More than a year after he was last seen in Parliament, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah returned to the House yesterday.
Mr Oulanyah, who is also the Omoro County MP, had not presided over the House since January 31, 2020.
Following news that Mr Oulanyah was to chair the Parliamentary session yesterday, members of the media set up their equipment and took positions in the House ahead of time due to the Deputy Speaker’s strict rule on time keeping.
Lawmakers and Parliamentary staff also seemed anxious about Mr Oulanyah’s return to the House.
About seven minutes past the hour, Mr Oulanyah, who was accompanied by two male clerks, which is unusual for him, walked into Parliament and started the session which lasted only 32 minutes.
After some brief welcome remarks, Mr Oulanyah said it would not be “human” to proceed with the sitting while Speaker Kadaga was away in Kamuli District sending off her niece Sheila Alitwala Kadaga, who passed away on Sunday.
He only gave guidance on the statement by the leader of Opposition about the Budget and adjourned the House to this morning at 11am.
Honourable members I welcome you to this sitting. I will start by wishing you all a happy new year. I did not have the opportunity to do that. So, happy New Year and I hope this year brings you more blessings than before, and that is our prayer.
I had almost forgotten what this place looks like; the number of chairs. But somehow it looks almost the same, except there is too much light.
I was called yesterday after 4pm that I needed to come to the House to preside.
I was called by my principal private secretary and he asked me whether I was going to come and I said ‘yes I am going to come because that is my duty as a Deputy Speaker in the absence of the Speaker I preside’.
But when the reason for my coming to the chair was stated to me, I felt like I was between a hard place and a rock because this is an emotionally difficult situation and it is in that situation, that I have been asked to step in.
So there was a bit of discomfort in the way it had come but they say opportunities come but they come with so many complications.
This is one of them because as I speak here, an emotional situation is happening in the House and family of Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of this House.
She lost her niece, Sheila Alitwala Kadaga, who passed on the 28th (February).
As I speak now, the process of burial is ongoing. It makes me start thinking about what do I do with the House? I should have been there but I have also been called to come here. It is one of those difficult situations to balance.
But as I have been reading lately, I came across one of the famous books in the Bible. It is Ecclesiastics 3:1 and I will ask you to bear with me; I will take it to verse 13. (Reads the Bible): “As human beings we do have situations that are sometimes painful. Sometimes it gives us ease and sometimes leaves us unease”.
Such a moment is like this one. As you are aware I have not been in this House for some time and I come now at a time like this. I am a human being and one of the things that I still have is something we call emotional intelligence.
The spirit of obuntu (humanity), I am here today because you are, also because I am. And we share in that spirit. Your pain is my pain, my toil is yours. This is the power of human collection that binds all of us and if we apply them, we celebrate in our lives.
From the moment I was asked to come and chair this House, there have been a lot of comments on social media and I have read some of them. And the fundamental question they kept asking was: ‘what is he going to do in this situation?’ and my answer is simple. I will do what I have always done in situations like this.
You will recall that when the Hon Ronald Kibuule lost his twins, I sat in the chamber and adjourned Parliament to allow us to all go and stand with him. That is how I did it.
The situation may not be different now. Madam Speaker has lost her dear one, and the burial is ongoing. I can only do what I have always done in situations like this. We will not be able to proceed with today’s sitting in solidarity with the Speaker and the family that has lost the dear one.
Those of us who can still make it to Kamuli, I think this is the moment to go there and stand with the family. I will at this moment ask all of us to stand for a moment of silence.
I am doing this because even if it was the last opportunity given to me to preside in the tenth Parliament, it was an opportunity.
What they say
Jonathan Odur, Erute South (representing Leader of Opposition)
Mr Speaker we missed three occasions to congratulate you, first of all on your election as a member of the National Executive Committee as vice chairperson of NRM for northern Uganda, we want to congratulate you on that win. We also missed the opportunity to congratulate you for winning the flag for Omoro unopposed and subsequently, we missed the opportunity to congratulate you for being re-elected as MP for Omoro County.
Alioni Yorke Odria (Aringa South)
I want to thank the God-send angel, Hon Margaret Baba Diri who raised a very important question yesterday about where you have been.
We the silent majority have been praying for you and we are still praying for you. I want to thank you for the guidance you have given this afternoon about Bills.
It is true that these Bills can be handled within a day or two but the way they appeared on the Order Paper, it may take us a week or two.
Ruth Nankabirwa (Govt Chief Whip)
I want to begin by apologizing for coming in late. But I informed you sir that there is a special Cabinet meeting at State House where ministers are considering the budget.
I want to thank the leader of Opposition, who congratulated you and I think it is just proper for a voice to come from the government side and from the government caucus to sincerely congratulate you and thank you for delivering NRM victory in that region.