The fate of Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga as Speaker to be or not to be of the incoming parliament has become a big point of contention in the country’s body politic once again as the swearing in of the next parliament due to take place in May draws near.
Given the importance of the Speakership position not only as the Head of the country’s legislature but also an office that puts one close in the line of succession, everything is at stake for whoever takes it and various interest groups are scheming day and night for it.
Like was the case in 2016 where a tough battle for the Speakership ensued, the main contenders for the hot seat are Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga and Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanya with FDC’s Hon. Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda declared his candidacy too although he is the dark horse in the race.
The ruling National Resistance Movement Party holds a very strong majority in the incoming parliament already. Hon. Nganda, an FDC member of a party known to have genuine bad blood with NRM hardly stands a chance of getting their support and therefore will not be Speaker of the 11th Parliament unless the Heavens personally intervene!
However the question still unanswered in many inquisitive minds is why has he stepped up to contest? The most probable logical answer is his candidacy will be a good bargaining chip as the powers that be do the back room deal making on who walks away with what when it comes to sharing the juicy positions in this new parliament.
Enter NRM’s internal battles
In 2016, it took the intervention of the NRM’s Central Executive Committee to convince Jacob Oulanyah to step down for Rebecca Kadaga. No sooner was Kadaga confirmed as speaker than she demonstrated why even some opposition MPs had faith in her.
Her sense of balance while handling house business giving the opposition and minority space to take part in deliberations and going hard on the government side when key national issues come up including regularly passing resolutions to condemn barbaric acts of government like misuse of public funds, the chaos around soldiers manning our landing sites and fishing activities, the Isimba bridge scandal and many others endeared her more to the public and opposition.
This left many who believe her job as Speaker was to pull strings in favour of the ruling party and always cover their dirt when they were wrong angry, especially when she took tough stances on government blunders which play out in broad daylight for all to see. As a result there seems to be a quiet behind the scenes power which many call the ‘mafia’ that has emerged and wants her out of the Speakership at all costs.
Her growing popularity during the last parliament that showed it’s only the President who scored above her nationally according to various opinion polls left the ‘mafia’ worried. The issue that gives them sleepless nights is God forbid anything happens to his Excellency the President and Rt. Hon Kadaga is chosen to replace him, many of them see their grand corruption and influence peddling schemes buried there and then. This possibility they have to fight with all their might and resources given she is likely not to be as tolerant as the President of their dirty manoeuvres.
Enter 2021 and Busoga politics
By 2020 Kadaga’s enemies within the ruling party had already launched a grand plan to not only get her out of NRM’s Central Executive Committee where she sits as second National Vice Chair Person but also push her out of Parliament and the Speakership.
As words started to be traded with open antagonism from the likes of the party’s chief whip urging members not to give her their support to some really uncouth remarks from her competitor, a novice if I may say, for the position of second National Vice Chairperson, she remained steadfast and beat the competition pants down even though it looked like all stops were being pulled to stop her re-election including lots of money changing hands.
Even at the polls for Members of parliament in the January 14th elections a formidable competitor in Hon. Salam Musumba was fronted to try and take down Kadaga all ending in futility and embarrassment for the financiers and schemers of the ‘take down Kadaga project.’ After coming through all these do or die battles with well facilitated rivals pushed by some quiet powers, I can confidently assert Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga has 9 political lives and it seems she is just getting started.
The Speakership battle and post election politics
The group behind the manoeuvres to get Kadaga out of NRM’s top leadership and parliament as well has not relented even after failing miserably in NRM and the parliamentary elections, instead they have gotten more bold now, armed with more financial resources and verbal artillery, the battle has now moved to the Speakership.
Her main competitor for the position of Speakership, Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanyah who has been her Deputy since 2011 is seen to be more bent on pleasing the ruling party and more willing to bend the rules to make sure the interests of the powers that be go unchecked.
Beyond that, those pushing for Oulanyah to replace Kadaga keep referring to an undocumented agreement that she was supposed to hold the office for 10 years and hand over to her Deputy as part of the pact that got her elected to the Speakership the last time round. While they may be right, as a party the NRM doesn’t have any moral authority in regard to term limits given the MPs already have non and the President had his removed too. They have also made a name as a party for hardly keeping any promise as an entity!
Second reason this group is fronting Oulanyah as the perfect candidate for the Speakership is putting out there is the fact that unlike Rebecca Kadaga’s Busoga region where the vote was split almost into half by the NRM and NUP at both Presidential and Parliamentary level, in the greater North the NRM almost had a clean sweep. As a result this group says Oulanyah outperformed Kadaga as a mobiliser and therefore deserves to be elevated while Kadaga is punished.
However when this shallow theory is interrogated to the marrow, the factors that led to NRM’s lacklustre performance in Busoga are beyond Kadaga’s control. Issues like the ill treatment and sometimes brutal killing of fishermen in Busoga’s fishing areas by the military and the very low prices sugarcane producers are paid by the sugar factory owners are things she has raised and tried to solve only to be frustrated by the system. That is the very reason the people in Busoga uphold her and are steadily looking away from her NRM party which she personally reminded of the fact that they haven’t had a big road infrastructure project in her sub region for all their 35 years in power. And looking beyond her, we shouldn’t forget that NRM’s Secretary General also hails from the same region but couldn’t do anything about the slide as well.
Things are a little different in the North where a number of key road projects have been completed in the past few years, electricity has been extended to some towns there and the commodities trade boom between Uganda and South Sudan has left the lives of people there somewhat better all of which could have played into NRM’s good performance there. The above factors I am certain have nothing to do with Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanyah’s mobilisation work as many in his camp are trying to portray things.
A lot of dirty work seems to be going underground as MPs are already being approached by one camp with money and big promises to ensure their person is elected Speaker come rain or shine. This has gotten so low that a lot of cheap propaganda is going around trying to tag one side to non-existent scandals and whatever form of negative publicity can be thrown at them. The ugly bit is the more they try, the more a number of sober minded Members of Parliament see straight through it and the general public grows more resentful of this group.
How will it play out?
In the likelihood that the speakership contest is between Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga and Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanyah with Oulanyah being backed albeit unofficially by the ruling party is put to an open vote in Parliament, I see the opposition, independents and right thinking NRM MPs still making a majority letting Kadaga through. Unless CEC intervenes to let Oulanyah have his way I don’t see him becoming Speaker of this incoming parliament. The reason CEC is likely to intervene to have the status quo remain is the party has already ruffled enough feathers and at a time when they want to look good before the international community, maintain some hold on the people of Busoga, women leaders and the general public, Kadaga is the ideal choice.
In any case if she is pushed aside, NRM’s problems in Busoga are most likely to be multiplied given the region already feels somewhat alienated from the national cake. On the other side whether Oulanyah is Speaker, Deputy Speaker or none of the above, the likely impact on NRM’s prospects in his home region are negligible.
Pushing Kadaga aside is also an unwise decision for the post President Museveni NRM era that draws closer by the day given there is hardly a leader with the kind of appeal the Speaker holds across board within NRM besides the President.
All said and done the status quo is most likely going to remain the same with Rebecca Kadaga and Jacob Oulanyah returning as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of parliament in the incoming parliament in spite of the powerful interest groups that want Kadaga out.
The Author is a Senior Analyst at Consulting Firm Brothers Intelligence LLC
Email: [email protected]