The leader of opposition Wafula Oguttu has accused the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga of setting a terrible precedent by appearing to overturn a decision taken by her deputy Jacob Oulanyah.
The stinging criticism highlights the disagreements that have marked the two speakers’ four-year stewardship of parliament. The latest happened on April 8 during the presentation of the KCCA ministerial policy statement.
To avoid a partisan stand-off, Oulanyah had on December 19, 2014 ordered government to resolve the leadership question at KCCA before parliament could consider any matters relating to the city authority. That kicked in motion the Ruhakana Rugunda-led talks with the opposition to pave way for the return of Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago to his City Hall office.
At the time of Oulanyah’s intervention, parliament had been deadlocked during the debate on the $175m (Shs 500bn) World Bank loan for the second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Programme phase II (KIID II). With few NRM MPs present, the opposition had almost succeeded in blocking the loan until government agreed a reconciliation deal with the opposition.
THE HOT SEAT
Oulanyah then noted that KCCA matters were very contentious and that every time they came up, he was coincidentally in the hot seat. The deputy speaker vowed that he would not preside over any further KCCA issues if the outstanding governance issues at the city authority were not resolved.
“I will not be prepared to preside over a matter involving KCCA again. This is because it is a stressful experience there are legitimate concerns being raised and these concerns are genuine. We requested that the matters be resolved and they are not. Each time I sit here, I get headaches about these matters,” Oulanyah lamented.
“So, whether the loan is approved or not, if by the time we resume in February next year the matter of administration and governance in KCCA is not resolved, no matter should be brought to this House that has anything to do with KCCA and the House expects that Jacob Oulanyah will be presiding I will not. I will not because I am only a human being and I cannot preside over the same thing over and over again.”
With that background, when the KCCA policy statement was tabled by the minister for the Presidency and Kampala, Frank Tumwebaze on April 8, with Kadaga in the chair, Wafula Oguttu, the leader of the opposition, protested. He invoked Oulanyah’s directive of December 19, 2014.
However, Kadaga responded that she had not seen any record in the Hansard (parliament’s official record) to the effect that a vote had been taken before Oulanyah ruled on the matter.
“Honourable members, I am reading the Hansard there was no vote… that was his [Oulanyah’s] own ruling that he would not chair the House. It is not binding to parliament,” Kadaga said.
Protesting the speaker’s position, Wafula Oguttu wondered whether parliament should take Kadaga’s rulings and those of her deputy as personal judgments that are not binding to others.
“People are going to lose trust in the speaker’s ruling because the precedent she has set is that a ruling by one of them today can be overturned by the other tomorrow,” Oguttu told The Observer on April 9.
“The speaker has set a very bad precedent. It was horrifying for me to hear her giving such a ruling,” Oguttu added.
This came barely a month after the speaker had overturned another ruling by Oulanyah, quashing Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige’s letter to editors of media houses urging them to replace their journalists who had “overstayed” at parliament.
Kibirige’s March 9 letter set May 1 as the deadline for editors to replace reporters who have covered parliament for more than five years. This directive caused quite a stir in parliament and outside, with several MPs and even members of the parliamentary commission questioning its logic and origin. This widespread condemnation prompted Oulanyah, who presided over the business on March 12, to declare the letter null and void.
“We have not taken a decision that could have amounted to what has been communicated and this letter should be taken as a letter, but its command should be treated as no command and the date set shall not be effective until the parliamentary commission comes up with some formal decision on this particular matter,” Oulanyah said.
He further told parliament that the last time the parliamentary commission had discussed matters relating to the media was on August 21, 2014. Following a discussion on the bad press reports about parliament, he said, it had been agreed that a press conference be called and breakfast be arranged with editors of media houses to clear the air.
“After this meeting, there has been no other meeting of the commission that discussed this matter so, if this letter written by the clerk is based on this particular decision, then it would be a very wild interpretation of what was said by the parliamentary commission,” Oulanyah said.
That ruling seemed to have knocked the wind out of the storm caused by the clerk’s letter. But days later, Kadaga and Kibirige hosted editors to a breakfast at parliament’s conference hall during which the speaker appeared to suggest that the letter still stands.
Oulanyah’s office is established under Article 82 of the constitution. The deputy speaker assumes full authority of the speaker of parliament in the latter’s absence.
Rule 18(1) of parliament’s rules of procedure goes further to state that parliament is duly constituted when it is being presided over by either the speaker or deputy speaker.
“We now don’t know whether whenever Oulanyah makes a ruling, he rules as an individual or as a speaker, but I think what Kadaga is doing is a violation of the law,” Oguttu said.
However, Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo (NRM) argued that a speaker’s ruling remains standing “as long as there is no subsequent ruling.”
He said: “I don’t see any problem because even Kadaga herself can make a ruling today and overturn it tomorrow.”
The Kadaga-Oulanyah dispute can be traced to their first year in office although it became more visible in 2013 when the latter appeared on a Kfm radio talk-show and accused Kadaga of setting him up to oversee debate on controversial bills. One such bill was Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production), which was passed in November 2012, as well as the Public Order Management Bill, which was passed in August 2013.
The stormy debate that preceded the passing of the latter saw Oulanyah suspend MPs Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kyadondo East), Samuel Odonga Otto (Aruu), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Angelina Osegge (Soroti Woman) for three consecutive sittings over misconduct. To lift the suspension, Oulanyah demanded, the MPs had to apologise.
The effectiveness of the suspension was put to test a day later, when Ssemujju attended parliament with Kadaga in the chair. The outspoken MP was not ejected. Perhaps after realising that he was on his own, Oulanyah surprisingly used the next session he chaired to apologise and quash the MPs’ suspension.
Although disagreements between the two speakers have been noted previously, with Edward Ssekandi and Kadaga known to have been at odds, this particular feud is more pronounced as it has played out in the public arena. Asked to comment on his relationship with Kadaga on April 9, Oulanyah was selective in the questions he chose to answer.
On KCCA, he told The Observer that what was perceived by some MPs as his ruling was merely guidance.
“That was a personal position and not binding to anyone I made it because I am always stressed by those KCCA issues,” Oulanyah said.
The deputy speaker added that if he had been in charge on April 8, he too would have accepted the KCCA policy statement. Kadaga could not be reached for comment, but Rani Ismail, her spokesperson, said the speaker had acted within the law.
“It was not a motion for a decision to be rescinded, it was his [Oulanyah] opinion, and the Hansard is clear he did not say parliament, [but] emphasized that he was speaking as him,” Rani explained.
Rani insisted that all is well between Kadaga and Oulanyah. On the letter to editors, Oulanyah said the speaker could have found evidence pointing to the letter originating from the parliamentary commission.
“I came up with that ruling because all members of the commission were denouncing it, but I left it open for the commission to confirm,” he said.
“I checked through the minutes [of the parliamentary commission meetings] and I didn’t see it anywhere in the records maybe she [Kadaga] got a confirmation and that’s why she came up with that position,” Oulanyah said.
Source : The Observer