Uncertainty could be read on their faces as they pondered the times ahead following the exit of the hitherto, the most powerful woman at Parliament, if not, Uganda’s politics.
For two decades, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga used her positions as Deputy Speaker and later as Speaker of Parliament, to bring ministers and top government bureaucrats to their knees as she superintended over the legislature to keep the government in check.
Two years before her election as deputy speaker in 2001, Kadaga had served as minister for Parliamentary Affairs meaning that for 22 years, she helped a number to get jobs or contracts.
These are some of those that were crestfallen as parliamentary casual labourers cleared her former office to prepare for its new occupant, Jacob Oulanyah who won the hotly contested speakership race that saw President Yoweri Museveni spend more than 11 hours at Kololo airstrip to keep watch as MPs chose the head of the second arm of government.
Under her office, Kadaga had at least 20 staff, both permanent and contract staff such as researchers, policy analysts, photographers, drivers and guards among others. While her exit as Speaker may not affect the permanent employees of Parliament, the bond they had built with her was broken.
Stephen Bingi, a photographer on contract, wondered what the future held for him as they packed to vacate office for the next Speaker.
“As it stands now, I don’t know where to go,” he said, further saying that at the 6th floor where Kadaga has been sitting, the mood is largely low.
A female police officer who was deployed at Parliament five years ago said that in losing Kadaga as Speaker, a strong feminist voice was silenced because the Kamuli Woman MP had become a champion of policies that favor women and the well-being of security personnel.
She recalls an incident when one of the policewomen attached to Parliament had been sent away after she got pregnant but Kadaga ensured that she was reinstated.
“We were very used to her. She has done a lot especially for the staff at parliament and women,” the policewoman said.
Not everyone was saddened by her exit; some celebrated the end of the ‘Kadaga-era’ at Parliament.
A senior officer of Parliament described Kadaga as a bad administrator who didn’t respect systems and processes but took charge of almost everything including promoting junior officers above their seniors.
“I didn’t talk to her for five years, but when they announced that she had lost, I was so emotionally drained but I sympathized with her. I served madam diligently, but things were done unprofessionally here. She took our jobs,” the officer said.