Right from the day she was elected speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in June 2012, Ms Margaret Zziwa has not had a smooth and pleasant ride in that prestigious position. Unlike past Eala speakers who were elected by consensus, she became speaker after an acrimonious and hotly contested election which pitted her against the “official” NRM candidate, Ms Dora Byamukama, from western Uganda who took it for granted that the coveted chair was hers for the asking. In a classic no-holds-barred contest, Ms Zziwa defeated the preferred candidate hands down by 33 votes to 12 which left a bitter taste in some quarters.
Against this background, one would have expected Ms Zziwa to play her cards diplomatically and judiciously, but like many Ugandan politicians, she is perhaps not inclined and wired to play her cards wisely. Ugandan politicians love to throw their weight around, lord it over others and show off who is the boss such arrogant, abrasive and aggressive behaviour has not surprisingly created a serious leadership crisis at Eala. The crisis which has been brewing for the last two years erupted into the open in April.
At the recent Eala meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda, a joint statement was issued on October 30 by several Eala members who resolved “that the majority of members being in excess of two thirds of the total membership of the assembly have lost confidence in the Rt Hon Margaret Nantongo Zziwa as speaker of Eala” and they intend to move a motion “to ensure that the will of the assembly is exercised and the pending motion for removal of the speaker dated April 1 and tabled in the House is transacted as urgent business of the House.”
The statement was signed by 32 of Eala’s 52 members 45 of whom are elected – nine from each partner state plus seven ex-officio members, including five ministers, the secretary general and Counsel to the Community. The ex-officio members do not have voting rights.
The speaker panicked and reacted angrily by adjourning the assembly sine die in clear violation of Eala’s rules of procedure. Well, she only postponed the inevitable by a few days, hoping against hope that the problem would somehow blow away in the wind. Her position as speaker has sadly become untenable and a disgrace!
Ms Zziwa is regrettably now part of the problem and the sooner she resigns in public interest as well as her own, the better for Uganda and the East African Community. From reliable sources, the manner in which she has conducted herself and treated her colleagues is unbecoming, unethical and deplorable, including some Ugandan members of the assembly who stuck their necks out for her in 2012 during that acrimonious election. I imagine her rival at that election having the last laugh and murmuring: “I told you so!”
According to a story published in the Sunday Monitor of November 9, the speaker told journalists at a press conference in Kampala on November 7, “I will not resign. I was assigned by the people of Uganda and I am carrying my country’s flag with me on behalf of them” which is rather presumptuous of her and even questionable from the evidence available in the public domain.
She added, “I am not speaker because I am Margaret Zziwa, but a person representing Uganda in the process of integration. This is Uganda’s chance to shine.” I agree with her that the time for Uganda to rise and shine has come and is, in fact, long overdue, but this cannot and will not happen under the corrupt and decadent regime of the political party to which she belongs.
In an interview published in The Observer of November 10, Ms Zziwa claimed that groupthink, ethnicity and a desire on the part of her opponents to extract revenge are at the root of the never-ending wrangles which have bedeviled her tenure as speaker. She further alleged that she offered her candidature in 2012 in order “to make sure the Uganda flag is not dragged in the mud”.
Well, let me put it to the speaker that in the same spirit of not wanting to drag Uganda in mud, time has come for her to resign because she has become a liability and a major stumbling block to the harmonious, efficient and effective functioning of Eala. I hope she will have the courage and decency to do the right thing without any further delay.
According to a memorandum I have seen addressed to “those in positions of authority in the EAC and its partner states” the speaker blamed her problems on domestic politics.
“She claimed that a Tanzanian was allowed to rule peacefully the first assembly, a Kenyan was allowed to rule peacefully the second assembly and now it is the turn of the Muganda to rule her peace was being disturbed”. She also claims that a “mother” from the “Buganda Kingdom” is being harassed at the instigation of the “Bahima Kingdom”.
Truly amazing stuff, but typically Ugandan! Whatever happened to the south-western alliance forged during the Luweero Bush War of 1981-1986 which was fought to end alleged northern domination of Uganda? Has the alliance fallen apart? I sincerely hope Ugandans will learn and remember the basic lessons of their bitter and tragic history.
Ms Margaret Zziwa has two options at her disposal to resign with honour now or be censured and thrown out with disgrace. If I were in her uncomfortable shoes, I would choose the former option to avoid further embarrassment and save the good name of Uganda from being soiled in the mud. I hope she will heed this wise counsel. To be continued next Sunday.
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor