In an unprecedented act, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on Tuesday sat through Parliament’s plenary sitting – not in the capacity of the Speaker but as an ordinary MP who wanted to contribute to the day’s proceedings.
From a strategic front bench seat, Oulanyah tried several times to “catch the eye of the chair” but every time he stood up, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ignored him and as she adjourned the House for the lunch break, she signaled Oulanyah to go to her chambers.
Oulanyah’s presence was to protest a motion that Parliament passed on May 7, 2020, expressing displeasure against himself and President Yoweri Museveni.
The motion was moved by Kira Municipality MP, also Chief Opposition Whip, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda. While Ssemujju targeted Museveni who had angered Parliament by his April 28, 2020, during a televised speech to update the country on Covid-19, Bugabula South MP, Maurice Kibalya moved an amendment to the motion and included Oulanyah for acting against Kadaga’s guidance to MPs on the management of the Shs 20 million that each MP had received for their individual Covid-19 initiatives.
This, Oulanyah says, was irregular since the original motion and the amendment violated the parliamentary Rules of Procedure.
“The motion which was discussed was not on the order paper… it was an informal motion; brought without notice. How do you discuss the Head of State based on an informal motion, and then, you bring in an amendment to it to discuss the character of the Deputy Speaker,” Oulanyah said.
The Omoro MP argued that Ssemujju needed to move his motion under Rule 106 while Kibalya’s amendment would only be permissible if moved under Rule 107.
Oulanyah immediately walked out of the Parliamentary sitting the moment Kadaga announced that Kibalya’s amendment had been expunged from the record of Parliament.
During press interviews, Oulanyah claimed that Kadaga’s announcement had got him sorted, but the feud between the two principals at Parliament is far from over.
“It’s created…it’s always been,” Bishop Zac Niringiye, the former Kampala assistant Bishop of the Church of Uganda told The Witness. “It was bound to come into the public domain; it’s the way Museveni systems work.”
NEBANDA, REBEL MPs
The Kadaga–Oulanyah feud can be traced from as far back as 2011 when they assumed their respective offices for the first time although it became more visible in 2013 when Oulanyah was hosted on a Kfm radio talk-show and accused Kadaga of setting him up to oversee debate on controversial bills.
One such bill was Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production), which was passed in November 2012, as well as the Public Order Management Bill, which was passed in August 2013.
Oulanyah steered the House to pass the Public Order Management law, four months after Kadaga had angered President Yoweri Museveni when she overturned the decision by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling NRM to expel four MPs; Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central).
The quartet was supposed to vacate their parliamentary seats after the CEC endorsed a recommendation by the NRM disciplinary committee to expel them from the party.
In the CEC meeting, Kadaga was a loyal NRM leader, but once at Parliament, she saw herself as the head of an independent legislature and therefore cushioned the ‘rebel MPs’ against the NRM onslaught.
In siding with the ‘rebel MPs,’ Kadaga opened a new battlefront with Museveni whim she had annoyed when she pitted Parliament against the state following the mysterious death of former Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda.
Oulanyah on the other hand positioned himself as a darling to the ruling establishment that sometimes, during the 9th Parliament, the executive preferred to take to Parliament some of its proposals when he was in the chair.
Oulanyah was looking ahead to the 2016 Speakership race which only served to exacerbate his relations with Kadaga, and, what followed was for the Speaker to overturn rulings made her deputy.
For instance, in March 2015, the two used Parliament’s plenary sittings to fight on opposite sides over a directive to media houses to replace reporters who had covered Parliament for more than five years.
Given his loyalty, Oulanyah expected the NRM leadership to support his bid to replace Kadaga as Speaker of the 10th Parliament.
However, as campaigns for the position heated in May 2016, CEC convinced Oulanyah to let Kadaga hold the Speakership for a second term.
The NRM honchos would later talk out of the race eight other contenders who were aspiring to become Deputy Speaker, and eventually, both Kadaga and Oulanyah were formally elected as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively on May 18, 2016.
Their old rivalries lived on, and it could get uglier as the clock ticks away to next year’s elections. Kadaga wants to head Parliament for a third term in 2021 but Oulanyah also feels that he should be the one.
The result of this is a sense of suspicion between the two.
A few weeks ago, a group of MPs initiated a proposal to impeach Oualanyah a move that Oulanyah loyalists are suspicious could have originated from Kadaga’s camp.
The motion however died with the intervention of the Government Chief Whip’s (Ruth Nankabirwa) office that warned the MPs against pursuing the censor since it was not in the interest of the ruling party.
Kadaga’s principal press secretary, Sam Obbo, downplayed the existence of a fight between his boss and Oulanyah.
In the view of former Bukooli Central MP, Wafula Oguttu, who was the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) in the 9th Parliament, the real fight is not between Kadaga and her deputy but Museveni.
“The Kadaga-Oulanyah fight is inconsequential but as a proxy war between Museveni and Kadaga, it is something,” Oguttu said. This view is also shared by Bishop Niringiye who sees Museveni as a direct beneficiary of the fight at Parliament.
According to Rogers Mulindwa, a senior manager for Information, communication and public relations at the NRM secretariat, the fight between the two parliamentary principals is worrying for the party.
“There seems to be a bigger ‘war’ than what we see on the surface but all these can be avoided. As a Party, we have suffered enough negatives as our people stage unnecessary internal fights that paint a bad picture of a mass party in power. The struggle by some leaders to build their power empires within NRM is partly the reason for such nasty scenes. The beauty is that our National Chairman is closely watching through a microscopic window and action will be taken at an appropriate time,” Mulindwa said.
Museveni is uncomfortable with Kadaga’s influence over MPs and wouldn’t, therefore, allow her to turn Parliament into another power centre.
That is why; weeks after he openly castigated Parliament for allocating Shs 20 million to each of the 359 MPs, he doled out more than Shs 13.6 billion that was paid to at least 341 loyal MPs from among the NRMs, Independents and at least six opposition MPs.
The amount Museveni spent is nearly Shs 4 billion bigger than the Shs 10 billion Parliament had shared out to the MPs that Museveni called immoral and reprehensible.
He effectively won back the MPs that he had angered when he ordered them to refund the Shs 20 million they had received from the Parliamentary Commission. They have since returned his image of the age limit MPs’ WhatsApp group which has also regained its name of the “317 Historicals.”
“Kadaga is not the type of politicians like Amama Mbabazi that Museveni has succeeded in bringing down; politicians that failed to establish themselves as the face of given blocs. Kadaga has a regional bloc which means that once you antagonize her, you are likely to be antagonizing the whole of Busoga,” said an MP who preferred not to be named.
To break her back, Museveni, according to insider NRM sources, has is weighing options of propping up another powerful person from Busoga.
The Lands state minister Persis Namuganza is currently the only politician from Busoga who can speak up against Kadaga, but she is doesn’t command the same respect in the sub-region as Kadaga does.
This is why Museveni, reportedly, is considering redeploying NRM secretary general, Justine Kasule Lumumba in cabinet to check Kadaga’s influence.
Senior presidential press secretary, Don Innocent Wanyama, downplayed the existence of any tensions between Museveni and Kadaga.