When Margaret Nantongo Zziwa was impeached on December 17 as speaker of the East African Legislative assembly (EALA) by a 36-to-2 vote, four other Ugandans lined up to take her place a day later.
But the Uganda chapter at the assembly was given 48 hours to agree on a single candidate and save the regional Parliament a repeat of the 2012 “Ugandan confusion” during the election that brought Zziwa as speaker.
This time round, Uganda won back the seat after Burundi’s Hafsa Mosi, who had been favoured by some EALA members to replace, Zziwa agreed not to stand. She told the assembly on December 17 that Uganda should not be penalised for Zziwa’s incompetence.
“Uganda’s turn must be maintained and respected… there is no need of penalising Uganda because of the incompetence of one person,” Mosi told the assembly on Wednesday.
Already, interim speaker, Chris Opoka, had expressed interest in retaining the seat that he had held for 21 days. Dorah Byamukama, the other contender, lost to Zziwa in 2011. Byamukama also chairs the Legal, Rules and Privileges committee that wrote the report which recommended Zziwa’s ouster. Other contenders included Mike Kennedy Ssebalu and Daniel Fred Kidega.
The Uganda chapter meeting on the morning of December 18 held at the East African Community (EAC) secretariat in Arusha aised Byamukama not to stand because “she was not any different from Zziwa.”
The Ugandan delegates were later to engage in a series of more meetings in which Ssebalu too got knocked out, despite Nusura Tiperu informing one of the meetings that Ssebalu was Museveni’s favoured candidate for the job.
“She said that the president was worried about the Buganda factor more so, because it was a Muganda who had been impeached,” a source said.
As Tiperu reported to the meeting details of her phone conversation with Museveni, one delegate called the minister of state for the East African Community (EAC) Affairs, Shem Bageine, who disputed Tiperu’s report.
“Museveni is one of the original framers of the treaty who supported the creation of the assembly with separation of powers. Therefore he cannot meddle in your affairs,” Bageine reportedly said.
“There is no official candidate of the government. Sit as a chapter and decide,” Bageine added.
This dampened Ssebalu’s chances of ascending to a seat that he attempted to give a shot at in 2012. His unsuccessful 2012 bid is the reason his colleagues urged him to stand down. Kidega remained the only candidate favoured by the Uganda chapter, with Opoka already in the bad books of his Ugandan compatriots who accused him of having been blinded by the 21 days he acted as speaker. Opoka allegedly ignored the Ugandan chapter during his acting stint.
Opoka had shunned most of the chapter meetings and instead chose to seek nomination through Tanzania’s Kessy Ndorakinda. The Ugandans now engaged chapter heads of other member states to mobilise their members against Opoka’s candidature. He later agreed to stand down on condition that he gets appointed to the assembly’s commission.
Opoka indeed withdrew his candidacy when the assembly convened on December 19, and Kidega was declared unopposed for the speakership.
“What is important is that we have a new speaker and he [belongs] to NRM,” Tiperu said on Saturday.
Since the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) quashed her application that sought an order to prohibit and restrain EALA from convening the December 17 session to consider a report by the Legal, Rules and Privileges committee that called for her removal, Zziwa has kept away from EALA business.
During the vote that removed her from the helm of the regional Parliament, her lone defenders were Suzan Nakawuki (Uganda) and Nancy Abisai (Kenya). Fred Mukasa Mbidde, a known sympathizer of Zziwa opted to abstain from voting.
After her court defeat, Zziwa reportedly flew back to Kampala. On Saturday, her husband, Capt Francis Babu, used a radio talk show on his Metro FM to accuse Bageine and EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera of masterminding Zziwa’s ouster. The impeachment, Babu said, was based on petty issues.
Source : The Observer