Speaker race: Kadaga, Oulanyah moment of truth

In this photo, the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah, all of the 10th parliament are seen during past legislative plenaries. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • As NRM’s CEC sits on May 22 to resolve the deadlock, the Oulanyah camp insists it is about time his loyalty to the party is repaid, while the Kadaga team claim she is the independent voice the 11th Parliament needs.

There has been controversy on whether the decision to front for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Uganda’s 11th Parliament will be made by ruling NRM party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) or will be thrown to the NRM Parliamentary Caucus.

The two-horse race for stewardship of the House pits outgoing Speaker Rebecca Kadaga against her former deputy Jacob Oulanyah.

But as the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party apex organ, CEC, holds next-to-last meeting today to resolve the deadlock, the Oulanyah camp insists it is about time his loyalty to the NRM is repaid, while the Kadaga team claim the outgoing Speaker is an independent voice that the 11th Parliament needs. 

The second option would be to set off the two camps against one another and make the ruling party MPs caucus vote their preferred candidate to resolve this contentious issue tomorrow.

It is this tough binary opposition that CEC has to mull over and decide today – whether to pick Ms Kadaga and prolong the status quo, or elevate Mr Oulanyah and introduce fresh blood and unwavering allegiance to NRM leadership of Parliament.

Those who favour Ms Kadaga say it should be the party MPs caucus to decide, while those who favour Mr Oulanyah say there is no problem with CEC taking the decision as it has done in the past. 

In trying to sidestep CEC in this process, Ms Kadaga’s team have argued for a while that CEC, which is the top policy organ of the NRM party, could not decide on the matter because the terms of some of its members had expired. But when CEC met on Monday, curing this problem was top on its agenda, with the organ electing to extend the expired terms by six months.

Those who attended the CEC meeting say Ms Kadaga cut an isolated figure, being the last to arrive and first to leave the meeting. 

When Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, the NRM vice chairperson for Buganda region and a CEC member, appeared on a talk show on NBS television on Tuesday, he let the viewers into some of the things he said had transpired in CEC the previous day.

Mr Kiwanda emphasised that it is the duty of CEC to provide candidates for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker jobs, and that that is what they will do when they meet today. 

Mr Kiwanda underlined his assertion, saying CEC has traditionally provided one name per position for the party MPs caucus to consider and will likely do the same this time. After making its decisions today, Mr Kiwanda said the top organ will then meet with the NRM Parliamentary Caucus tomorrow to present its report to the MPs. 

Whereas there may be objections to what CEC presents to the caucus, Mr Kiwanda said, it has historically been the case that the CEC position is upheld. 

Separate conversations with CEC members and other party members for this story indicate that Ms Kadaga is headed for a difficult day before CEC. 

Video and audio recordings of statements she has made that are critical of the President and CEC, sources told Saturday Monitor, have been gathered and will be played back during the meeting to back up the allegation that she is not loyal to the party.   

On the NBS Television show cited above, there were two NRM MPs – Bugabula South’s Maurice Kibalya, a staunch supporter and defender of Ms Kadaga, on the one hand, and Kasambya MP David Kabanda, a steadfast supporter of Mr Oulanyah, on the other hand. Both MPs reacted to Mr Kiwanda’s submissions differently. 

Outgoing Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga speaks to journalists after picking up documents for the Speaker race from the NRM electoral commission offices in Kampala on May 18. PHOTO/FILE

Mr Kibalya sought to paint the picture that CEC does not matter in the equation for this race, while Mr Kabanda urged CEC to stand up and seize its mandate and provide and exercise political leadership in the party and country as mandated in the NRM constitution as amended in June 2010.

Mr Kibalya said there is no way CEC would vet Ms Kadaga out of the race because being the incumbent means she is qualified and has to be the first on the list. He said, however, that his camp’s preferred position is that CEC forwards all the names of qualified candidates to the party MPs caucus for a vote. 

On his part, Mr Kabanda said his camp has no problem with the party MPs caucus taking the decision on who the NRM fronts for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker jobs. 

But he hastened to add that should that departure from the norm happen, then CEC should abdicate its mandate and equally refrain from taking all decisions that had been its preserve and had taken in the past regarding the leadership of Parliament. 

The decisions include selecting NRM members to lead committees and act as Commissioners in the House. 
Mr Kabanda said all these should then be left to the party MPs caucus to determine as CEC recedes into the background as a toothless dog. 

What is to be deduced from the way Mr Oulanyah has conducted his campaign is that he has played the loyal NRM cadre with a sense of duty and respect, always sticking to the party rules. 

Although he has strongly expressed his desire to be Speaker, Mr Oulanyah has held back on a number of things and has not conducted an aggressive public campaign the way Ms Kadaga has done. 

He has largely trusted that his party will decide the race in his favour, because he says there is consensus within the party ranks that now is his time to be Speaker.

When the outgoing Deputy Speaker appeared at the NRM headquarters to express interest in the Speaker position yesterday, he was bullish in response to a question on what he would do should CEC again ask him to let Ms Kadaga continue. 

Mr Oulanyah said: “No, they cannot ask me to step down. Step down and do what? That would be very unreasonable and when there are unreasonable situations, you respond appropriately. To step down for Kadaga, that would be the greatest insult in my life. And you know how people respond when they have been insulted. I cannot say this is what I am going to do but I would be overly insulted.”

After a big fallout in 2016, Mr Oulanyah was asked by CEC to let Ms Kadaga serve for a second term, which she herself said would be her last. 

Mr Oulanyah is expected to ask the top organ of his party to make Ms Kadaga stick to her promise.  

Outgoing Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah (2nd left) enjoys a ride from a supporter after picking up documents expressing interest to contest for Speaker of the 11th Parliament at the NRM  electoral commission offices in Kampala on May 21. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI. 


In the past term, much like before, Ms Kadaga has not shied away from rocking the party as and when she has deemed it necessary. To kick off the charge that she has gone back on her promise to serve 10 years as Speaker and then move on, Ms Kadaga has pointed out to unkept promises that Mr Museveni has also made to leave power in the past and gone back on his word. 

Ms Kadaga is not in the least worried of any backlash to aim a salvo at the party supremo if that is what serves her in a given situation.

Support from the Opposition 
Ms Kadaga has also attracted the support of many Opposition MPs, for which NRM stalwarts accuse her of being an Opposition Speaker. Even within the NRM party, she seems to have her support from mostly nonconformist members. For instance, Mr Kibalya, who represented her camp on the NBS show, voted against the lifting of lower and upper age limits for the president in 2017, which the NRM stalwarts considered to be betrayal.

On Thursday evening, there was another talk show on NBS television at which Ms Kadaga’s team was represented by Buyaga County MP Barnabas Tinkasimire, a maverick NRM member who has often defied party positions and also voted against the lifting of age limits and has in the past been dubbed a ‘rebel’ NRM MP. His Lwemiyaga counterpart Theodore Sekikubo, a fellow ‘rebel’ MP, has also appeared on a number of talk shows voicing support for Ms Kadaga. 

The picture that emerges is that Ms Kadaga has moved to create a power centre of her own within the ruling NRM party that doesn’t necessarily feed off Mr Museveni and challenges orthodox party positions without consequences. 

However, Mr Oulanyah and his dutiful camp is all out to break this tendency and are hopeful they will grab the spoils of the crackdown.

It is this headache that Mr Museveni and his CEC team will have to think out and make a solution to calm. 

This leaves Mr Museveni with an arduous and unenviable task as NRM party supremo, chief spokesperson and also chairperson of National Executive Committee (NEC) to settle. Will Mr Museveni, to avoid schism and any adverse criticisms in the NRM party from the likely fallout from the race, rather pass the buck to the NRM Parliamentary Caucus, or be the General he is and take the bull by the horns and weather out the consequences?

Earlier, when the Speakership race hotted up in March, putting on a collision course the two NRM stalwarts - Ms Kadaga and Mr Oulanyah, President Museveni moved to calm the emotions. He declared that the party’s CEC would be the arbiter of the conflict for the coveted position.  Mr Museveni’s decision then swung the pendulum in favour of Mr Oulanyah since it is believed the majority of the current CEC members back him.

Independent observers and sources within the NRM say Ms Kadaga’s support within the party’s apex organ seem negligible and more inclined to Mr Oulanyah. Perhaps this explains why Ms Kadaga is often quick to go on the offensive and dismiss any suggestion that it would be CEC to decide her fate in the race. 

As early as March, during a parliamentary sitting as the fight over the speakership gained momentum, Ms Kadaga warned: “I don’t think CEC has a right to bind a future Parliament before they are even elected. That is undemocratic, totally undemocratic. Stop talking about CEC here, we are talking about issues of the House…. Secondly, CEC last sat during the primaries, so stop issues of CEC.” 

Again on Wednesday when Ms Kadaga made her way to the NRM headquarters to express interest in the position of the Speaker of Parliament, she once more shook off her gloves and aimed more jabs at CEC. “I said it will be undemocratic for the Central Executive Committee to sit five years early and say that in five years’ time, so and so will be our speaker. Why don’t we do that for the President? Every five years he comes and says there is an election. What do we do? You can’t determine, even in Kamuli [district], they cannot determine that [in five years so and so will be MP],” the Kamuli Woman MP said. 

“So you can’t come and say for us [CEC] we decided on the speakership five years ago. Are you deciding for us like the way cattle are herded?” she added.

Although she has been speaking unfavourably about CEC, when Mr Oulanyah challenged her for the speakership in 2016, Ms Kadaga pleaded with the same party organ to back her based on a precedent that had seen Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi serve as Speaker for 10 years. 

“I think the party should be consistent,” Ms Kadaga then argued five years ago. “They were able to give my predecessor 10 years. They shouldn’t change the rules because it is me. They should also be consistent. The President and Vice President are men. The Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice are men.  Where do they want the women to go? We are citizens of this country and we must serve our space and we shall not allow anybody to push us out,” she asserted.

After Ms Kadaga’s outcry, the NRM talked to Mr Oulanyah, who had to eat humble pie and once again run as Deputy Speaker, which he won as he patiently waited for Ms Kadaga’s five years to elapse.  But it is today apparent that seems Ms Kadaga had no intention of keeping her word and this has left many NRM supporters troubled by her attack on CEC.

In her bid to retain the Speaker position, Ms Kadaga’s weakest link seems to be the core supporters of NRM. Some evidence of this can be gleaned from the swearing-in ceremony for the President on May 12, where the attendees reserved some of the loudest applause for her opponent. 

Those we spoke to who want Ms Kadaga out accuse her of highhandedness. One of them cited the case of Mr Chris Obore, the Parliament’s director of communications and public affairs, who at the behest of Ms Kadaga, has for years been put on an indefinite forced leave despite a court injunction against him being removed from office. 

Sources say Ms Kadaga, who was instrumental in hiring Mr Obore and worked with her well at the beginning, fell out with him over undisclosed issues and, according to Mr Obore, ordered his removal from office.     

Mr Obore retreated to Bukedea District in Teso sub-region and was seen campaigning for President Museveni in the last election. Those close to Ms Kadaga say he received a war chest from the NRM to do the campaigning but Mr Obore says he was just volunteering.

Mr Obore refused to be drawn into the campaigns for the Speaker position, but sources say he has used his issues with Ms Kadaga to woo the MPs in Teso against her.  

So it is today that the NRM and country will know whether Ms Kadaga bulldozes way through CEC and the Caucus to another term or Mr Oulanyah gets paid for his loyalty and patient waiting game.

Kadaga clashes with NRM party bigwigs

Ms Kadaga has clashed with a number of big wigs in the party. In the lead up to the Speaker contest in 2016, for instance, she accused Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa of eyeing the Speaker job, alleging that he had been conducting mobilisation sessions in many places, including Busoga. Mr Kutesa, who did not run for Parliament this time, denied this accusation and did not contest for the speakership. 

Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa. PHOTO/ FILE 

During this term, Ms Kadaga also raised eyebrows when she insisted that First Lady Janet Museveni, the minister of Education, personally appears before Parliament to explain a certain issue. The First Lady had on two occasions sent a junior minister, who the Speaker refused to listen to.

On the day the First Lady finally appeared in Parliament as ordered by the Speaker, Ms Kadaga first had a meeting with President Museveni, with the party leader reportedly first seeking assurance that his wife would not be humiliated in the House.   

*Compiled by Derrick Kiyonga, Patience Ahimbisibwe and Joel Mukisa

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