By Henry Mulindwa
A secret plan has been mooted to deny speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga a chance to retain her seat in the 11th Parliament, reports the second opinion.
This plan, political strategists reveal, follows information that the Kamuli Woman MP is already positioning herself for a ‘third term’ in the highly coveted chair.
A suave political operator, Kadaga who is also the NRM second national vice chairperson, has been Speaker since 2011. This, however, was after she put up a spirited fight that forced her predecessor Edward Ssekandi to quit the race. It is this lethal ‘political calculator’ in her possession that has unsettled her detractors. Consequently, they have resorted to early planning in order to counter her political shrewdness.
Kadaga Deadly Strategy
Sources privy to this move told us that Kadaga is particularly being targeted for early ejection because her mobilization prowess is well documented and feared by some quarters in the party. Particularly, reference is always made to how she managed to outsmart her former boss Ssekandi out of the speakership and most recently, how she won her second term as Speaker despite a spirited fight from her deputy Jacob Lokori Oulanyah and a legion of NRM party bigwigs who preferred him to her.
Party and parliamentary insiders told this magazine that to beat Oulanyah, Kadaga allegedly supported 130 Members of Parliament in the last election to come to Parliament. Curiously, this support is said to have cut across the political divide; something that caught Oulanyah unawares.
“When she reached Parliament after the election, it was easier for her to defeat Oulanyah. She needed only 250 legislators to carry the day. Each one of the 130 members was tasked to bring one member hence the resounding victory she got,” a source preferring to remain anonymous told The Second Opinion.
According to the source, there’s already fear that Kadaga’s camp has already embarked on this same strategy; much buoyed by the fact that her return to parliament next term is not a question of if, but rather by which margin. This is given her almost eternal support accruing from the many public services extended to Busoga region through her efforts — thus earning her the larger-than-life Mama Busoga moniker.
The sources added that while her popularity in the constituency is guaranteed, Kadaga has already coined a grand plan to secure a ‘sole candidature’ for her Kamuli Woman seat NRM flagbearer. As such, this early securing of her own destiny will enable her time to save funds and also amass the number of MPs she needs to reclaim the speaker’s chair. “Kadaga is determined. She says if we’re talking about democracy, let the people (MPs) decide. She’s readying herself for the position,”
Sources added that this time round, the Kadaga camp is eyeing a nucleus of 150 MPs to rally her speakership job effort in 2021.
Dr. Kassim Kamugisha, who headed an NRM pressure group called Keep Age Limit Out of The Constitution (KALOC), however, opines that despite the early plots surrounding the speakership, the coming elections might bring in new faces who are also capable of being elected speaker.
“For someone to become speaker you must be an MP. Then, an internal election takes place in parliament. So, if by that time (2021) the current speaker still appeals, she might retain her seat. But what I know is that we still think that 2021 might usher in many new members of different backgrounds. Kadaga will definitely be subjected to a vote and it’s unlikely she will sail through unopposed,” Dr. Kamugisha told us.
KADAGA FOR VP?
Dr. Kamugisha added that whereas Kadaga might want to return as Speaker, ‘the powers that be’ reserve the right to deploy her in other positions — and rumours are rife that she is being lined up as the next Vice President.
“If the powers choose her to be the VP, she will qualify. I have not seen anyone turning down a presidential appointment. Maybe if she wants to set precedence. But being a loyal cadre, a senior member of NRM and an experienced leader, Kadaga can serve in that second biggest office and I see her becoming a VP. But also, she can still serve as Speaker because so far, I think she has done well,” he said.
It should be remembered that when Oulanyah tried to pick nomination forms for speakership early this term, the Busoga Parliamentary Group led by Minister Isaac Musumba came out and declared their solid support for Kadaga for the position of Speaker. This forced the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) to sit and resolve to leave Kadaga in her chair.
We have exclusively established that the paln to block Kadaga from the speakership is in earnest and its promoters want to front her to the president for early appointment as VP. A source privy to the plan intimated to us that it is being planned that should Museveni, the NRM flagbearer, emerge President following the 2021 elections, he should swiftly — after swearing-in — fill the positions of Vice President, Prime Minister and Attorney General. It is one of these positions where they want Kadaga named given that being a lawyer, she fills in all three positions. Her case will be just like that of former Speakers Ssekandi who was named VP and late Francis Ayume who was named Attorney General.
“The solution to this (blocking her) is to name her VP immediately. The law requires the President to first name these three before the Speaker can be elected. If you name her Vice President, she will not have any reason to insist on the Speakership. Even members will view her as being greedy if she insists on standing. There will then be proper grounds to fight her if she rejects the VP appointment,” a well-placed source told The Second Opinion.
However, Buyaga County MP Barnabas Tinkasimire opines that if Kadaga loses the Speakership, she can only serve as Attorney General but not as Vice President, because of her religious affiliation.
“They can’t appoint Kadaga Vice President because she is not a Catholic. Maybe Attorney General in case they decide to pull her out of the Speakership. But if they allow her contest again, she will defeat them despite her recent flaws. Qualitatively, she’s still better than Jacob Oulanyah. Her only weakness is that when threatened, she yields but for Oulanyah, he doesn’t even wait to be called and he yields,” Tinkasimiire said.
But even Kadaga’s camp is reportedly not interested in the position of VP which, they say is inconsequential in the Ugandan context.
“The VP is just an inflated title. The Speaker heads an arm of government and runs a big budget. Secondly, Kadaga knows that even internationally the Speaker is bigger than a VP because she heads an arm of the government. The Speaker also has powers over presidential appointees. She can decide to reject some. But VP cannot even appoint a secretary in his office. The VP has no money and influence,” the source added.
BOBI WINE HURDLE
Meanwhile, despite the general consensus being that Kadaga’s retention of her Kamuli Woman MP seat is almost a given, she has to fend off emerging opposition from Bobi Wine’s People Power (PP) Movement.
According to Patrick Nsanja Mabiriizi, the People Power Coordinator for Kayunga area, PP has a ‘strong candidate’ in Kamuli. He however says that in case Kadaga defeats their candidate and returns to Parliament, she will become Speaker even if NRM loses 2021 elections.
“Election of Speaker in Uganda is an Electoral College exercise. It is based on the candidate’s interpersonal skills and relationship with members, which area Kadaga scores highly. So, if Kadaga wins in Kamuli she will comfortably retain the Speakership in the 11th Parliament even when NRM loses power in 2021,” he said.
POSSIBLE CONTENDERS FOR THE SPEAKER’S JOB
According to sources, several people are being looked at as fallback options to take up the speakership from Kadaga. Among these is Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa. To begin with, Kutesa, a lawyer, is rich and can marshal the necessary war chest (financial) to defeat all his opponents.
‘Uncle Sam’, as his pals fondly refer to him, is also widely exposed and has a rich CV: he was MP between 1980 and 1985 and still remains one. He has been a Minister and above all he was also the President of the UN General Assembly. Kutesa is also reportedly among the ‘Mr. Fix it’ officials in the NRM government, and is said to bail out some of his colleagues and MPs across the divide, whenever need arises.
“He’s not the kind of a man you find making reckless statements in government. He’s reserved and he’s not known to have many wars especially with opposition members,” a source said, adding that his being a member of the First Family also puts him in pole position.
His undoing however, is the raft of corruption accusations against him. He has ever been censored by parliament over UPE funds and was also dragged to the anti-Corruption Court by former acting IGG Raphael Baku over alleged Chogm funds embezzlement. He, together with two other ministers, were however left off the hook on technical grounds that the IGG wasn’t fully constituted to proceed with those alleged investigations and therefore prosecution.
His international CV was also recently soiled after allegations that he solicited for a US$500, 000 bribe in order to influence award of oil deals to a Chinese businessman Patrick Ho, who has since been convicted by a US court and is now in prison.
His potential candidature is indeed under threat just as Tinkasimire claims.
“I can’t go to a polling station and vote for Kutesa even when he gives me one billion. His record is tainted. We don’t want him. Let him bring his money. We shall eat it but no vote for him,” Tinkasimiire, says.
Sources also say the other obstacle to his candidature is that some of the long-serving ministers like Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire do not hit it off well with Kutesa.
JACOB LOKORI OULANYAH
A lawyer, Oulanyah’s biggest hope rests on the principle of ‘precedence’. For the last three Parliaments, it has been the Deputy Speaker who becomes Speaker after his/her predecessor serves out their terms. Indeed, Oulanyah has served under Kadaga for two terms while Kadaga also served under Ssekandi for two terms.
In fact, when Oulanyah — albeit unsuccessfully — to stand against Kadaga in 2016, he was ordered to ‘back off’ to allow Kadaga ‘finish her term’ citing the ‘Ssekandi precedent’.
But his chances are also under threat; he must ensure that he wins the Okoro MP seat which gave him sleepless nights in 2016.
“All those who want this seat are looking at his constituency. They are going to sponsor his rivals so that he doesn’t win again. Or if he is to win he must come to Parliament without money to give out to members. He is heavily in trouble politically,” source said.
Another source also said that Oulanyah has been put in the ‘tricky position’ of chairing the controversial committee into the Apaa land matters, and already MPs from West Nile have rejected his nomination.
Secondly, in the corridors of power it is claimed that members who campaigned for Oulanyah to become Speaker of the 10th Parliament accuse him of being ‘unprincipled’ after he accepted to stand down for Kadaga.
“Pressure notwithstanding, he ought to have remained in the race or at least he should have had the courtesy to consult us. Why is it that other members like Muhammad Nsereko remained in the race for deputy speakership even after being under pressure to quit? He will have a hard time convincing members to campaign for him again,” sources added.
To make matters worse for him, the sources said members who backed Kadaga were appointed to cabinet while Oulanyah’s backers, save for State Tourism Minister Godfrey Kiwanda, were left out.
Meanwhile, a source intimated to The Second Opinion that should she make a comeback to Parliament after a 10-year absence, Hope Mwesigye will be a force to reckon with in the race for Speaker or Deputy Speaker.
“Her only undoing was that she was Amama Mbabazi’s in-law; otherwise she wasn’t really in the opposition. In fact Hope is a tough and smooth operator and when you talk about the 3rd term, she’s the person who coordinated members to lift the term limits, “a source said of the lawyer who once worked under the Amin-era spy agency, the State Research Bureau.
“Hope (Mwesigye) is good but her challenge is she has been out for some time. But if she comes, she’s a good mobiliser. At least she will become a Deputy Speaker given her mobilization skills,” an MP opined.