By Sadab Kitatta Kaaya
After the February 18 parliamentary elections, the race for speaker of parliament has kicked off, with the lobbying set to go to the nine-day retreat for newly-elected NRM MPs at the National Leadership Institute (NALI) Kyankwanzi.
The retreat opens on Monday. So far the reigning speaker Rebecca Kadaga and her deputy Jacob Oulanyah are the main contenders in a race that reflects the party's deep splits.
Within the corridors of parliament, the name of foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa keeps coming up as a potential contender, although he has publicly denied having any interest in taking the country's third-highest position. A source close to Kutesa told The Observer on Saturday that the minister was now backing deputy speaker Oulanyah to succeed Kadaga.
"What I can confirm to you is that he is not in that race but it is true he is backing Oulanyah and ready to do anything to make sure that Kadaga doesn't go through," the source said.
Kutesa did not answer or return our repeated phone calls, but a political aide to the Mawogola North MP said on Saturday that he may have travelled to Europe. But there was talk within parliament that Kutesa could have cancelled the trip to attend the Kyankwanzi retreat to lobby for his preferred candidate.
Kutesa's dislike for Kadaga stems from the speaker's May 2013 ruling on the floor of parliament that swatted NRM's attempt to have four MPs; Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) and Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Centr Kutesa's interest in the quartet was to settle a long-running political score with his nemesis Ssekikubo. The two legislators from Sembabule have a long-standing political feud that has many times threatened to polarize the district.
Before the Kutesa-Oulanyah alliance took shape, promoters of the minister's candidature, feared his bid would collapse because of his connection to the first family. To get round that hurdle, they shopped for a candidate who would put up a serious challenge against Kadaga.
Kutesa's daughter Charlotte is married to first son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba while his late wife, Jennifer, was a close relative to First Lady Janet Museveni. Lydia Wanyoto, being a vocal feminist and an easterner, made her a perfect weapon of choice for Kutesa to deploy against Kadaga, an easterner too. To neutralize Kadaga, a group allied to Kutesa reached out to the chairperson of the NRM Women's league, Wanyoto.
Wanyoto made a surprise late entry into the race for the workers' woman MP. She miserably lost to Agnes Kunihira at Namboole stadium on Friday. That quickly dashed her hopes of becoming speaker. Interviewed on Friday, Wanyoto confirmed she had interest in the speakership. She blamed her poor showing in the workers' woman MP race to Kadaga's invisible hand.
"I had all the qualities that fit into our arithmetic because her [Kadaga] strength lies in her being a woman and the fact that she comes from the east. That is why she had to fight me so that I lose but that is not the end of the world for me; I will do other things," Wanyoto said.
Wanyoto, the former member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) polled 46 votes. She competed against Agnes Kunihira and Mary Tunde who garnered 209 and 204 votes respectively. A source in the Kadaga camp dismissed Wanyoto's claims on Saturday as false. The source said the speaker was in no way shaken by Wanyoto's emergence.
Kadaga spent some time last week quietly lobbying groups of MPs to support her re-election as a group opposed to her also upped its campaign. There were suggestions that the group opposed to her was planning to give some "facilitation" to MPs at Kyankwanzi as they continue their mobilization against the Kamuli Woman MP.
Indeed, some of the people in the said group confirmed on Saturday that they were driving to Kyankwanzi to continue with their anti-Kadaga mobilization but denied that they were planning to "facilitate" the MPs.
Some in NRM have not forgotten how she steered the House in the first half of the ninth Parliament especially during the oil debate leading to calls for Kutesa, the then Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Hilary Onek to step aside from their cabinet dockets.
Nonetheless, Kadaga appears to be the favorite candidate for many returning MPs and opposition lawmakers. One opposition MP told this writer on Friday that if the hate campaign against Kadaga does not stop, they will launch a "full-scale battle" to save her.
al) evicted from parliament following their expulsion from the party.
With Oulanyah's sights set on the bigger chair, Ssekikubo remained the only known aspirant for the deputy speaker's chair by press time.
"I think our time is now to contribute to the politico-legislative development of our country," Ssekikubo said on Saturday.
He sees himself as a person who can get the opposition and government sides to work together.
"I have been at the extreme ends of both sides within and outside NRM. I know what it feels to be on the opposing end... " said the maverick legislator. "I am the compromise candidate needed at this time, who can take cognizance of the majority voice [in Parliament] but also respect the voice of the minority."
Given his past run-ins with the ruling party, Ssekikubo is a little worried the Kyankwanzi retreat might try to undermine his bid.
"We go to Kyankwanzi to build consensus but it should not negate the democratic principles. NRM should not be the one gauged to run counter to the democratic aspirations of the country," Ssekikubo said.
At an NRM parliamentary caucus meeting at State House Entebbe on Friday, President Museveni said the retreat was to teach party ideology and to also orient the incoming legislators to reduce cases of rebellion that dogged the ninth Parliament.
Source: All Africa