In a revealing speech to Parliament following the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, President Yoweri Museveni has given insights into how he neutralized the former Speaker, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga.
Kadaga lost the speakership race to her former deputy, Jacob Oulanyah who polled 310 votes against her 197 votes, ending her two-decades-long leadership of the legislature – first as deputy speaker and later as Speaker.
Kadaga, the second national vice-chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), was edged out of the race by her colleagues at the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Sunday morning and endorsed Oulanyah for the position.
The decision caused sharp divisions within the party, Museveni said, which forced him to make phone calls as well as direct contacts with the NRM MPs to defuse the tensions.
“My people were terribly divided,” Museveni said as he delved into how he shortchanged Kadaga’s supporters. “Subsequently, I rang a number of them late in the night, others I met physically… you saw how a guerilla works… I called them, telling them that, “You have been with Kadaga but now Oulanyah is the official candidate.” I called the others in the morning [moments before the elections]. They had formed factions but you know factions can sometimes be subversive. There was a very strong faction for Kadaga and then a faction for Oulanyah.”
In doing all this, Museveni was worried that the pro-Kadaga group was planning a revolt in the party. Kadaga had formed an alliance with Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North) who lost the NRM caucus vote to Anita Among (Bukedea Woman) with a small margin.
Like Kadaga, Tayebwa had also announced that he would go on and present his bid to Parliament. Museveni however moved fast and talked him out of the race.
Tayebwa and a group of other pro-Kadaga NRM MPs met Museveni on Monday morning before they headed out for Kololo independence grounds for the elections.
After listening to their fears, Museveni said, he telephoned Oulanyah and asked him to assure them that he would not mistreat them.
Bukedea Woman MP who was Oulanyah’s ally won the elections for deputy speaker after getting 415 votes. Her closest challenger, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) MP, Yusuf Nsibambi (Mawokota South) got 37 votes while Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko got 24 votes.
Museveni also revealed that he had established contact with some opposition groups for talks.
“I am ready to engage with the opposition; I actually engage some of the opposition parties… the UPC, we [are talking] very well, the DP, we [are talking] very well, even recently, we have been engaging some members of FDC. The ones that have been avoiding us are the ones of NUP,” Museveni said.
He did not mention the extent of the engagements with the three opposition parties and how he intends to relate with them.
His revelations, however, offer credence to suggestions that he could name some key opposition figures to his cabinet as he did after the 2016 elections when he announced that had opposition figure like Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi (DP), Beti Namisango Kamya (Uganda Federal Alliance) and later on, Beatrice Anywar (FDC). Some others got deployment in the foreign service.