Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga has warned she will fight back if her deputy Jacob Oulanyah continues to undermine her.
Kadaga accuses Oulanyah of deliberately trying to portray her as a non-performer. Kadaga hit out at Oulanyah on September 25 during a morning talk-show on Bilal FM called “Amagezi muliro” (knowledge is fire).
The speaker also spoke at length about her fallout with journalists, whose reporting on parliament she calls negative. She was particularly rattled by reports on several MPs’ recent trip to the US to attend the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) convention, and the lavish spending on their cars and funerals.
The weekly programme is hosted by Kalumba Butanaziba. Sunday’s panellists included Robert Mwanje of BBS TV, Moses Mugalula of Red Pepper, and this writer.
“Oulanyah wanted to be speaker and I defeated him [on June 19]. Since then, he has not stopped fighting me. He fuelled his fight by putting Ssekitooleko Kafeero’s bill about judges and electoral commissioners’ term limits on the order paper. After it became hot for him, he ran to Gulu,” Kadaga said.
The order paper is an official schedule of parliamentary business on a given day. The speaker said she had to throw out the bill because two of its would-be seconders failed to justify its importance.
“When I refused him (Oulanyah) to go to the UNAA convention, I met him on the plane already moving with some MPs, who were also not on the official list of those going. He is still fighting me because I defeated him in the speaker’s race. Oulanyah, assisted by an invisible hand, wants to cre- ate a picture that parliament is not working, but I know how to deal with this situation,” Kadaga said.
On the public criticism against the MPs’ US trip last month, Kadaga said good things came out of it. For instance, through one Felix Kibuye of Georgia, Kadaga revealed, assorted hospital equipment and beds have been received in Uganda, having been transported free of charge courtesy of Coca-Cola International.
“In October, I will be distributing these equipment to Kakuuto and Kalangala health centres, and of course Kamuli hospital, and I will invite the most critical people led by Maria Matembe [former minister of ethics and integrity], Allan Ssewanyana [MP Makindye West] and Ingrid Turinawe [FDC women leader] to witness,” said Kadaga.
She added that some Ugandans based in Boston promised to establish a fistula hospital in Soroti. Obstetric fistula is a devastating complication that arises in child-birth, often associated with premature and unwanted pregnancies.
Kadaga further revealed that a group of Basoga in the US had funded the rehabilitation of a hospital in Jinja. She denied that her going to the convention alongside Oulanyah had stalled parliamentary work, explaining that the cabinet was holding a seven-day retreat at the same time and thus unable to generate business for parliament.
Reasserting that she travelled with 26 MPs, Kadaga challenged journalists to publish the list of the 78 MPs they allege travelled to UNAA. In addition to her delegation of 26, Kadaga said, five MPs who included Thomas Tayebwa travelled on their own, while Oulanyah travelled with six other MPs.
Addressing the criticism arising from hosting the Inter-parliamen- tary Union (IPU-IGAD) meeting at her own Kamuli-based Century hotel, Kadaga said she invited the Igad executive committee.
“I have no regret about this. This is one of the hotels in Uganda fit to host international guests. We agreed to move them from Kam- pala to a rural area where there are more people,” she said.
“By the way, why should people think that Serena or Speke Resort hotel in Kampala are the only hotels to host international conferences or meetings? Is Kamuli not in Uganda? The people parroting this criticism are hotel commission agents who missed my share. Hotels near mine got filled up the whole week...In that week, residents of Kamuli got some good money by supplying food; next year the meeting will move to another region,” she said, denying any conflict of interest.
Asked why taxpayers should buy personal cars for the 430 MPs instead of car loans as suggested by Kira municipality MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, Kadaga said Shs 200m is the cheaper option. She explained that if government were to buy a new vehicle for each MP, it would cost about Shs 500m.
“If the public wants MPs to buy vehicles for themselves, let us first see President Museveni driving his personal vehicles and all first- schedule senior civil servants,” Kadaga said.
The speaker also took a swipe at Ssemujju, the advocate of the car loan option, challenging the Kira municipality MP to park his government vehicle and reject the fuel he gets for it before being critical of his colleagues.
“Ssemujju and his FDC colleagues first quarrelled amongst themselves over swearing in as MPs. He criticises us [while] using a government vehicle and fuel. Let him park it before he abuses us,” Kadaga said.
When contacted for a comment on September 27, Ssemujju said what he is pushing for is an issue of policy which he is doing in good faith.
"I will go and explain to her because when you want to move the community on goodwill, time will come when the goodwill is not there,” Semujju explained.
Kadaga also criticised Frank Gashumba, an outspoken critic, who recently told The Observer that instead of throwing blue and yellow painted piglets at parliament as the protesting Jobless Brotherhood did, he would have opted for hyenas. Hyenas are famed scavengers and often dine on the leftovers of other predators.
“Uganda is really a lenient country; how can Gashumba, a Rwandese, abuse us in Uganda? He can’t do this in Rwanda; I even don’t know his work,” Kadaga said.
Though of Rwandese origin, Gashumba is a Ugandan born in Masaka. On why she is upset with journalists covering parliament, Kadaga vowed to continue fighting media houses that incite the public against parliament.
“What haven’t we done that the media wants us to do in the last three months? Instead of seeking to know what they don’t know, journalists just splash headlines such as “Speaker Kadaga is going to award Kizza Besigye and his wife medals” she pointed out.
“How can I give a medal to Besigye who terrorised Kampala and surrounding villages? How do you write that each dying MP will earn Shs 68m as if all MPs will die within one year? We estimated five to seven MPs to die in a year.”