NUP begins search for Leader of Opposition in Parliament

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga (left) shares a light moment with Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze (in white) and other DP block members as they officially joined Bobi Wine’s NUP in Kamwokya, Kampala, in August 2020. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has been providing opposition leadership in parliament for the last 15 years, since the rebirth of multiparty politics in Uganda, due to its numerical strength. But FDC has now been beaten to the trophy by NUP with 61 against 36 MPs.

The National Unity Platform (NUP), a new political party in Uganda emerged as the most dominant opposition party having won 61 parliamentary seats. This effectively means that it’s the party to provide opposition leadership in parliament.

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has been providing opposition leadership in parliament for the last 15 years, since the rebirth of multiparty politics in Uganda, due to its numerical strength. But FDC has now been beaten to the trophy by NUP with 61 against 36 MPs.

Other than the Leader of Opposition, a position provided for under Article 81 of the 1995 Constitution as amended in 2005, there are nine other positions in parliament that NUP is set to take up. These include the Opposition Chief Whip, and leadership of the four accountability committees; the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), Local Government Accounts Committee (LGAC), and Committee on Government Assurances.

All these positions come with budgets that make them attractive and powerful, and now NUP is in the process of identifying who among its members will be chosen as the Leader of the Opposition and those that will take up the other positions.

Four people who are familiar with the discussions in the nascent party told this reporter that there are a lot of calculations currently taking place before the final choices are announced. Although there was a slight chance of defeating Museveni in the general election based on the enthusiasm among the population, one MP said, NUP’s shot at getting closer to power was first becoming the leaders of the opposition.

According to the Administration of Parliament Act, as amended in 2006, the office of the Leader of Opposition is equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister and enjoys such privileges as those that accrue to the Cabinet Minister.

“There is a lot of money under the Leader of Opposition’s office, which we want to use for our political work. Our first assignment is to get that money and use it to fight Museveni,” the MP, who preferred anonymity said.

This perhaps explains why NUP had a candidate for every constituency especially in the Central region where the incumbent was from another opposition political party. Asked whether they will take up the leadership roles in parliament despite insisting that their presidential candidate, Kyagulanyi won the election, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi himself an MP-elect for Nakawa West in Kampala answered in the affirmative.

“Having positions in parliament gives us another platform to agitate for a better country. It actually helps the struggle we are involved in to change leadership in Uganda,” he said. He, however, added that they are now putting a lot of emphasis on trying to build a case about the fraudulent nature of the 2021 general elections.

“MPs take their oath of office in May, we still have to sort out issues relating to the presidential elections because we have irrefutable evidence that the results the Electoral Commission was declaring are different from those we have on our declaration forms,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.  

While meeting part of the 61 MP-elects yesterday, Kyagulanyi rallied them to use their newly-acquired status to continue fighting for a new Uganda. He told them, that their election to parliament shouldn’t be seen as their turn to get rich.
“The people of your constituencies have accredited you and this is when you begin to give that leadership. While they want you to represent them in parliament, they want you to assert the voice of freedom and an end to the dictatorship. You don’t forget the mission,” he said.

Candidates being considered for LOP
This reporter has learnt that there are three people being considered for the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament. The three are Mathias Mpuuga [Nyendo-Mukungwe], Patrick Nsamba Oshabe [Kassanda North] and Medard Lubega Sseggona. However, another person this reporter spoke to included John Baptist Nambeshe.

Of the four MPs under consideration, two; Mpuuga and Sseggona have served in parliament so far for 10 years while the other two; Oshabe and Nambeshe have been in parliament for only five years.   Mpuuga and Nambeshe are Kyagulanyi’s deputies for Buganda and Eastern region respectively hence making them the most senior party members of parliament which gives them an edge over the other two.

The other three leaders in the party who were elected to parliament include; Flavia Kalule Nabagabe [Kassanda woman, Women League chairperson], Joel Ssenyonyi [Spokesperson], and Aisha Kabanda. It's most likely that they will zero down to Mpuuga who seems to be having more advantages than the other three contenders.

Of the four candidates currently under consideration who will not be chosen as the LOP, the source told us, they will automatically scoop one of the four positions of the committee chairperson. When asked about these calculations, Mr Ssenyonyi said this discussion is premature. “We have not had that discussion yet but this doesn’t mean that people are not trying to strategise. Those interested in particular positions have started calling colleagues to try and lobby them to look at them favourably.”
Before going into this year’s elections, NUP had an attachment to at least 16 legislators, among them independents and those who crossed from their respective parties.

These include; Kyagulanyi himself [indep], Francis Zaake, Betty Nambooze [DP], Allan Ssewanyana, Moses Kasibante [Indep], Ssempala Kigozi, Latif Ssebaggala, Joseph Ssewungu, Veronica Nanyondo, Mathias Mpuuga, Florence Namayanja, Patrick Nsamba Oshabe, David Kalwanga, Muwanga Kivumbi, Medard Lubega Sseggona and Robinah Ssentongo [Kyotera woman MP. However, before she died last month she had returned to DP].

Of the 16 MPs who joined NUP, three lost their seats in this month’s election after contesting as independents; they include Kasibante, Ssebaggala and Ssempala, who all lost to NUP candidates.