President Yoweri Museveni was relieved when controversial Rt Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga lost her renewed bid for parliament speakership.
Kadaga was the only remaining high-ranking official of the ruling National Resistance Movement that continuously provoked and challenged Mr Museveni who doubles as the party chairman.
A visibly excited Mr Museveni patiently monitored the election exercise while sitting outside the tent where the electorates sat. He occasionally stretched his muscles while strolling around the tent.
Shortly after counting of votes, there was commotion in the House, forcing President Museveni to interject, calling the House to order.
“Hello! Hello! Hello!” Mr Museveni, all smiles, shouted before adding “You are going to kill the new Speaker and then what shall we do?”
Omoro County MP Jacob Oulanyah was elected the new speaker of parliament. Oulanyah was in a tight race for the position with fellow NRM big wig Rebecca Kadaga. Kadaga has been the speaker of parliament since 2011 and was contesting for a third term.
Oulanyah beat Kadaga to the prized position garnering 310 votes to Kadaga’s 197 votes. FDC candidate Ssemujju Nganda trailed with 15 votes.
President Museveni admitted personally campaigning for Oulanyah. He said; “Then in the night I rang some people (MPs) telling them that, ‘you have been with Kadaga but we now have Oulanyah.’ I rang others in the morning (telling them the same). There was a strong Kadaga faction (Kadaga and Tayebwa group) and a strong Oulanyah faction (Oulanyah and Among). But when I rang them they agreed (to support the official (NRM CEC) candidate. I thank them.”
Oulanyah who has been deputy Speaker for 10 years will now be in charge of affairs at the August House for the next five years, a position he missed out narrowly after stepping down for Kadaga on advice of the Central Executive Committee, the ruling NRM party’s top organ in 2016.
Kadaga had become a thorn in the president’s flesh. She publicly challenged his authority without remorse.
And in one occasion she hinted on contesting for presidency in 2021. Although she didn’t follow through with her ambition it is possible that Mr Museveni took her serious.
Even Kahinda Otafiire while Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs had promised to support Kadaga’s presidential bid as long as she didn’t contest against Museveni.
“Ms Kadaga is a good person and I can support her if she contests when President Museveni is not coming,” Maj Gen Otafiire said.
Kadaga went ahead to announce to the world that she played a key role in delivering Mr Museveni to the ballot paper for the 2021 presidential contest after she presided over a parliament that removed the age limit.
Some members of the party were appalled that she was unapologetically saying that if it were not for her deliverance of the age limit amendment, Museveni would not have run again.
But Museveni dismissed the speaker’s assertion saying, “If you say you helped me push age limit bill, you are wrong. Nankabirwa had convinced me she was a good mobiliser in parliament and I was ready to go for referendum.”
Kadaga even scoffed at the suggestion that she be appointed next Vice President to pave way for her junior, Oulanyah to become the next Speaker.
“Those who are proposing that I become the vice president, let that position be given to others,” Kadaga said during launch of her third term campaign at the end of last month. “Being a vice president, you deputise another person. Here [in parliament], I head an arm of government,” she said.
Kadaga’s dig at President Yoweri Museveni who has been unopposed flag-bearer of the NRM in six elections was interpreted as an affront.
Kadaga had had built parliament into another power centre that threatened Museveni’s rule. She had amassed more power and prominence, through handouts to Members of Parliament and at times members of the public.
Kadaga’s clash with Museveni and the NRM hierarchy has gone on for years. Kadaga even ignored calls from her party to throw out of parliament the rebel Members of Parliament that had been expelled from NRM.
The rebel MPs included: Mr Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Mr Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala Central), Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga).
Kadaga instead retained them as a “special group” that wasn’t recognised by parliament rules. Court had ruled that the four NRM ‘rebel’ MPs were in Parliament illegally. This means they had to be thrown out of Parliament and could not be allowed to attend proceedings in the House.
In her address to Parliament, Ms Kadaga said the Constitution did not provide the expulsion of the MPs.
Kadaga is also remembered for embarrassing Museveni’s government when she allowed debate on oil bribery allegations against three ministers.
The dramatic events began when a petition was signed by about 200 members of parliament (MPs) requiring the parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, to recall parliament for a debate on Uganda’s nascent but already controversial oil industry.
In a debate on October 11th-12th, three ministers were accused of taking bribes from oil companies to influence their decisions. Gerald Karuhanga, an MP, accused the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, the Foreign Minister, Sam Kutesa, and the former energy minister, Hilary Onek, of accepting bribes. Mr Onek, who was accused of receiving about 17m euros ($23m; £15m).
All denied the accusation, and Mr Kutesa accused Mr Karuhanga of abusing parliamentary privilege in order to make false claims. Mr Mbabazi read a letter from the chief executive officer of UK-listed Tullow Oil, Aidan Heavey, which called the accusation “demonstrably false” and asked for an opportunity to appear in parliament to refute the allegations.
Ultimately, parliament passed ten non-binding resolutions, which included calls for: the resignation of Mr Mbabazi, Mr Onek and Mr Kutesa pending an investigation; a moratorium on executing oil contracts until a petroleum bill is passed; a review of all production-sharing agreements already signed; the government to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; and the government to withhold its consent on the deal struck by Tullow Oil in 2010 to farm down its Ugandan assets to the French oil major, Total, and the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) until a petroleum bill is passed.
The vote is a big blow to President Museveni and the NRM government. Kadaga had committed an unforgivable sin.
Kadaga further won more praise for her firm stand pressing the government to probe the death of outspoken Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda in December 2012.
Ms Nebanda was a young, vibrant and outspoken member of the ruling party, who joined the small band of “rebel MPs”. The announcement of Nebanda’s death mainly raised the question “who” and not “what” had killed her.
Nebanda had openly taken a position different from that favoured by the executive and a sizeable number of her fellow ruling-party MPs. And so the story became “she has been killed,” apparently as a warning to other rebels.
It did not help matters that her demise followed a controversial debate in parliament about how Uganda’s oil resources and the expected revenue should be managed.
Kadaga’s attempt to recall parliament from recess to discuss Nebanda’s death was the climax of this showdown between Museveni and the Speaker. Museveni ultimately prevailed over Kadaga and the recall was defeated.
In the Busoga region where Kadaga is treated as a colossus, Museveni lost to Bobi Wine in the presidential poll in Iganga, Jinja, Bugweri, Bugiri, Mayuge and Kamuli where Kadaga comes from. He only won in three districts; Buyende, Kaliro and Namutumba.
At the start of the 9th parliament in Kadaga’s first year as Speaker, she received a lot of praise for the activism that took place in the House on many issues; oil bribery allegations, the censure of minister for presidency Kabakumba Matsiko and other corruption related issues.
In 2012, she won plaudits at home when she got into a spat with a Canadian Foreign Minister over homosexuality. Telling off Canada’s top diplomat that “Uganda is neither a colony nor a protectorate and therefore her sovereignty and cultural norms ought to be respected,” Kadaga drowned in sea of praise.
So on when the party’s top executive organ endorsed Oulanyah to come unopposed as the party flag bearer for Speaker the war against Kadaga appeared to have been half done.
Kadaga follows the route taken by others that have fallen out with President Museveni in including Kizza Besigye; the former confidante turned foe; Eriya Kategaya who shifted from childhood buddy to wavering critic, and the Bidandi Ssali camp of the disillusioned. The other is former Premier Amama Mbabazi.