At 7:30pm on Monday, President Museveni entered the meeting room at State House and immediately asked the NRM vice chairperson Hajj Moses Kigongo, who also doubles as the chairperson of the NRM disciplinary committee, to explain the agenda.
Hajj Kigongo, then made reference to March 11 press release in which he cautioned party leaders against bickering, attacks, abuses on the floor of Parliament over the election of the Speaker.
Earlier, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa had faced off in Parliament. Kadaga accused Ms Nankabirwa of importing issues of NRM’s Central Executive Committee into the discussion on matters that are internal to Parliament. “I don’t think CEC has a right to bind a future Parliament before even they are elected. That is totally undemocratic. Stop talking about CEC here”.
In the meeting at State House, Hajj Kigongo told the President that he asked those who were dragging CEC in the Speaker race politics to stop it and even advised that democracy be exercise “reasonably while conducting matters of national importance.”
As soon as Hajj Kigongo ended his preliminary remarks, sources who attended the meeting said the President confronted aspirants for Speaker and Deputy Speaker before he banned campaigns. He spoke for about 30 minutes uninterrupted and warned those undermining NRM to stop it immediately.
Sources in the meeting said the President reiterated that there must be no further campaigns for Speaker and Deputy until such a time when the Chief Justice will congregate Parliament at her first sitting on May 20.
“The President threatened that CEC may even leave all of us and choose other NRM candidates for Speaker and Deputy Speaker” another source told this newspaper.
The NRM chairperson accused Ms Kadaga, her Deputy Jacob Oulanyah and other six NRM MPs eyeing the Deputy Speaker of undermining the party structures and behaving as if they are bigger than the party. The President made it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate indiscipline.
It was a stormy meeting filled with “fear” and few chances of rebuttal as President Museveni pulled the plug on what had become a conflict-ridden campaign for who will get the endorsement of the ruling NRM to run for Speaker of the 11th Parliament.
After lecturing aspirants on discipline and party structures, the President started asking questions. First, he demanded to know whether Ms Kadaga consulted NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba before she went to Speke Resort Munyonyo to launch her re-election campaign. Ms Lumumba then shot up and denied knowledge of the pre-campaign launch plans.
Ms Lumumba told the President that she also learnt of the launch from the media. The President turned to Ms Kadaga and asked her to explain why she didn’t consult the party and whether she is above the law. He also asked whether in 2016, she first launched her campaign before coming to CEC for endorsement.
The President paused a bit and requested Hajj Kigongo to remind him about what Ms Kadaga told CEC in 2016. Hajj Kigongo told the President that she requested for second term to complete the 10 years just like Edward Ssekandi (2001-2011).
Ms Kadaga speaks
Sources say when Ms Kadaga stood up to respond, she accused her deputy of starting campaigns in contravention of the rules. She made a reference to the Acholi and Lango parliamentary groups that endorsed Mr Oulanyah for Speaker. Mr Oulanyah according to sources interjected and denied ever participating in any endorsement meetings.
Following weeks of verbal fights between Ms Kadaga and Mr Oulanyah’s camps as they prepare to battle for the leadership of the legislative arm of government, President Museveni under his mandate as national chairperson of the NRM summoned the duo to a meeting at State House, Entebbe.
Mr Museveni, sources say, invited Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, NRM secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba, and government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa, to be part of the meeting that started at 7:30 and ended at 10pm.
Dr Rugunda was drafted into the meeting to do possible mediation in case the proceedings led to bitter exchanges, especially between Ms Kadaga and Mr Oulanyah who have been involved in public disagreements over who is better for the job.
While launching her campaigns last week, Ms Kadaga accused her deputy of not working by dodging a number of assignments, something that led to his sideling from chairing plenary sittings for over a year. She also accused him of fearing to handle the controversial Age Limit Bill that saw Parliament remove Article 102B of the Constitution which paved way for Mr Museveni to run for another term.
Sources told Daily Monitor that the age limit issue again came up in the Monday meeting when Ms Nankabirwa accused Ms Kadaga of using Speaker’s office to undermine the party. This annoyed Ms Kadaga and reminded Ms Nankabirwa and others in the meeting how she helped the President to stay in office after 65 years. This angered the President.
“This is not the way we have been working as the NRM. Are you independent candidates?” the President is quoted to have asked the contenders whom he learnt were holding meetings with MPs from both the party and Opposition.
“Who announced these campaigns? And which constituency are you campaigning for since the 11th Parliament has not yet been sworn?” Mr Museveni reportedly charged without attracting answers from the targets.
Rule 5 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, provides for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker at the 1st sitting of a new Parliament.
The elections of the Speaker are presided over by the Chief Justice or a judge representing him or her. Shortly after the Speaker upon being sworn in by the Chief Justice presides over the election and swearing in of a Deputy Speaker.
Effect on 10th Parliament
With the 10th Parliament still having about one and half months to the end of its tenure, Mr Museveni warned that the mode of campaigns has stalled work in the House, which is likely to affect the performance of government.
Mr Oulanyah insisted he has not called any campaign meetings as a sign of respecting party principles whereas Ms Kadaga reportedly told the President that it was normal to hold meetings.
The two leaders have publicly disagreed on the process the party is supposed to take to determine who the candidate becomes for Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker is on record for putting the CEC on notice to show that the party organs work by upholding its 2016 decision in which he reportedly agreed to allow Ms Kadaga take another five years in the seat and him as Deputy. He claims it was intended that after their 10 years as Speaker and Deputy Speaker, he would be cleared to take over from Ms Kadaga in 2021.
But Ms Kadaga has been disputing such a narrative, including while Speaking during a plenary sitting of Parliament and at the launch of her campaigns, saying CEC never made any resolution that she would not contest in 2021.
“The CEC of 2015 is an old CEC. It did its work and finished. Last year, another CEC came in and it has not yet sat. All I said was why are you pushing me out?” she said last week before adding on at the weekend; “this is a new CEC, a new Parliament and a new Uganda”.
The President is expected to give further guidance on the conduct of the NRM legislators when about 230 newly-elected MPs report for a retreat at National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi District on April 7.
Incumbent MPs who made it through the January 14 elections will not be going to Kyankwanzi because Parliament is dealing with statutory deadlines to process the budget of the 2021/2022 Financial Year by April 30.
Mr Emmanuel Dombo, the director for communications at NRM secretariat, told this newspaper at the weekend that the decision to take only new comers to Kyankwanzi was as a result of the Speaker’s concern that the retreat would affect the budgetary deadlines.
Early this month, MPs raised the red flag on the floor of Parliament saying the campaign for Speaker and Deputy Speaker have been “vulgarised”, alleging that some of the contenders are doing the unusual way of dishing out money in exchange for a vote.
Voting for Speaker and Deputy Speaker is by secret ballot.
Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC) and Bukoto Central MP-elect Robert Ssebamala (DP) are the two others who have so far expressed interest in running for Speaker’s job whereas Mr Okin P.P Ojara (Chua West, FDC), Mr Eric Musana (Buyaga West, Ind) and Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central, Ind), are the ones set to challenge the NRM candidate for Deputy Speaker.
They agreed that the CEC should vote on the matter at a convenient time.
Who attended the meeting
Sources privy to the proceedings of the meeting told Daily Monitor that in attendance were four MPs who are considered “serious contenders” for the office of Deputy Speaker”. These are; Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South), Mr Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North), Ms Anita Among (Woman MP Bukedea) and Ms Robinah Rwakoojo (Gomba West).
It is from this group of six MPs that the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the NRM is supposed to vet a candidate for Deputy Speaker ahead of the 1st sitting of the 11th Parliament on May 20 when these two positions will be voted for.