What you need to know:
- Political analysts contend that the open fight between the young and old guard over the direction of the country is an outcome of unresolved succession questions.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament has asked the political old guard not to hold Ugandans hostage for sacrifices they made in the 1980s to liberate the country, arguing that problems confronting citizens today cannot be solved using bygone methods.
In a no-holds-barred speech, Mr Thomas Tayebwa noted that elders hold positions of honour in society, but it is fallacious and ironical for some to presume that Young Turks in national leadership, who are better educated than most in the older generation, are inexperienced and incapable to run state affairs.
“I have a Parliament where I have very young people with PhD degrees, I have a Parliament of people with Master’s degrees and you say they cannot manage Uganda when you had people who had not gone to school taking over power [by the gun] and managing a country! And we just take [the condescension] lying low?” he said, calling for mutual inter-generational respect.
The Deputy Speaker made the comments on Wednesday evening when he officiated at the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)-run Uganda National Journalism Awards ceremony at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.
Ms Rachael Akidi, the head of East Africa at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service, delivered the keynote address in which she exhorted journalists to constantly upskill to reinvent themselves professionally in a rapidly changing media scape powered by technological advances and pursue stories of depth and uncover the truth.
In his speech, Mr Tayebwa said: “If you are a revolutionary and you fought [in the bush war], if you are a senior leader, we bow for you [and] give you your respect. But once we [the young] are given a chance to serve, don’t bring us down. Support us, advise us. We might be young, we might be excited and make some mistakes, but advise us. But [you] declare … that we are [Parliament is] dead!”
The 42-year-old Deputy Speaker, while at Mestil Hotel, did not name the historical he accused of assailing Parliament.
He through spokesman Alex Esagala, however, confirmed to this publication last night this was a rejoinder to last week’s comments by Internal Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire, a retired major general of the National Resistance Army war that brought President Museveni to power 36 years ago. The minister, whom we were unable to reach yesterday, said he no longer attends parliamentary proceedings due to limited time allocated to members to contribute on the floor.
Speaking last week at the 26th Police Council meeting at the Force headquarters in Naguru, a Kampala suburb, Maj Gen Otafiire decried the balkanisation of Uganda into unviable districts and constituencies due to pressure from voters who threaten not to vote for President Museveni if denied their own administrative units.
As a result of the government doing “things that don’t make sense”, the minister argued that there are now too many Members of Parliament - 529 - and each is limited to speak in the chamber on any matter for only three minutes, down from 15 minutes in the predecessor Houses.
“What can someone say in three minutes? I haven’t told you what I wanted to tell [you], and I have spoken for longer than three minutes! What can someone say in three minutes?” he asked in his address to senior police officers.
Besides being the largest in Uganda’s history, the 11th Parliament is also the youngest, with a mean age of 46.9, according to information on the website of the Inter–Parliamentary Union which provides data on national parliaments. Its youngest member is 25-year-old Kassanda South representative, Mr Frank Kabuye, and the oldest is Second Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali, aged 83.
From when Jacob Oulanya died in March, this year, aged 56, the leadership of the House shifted to the hands of relatively younger leaders; 49-year-old Speaker Anita Among and 42-year-old Deputy Speaker Tayebwa.
This change of guard, Mr Tayebwa argued on Wednesday, should not be used as a basis to undermine Parliament, its members or leaders because some of the historical members of NRM chiding the House are beneficiaries of the creation of new constituencies.
Minister Otafiire was in 2016 defeated by Mr Donozio Kahonda for the Ruhinda seat, but the constituency was in the run up to the last election split into Ruhinda and Ruhinda South, enabling Maj Gen Otafiire to win and return to Parliament when Mr Kahonda opted to stand in Ruhinda South which he presently represents.
Both the minister and the deputy Speaker, who is MP for Ruhinda North constituency, hail from Mitooma District in western Uganda which was carved out of Bushenyi District and it remained unclear whether their current shadowing boxing has roots at home or elsewhere.
“I have seen there is also a certain group going around to shape a certain narrative by questioning maybe the young people who have been given responsibility. I saw some of the very senior leaders like in Parliament questioning the size of Parliament yet they are the recent beneficiaries of those small constituencies,” Mr Tayebwa said.
Some of the people like himself strive from a position of “no advantage”, he said, but when you advance “you find someone behaving as if you should first have sought their permission to reach where you have reached”.
“I have seen some of the senior leaders, especially in my party, the NRM, trying to question the new comers, the young people, [and] issues of ideology. Ugandans are facing very serious problems. The biggest crisis we are facing as a country is not the ideology of political parties,” he said.
He added: “It’s a question of unemployment, it is a question of rising costs of food, rising costs of living and it cannot be solved by ideology. It cannot be solved by going to [the National Leadership Institute] Kyankwanzi for training. No way.”
Nali, the acronym for the institute, is a favoured destination for a retreat for government leaders including ministers and ruling party adherents who undergo basic military drills and are taught the underpinning philosophy of NRM to realign their thoughts and beliefs in delivery of public service.
The tango between the Young Turks and old guard is not new, but has recently bubbled to the surface after First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a serving UPDF military general, used his twitter handle to announce that the younger generation was primed to take state power.
About a fortnight ago, he tweeted that the ruling NRM had digressed from its original course, prompting concurrence by four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, who fell out with President Museveni after making similar claims in a scathing dossier way back in 1999.
Political analysts contend that the open fight between the young and old over the leadership and direction of the country is an outcome of unresolved succession questions, with charged Young Turks feeling bottled up by elders unwilling to make way.
Asked about the Deputy Speaker’s diatribe yesterday, Mr Rogers Mulindwa, the deputy spokesperson of the NRM Secretariat, said he was unaware of senior party leaders who were either criticising or undermining the Young Turks.
“If there are any party leaders criticising Parliament because they are young, then I would join the deputy Speaker because it is the current government that removed the age limit and now why would they be coming up with such criticism? The party is ready to model new leaders and the young generation has to get involved,” he said, referring to the 2017 scrapping of the presidential age limit.