We did everything humanly possible to save Jacob- Deputy Speaker Among

Mr Jacob Oulanyah waves after handing over office of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament on May 19, 2021. PHOTOS/ DAVID LUBOWA 

The deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has said Speaker Jacob Oulanyah who was Sunday afternoon announced dead has been suffering since May last year.

The Omoro County MP died barely a week before celebrating his 57th birthday.

According to Ms Among, President Museveni tried everything possible to save the Speaker, including flying him to one of the best hospitals in the world but in vain.

“He has been going through this since May last year until today when he passed on. We will dearly miss Jacob. We loved him, he was here for us and in a special way we want to thank the president of Uganda for according Jacob all what he needed and this time when he really needed help, it's the president who made sure Jacob went to one of the best hospitals in the world. If he had anything to do to save Jacob's life, I know the president would have done it,” Ms Among told journalists at parliament on Sunday evening.

During Oulanyah’s tenure as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker he taught MPs tolerance, honesty, adherence to the rules of procedure and appreciated the value of team work.

“He really loved the rules of procedure. Jacob appreciated the value of team work and he held us as a Parliamentary family together. We would always work together as a parliamentary family. We looked forward to so many years of working together with Jacob in the service of this country and for the good of the people of Uganda but Gods will is never our will. My brother Jacob was a very strict time keeper and a God fearing man. That's why the 11th parliament has premised its activities on the guidance of the Almighty God. We did everything humanly possible to ensure that our brother gets the best treatment in this country but God's timing is never our timing,” Ms Among added.

Oulanyah passed on this morning in Seattle, USA where he was receiving treatment after being referred by Mulago National Referral Hospital where he was first admitted.

Mr Oulanyah was last seen in Parliament in December 2021 and by that time, he had only chaired a few sessions including the passing of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Bill, which permitted the mid-term access to members’ savings. He was elected into the speakership position in May 2021.

Flown out of the country

Oulanyah travelled out of the country for treatment on February 4, with reports claiming that the Uganda Airlines Bus A330-800 neo with registration code 5X-NIL was used to fly him to Seattle, Washington in the United States. The journey was estimated to have cost $500,000 (about Shs1.7b).

The Speaker’s journey and admission outraged a section of Ugandans living in the United States who protested against the trip.

The demonstrations later forced some legislators from the Acholi Sub-region on February 9 to hold a press conference within the confines of Parliament to condemn the diaspora actions. The legislators even offered to refund the Shs1.7b.

The Omoro County MP (Omoro District) was elected Speaker on May 24, 2021, after defeating the former Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. He served as Deputy Speaker of Parliament from May 2011 until May 2021.

Oulanyah was born in the then Gulu District, on March 23, 1965 to Nathan L'okori and Karen Atwon. He attended St. Joseph's College Layibi, Dr Obote College Boroboro, and Kololo Senior Secondary School for his O-Level and A-Level education.

In 1988, he joined Makerere University, the oldest university in the East African Community, where he studied agricultural economics. He graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in that subject before he entered law school at Makerere University and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He served as speaker of the university students' guild during his stay at Makerere. In 1995, he attended the Law Development Centre (LDC), where he obtained a postgraduate diploma in legal practice.

Following his graduation from the LDC, Oulanyah worked as a lecturer at the centre. During the same timeframe, he began private law practice at the law firm of Oulanyah, Onoria & Company Advocates.

Joins politics

In 2001, he entered politics by successfully contesting for the parliamentary seat of Omoro County, in the then Gulu District under the no-party system also known as the Movement Political System. He was however a cardholder of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC). He also participated in the peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army rebels. In 2006, standing as a UPC candidate, he lost his re-election bid. In July 2006, he quit the UPC and joined the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

In 2008 he served as the chairman of the commission of inquiry into the controversial sub-lease of Kisekka Market, one of the municipal markets in the city of Kampala. In March 2011, Oulanyah was elected to represent Omoro County then in Gulu District, in the Ninth Parliament, this time on the NRM ticket. He was elected as Deputy Speaker of Parliament on May 19, 2011.

Following the February 2016 general election, Oulanyah was re-elected as Deputy Speaker of Parliament on May 19, 2016. In the vote conducted by secret ballot, he received 300 votes, while Muhammad Nsereko received 115. On July 13, 2019, Oulanyah was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Zoe Life Theological College USA and acquired the title, Doctor enabling him be called Rt. Hon. Dr. Jacob L. Oulanyah.

On May 24, 2021, Jacob Oulanyah was voted Speaker of Parliament in a race against his former boss, Kadaga and Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemujju. Jacob obtained 310 votes against Kadaga's 197 and Ssemujju's 15.