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Ugandan Parliament

By Kevin Patrice

The divide between Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga and her deputy Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah is becoming more apparent as MPs allied to the Speaker push Oulanyah to explain why he took Shs20m to the Covid19 taskforce.

On Thursday, Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda moved a motion for Parliament to “express displeasure” at President Yoweri Museveni’s “disparaging remarks” against the House in his April 28 Coronavirus address delivered at State House Nakasero in Kampala.

In that address that has seen MPs, including those from the National Resistance Movement (NRM), come up to criticise the President for embarrassing Speaker Kadaga, legislators and the institution of Parliament, Museveni vowed tough action against MPs who would fail to account for the money through the Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) in their respective districts.

“If the MPs have spent the Shs20m wrongly, they will pay back using their salary. If they have spent the money on themselves, it’s a terrible thing. That Shs20m is bad planning because we had already planned in a certain way. It is morally reprehensible for MPs to give themselves money for personal use when the country is in such a crisis; and totally unacceptable to me and to the NRM,” Museveni had said in his televised address watched by hundreds of thousands of Ugandans.

“When I met with the Speaker, I told her they should get out of that trap and the best way to do it is by not spending this money on themselves. I agreed with the Speaker to donate that money to the district task forces.”

About two days later, Kadaga swung into action and decried the executive’s attempt to interfere into the work of the House, erode its independence and paint it in bad light. She threatened to expose government for spending billions to buy expired milk and rotten beans.

On the day Kadaga responded to Museveni’s remarks, Oulanyah posted a dark square on his social media pages to associate the Speaker’s reaction to the President with darkness. Also, as Kadaga was trying to fire back at Museveni, Oulanyah took the money to Omoro District Taskforce as had been guided by both the President and the Parliamentary Commission. He has since been quiet on the matter leaving Kadaga to carry the cross and deal with public condemnation.

Ssemujju’s Thursday motion was meant to convey annoyance at Museveni’s derogatory remarks against Parliament, advise him to “always pen his disagreement(s) with Parliament instead of public insults”, and task Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija “to explain why they remained mum when the House was under attack yet they belong to the Parliamentary Commission that appropriated the Shs20m.”

But Bugabula South MP Henry Maurice Kibalya amended Ssemujju’s motion to include Jacob Oulanyah on the list of those who should explain themselves. Kibalya’s amendment was supported by several legislators. He argued that Oulanyah, the Omoro County MP, should also be condemned and be required to explain why he took the money to the district taskforce yet he is “a member of the Parliamentary Commission and privy to all decisions made.”

Kadaga and Kibalya, who hail from Kamuli District in Busoga sub-region, agreed that Oulanyah “betrayed the House when he publicly returned the Shs20m and said he did so because of a Presidential directive.”

But the fact that the two (Kibalya and Kadaga) are allies is making critics argue that Kadaga could be trying to silence Oulanyah because of his interest in the Speaker position. It should be remembered that Oulanyah had decided to challenge Kadaga in the 2016 Speakership election but the NRM party advised him to wait in the queue. However, the current standoff between Museveni and Kadaga has made many suggest that Oulanyah could get the NRM endorsement for the Speaker job for the 2021-2026 term of office.

Analysts argue that Kadaga would be contradicting herself if she says that Oulanyah shouldn’t have returned the money yet the Speaker herself had guided that all the cash be sent to the districts. In fact, she had told MPs that the money that would be returned to the Parliamentary Commission would be sent to the members’ respective district taskforces handling Covid19 matters.

Her critics are now claiming that she could be using her position and his return of the money as an excuse to paint Oulanyah in bad light because of his ambition to unseat her, and also due to their past disagreements – she knows that by winning or keeping the hearts of the current MPs would be a good start in the Speaker race for 2021-2026 since some of them will return to the House.

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