its weight behind Mr Oulanyah was brought up by the MP (Ind) Bardege and Layigbi Division in Gulu Municipality, Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, but that it was quickly shot down by his Kilak South counterpart, Mr Gilbert Olanya.
“There is a very short time. The NRM MPs have one night to make a decision and the Opposition will also have one night after tomorrow to make the decision. Let us not go into that,” Mr Olanya reportedly said. The meeting agreed with him.
Mr Olanya, who does not support Mr Oulanyah’s bid, confirmed having opposed the idea.
The luncheon meeting, however, lent credence to earlier information received by Sunday Monitor that Mr Oulanyah’s camp, just like that of Ms Kadaga, which had earlier held similar meetings of its own, had their eyes on the vote in Parliament on Monday.
“We are not looking at what is going to take place in Entebbe (CEC meeting) or what is going to take place in the NRM Caucus. Our focus is on the main event on Monday. We are, therefore, going to solicit support from those who will be attending the Monday meeting in Parliament,” the source said.
What they say...
Asuman Basalirwa, Bugiri Mun. MP.
The decisive battle will be fought on the floor of Parliament. That has been decided. We decided so because our support outside CEC is too big to be subdued at that level. Nobody should deceive you that it is a battle to end in Entebbe. It must end on the floor of Parliament.
Peter Mugema, Iganga Mun MP
Should they [CEC]make a bogus decision, we too shall make a bogus decision. The action will be radical. We shall ask her to come as an Independent candidate.
Sabiti Makara, Political Science don.
If a scenario of Kadaga standing as an Independent ever arose, it would hit the NRM in some way. There are people in the NRM who want her back. If they vote her and she wins as an Independent candidate, it means the NRM has lost in some way.”
Additional reporting by Derrick Kiyonga and Joel Mukisa.