Ugandan legislators on Thursday hit out at the country’s Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi for what they call disrespecting Parliament as an institution through attacks leveled at Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
Disagreements between Kadaga and Mbabazi that date back to the handling of the special oil debates in October 2011, have been resurrected and appear to be getting to another level.
Early this month, the prime Minister was quoted in the media as saying the Speaker is an opposition sympathizer.
This did not go down well with the country’s number 3, on Tuesday Kadaga retaliated while chairing a Parliamentary session noting that government should acknowledge that the ruling National Resistance Movement consciously took a decision to go for a multi-party dispensation.
The Speaker said she took oath after Members of Parliament voted her to that position and promised to be a Speaker for everyone, insisting that government should understand that she represents all members in the House and accords all of them a fair hearing.
The following day the Prime Minister and his cabinet never showed up for plenary at Parliament, a move that appears to have been calculated to hit back at Kadaga. Only two junior ministers were in the House.
On Thursday morning, Richard Todwong the Minister without Portfolio in a statement said the Prime Minister made several efforts to speak directly to the Speaker to assure her that he had made no such statements as reported in the Observer newspaper.
Todwong quoted Mbabazi as saying his efforts to speak to Kadaga were not successful and his request to have the Speaker return his call was not honoured. Later in the day, however, Kadaga told MPs during plenary that neither she nor her office staff were contacted by the Prime Minister.
Kaberamaido Woman MP Florence Ibi started the debate when she sought clarification on whether it’s true Mbabazi made several efforts to speak directly to the Speaker.
Ibi said the situation where they have the executive fighting the institution of Parliament means their lives as MPs are under threat and they feel they must defend the Speaker. The Kaberamaido woman MP also wondered whether it is male chauvinism.
Dokolo MP Cecilia Ogwal said she was disappointed that the spirit the people of Uganda had in writing the 1995 constitution is now being trampled upon. She stated that this is not an individual attack on Kadaga but the institution of Parliament.
Ogwal adds that at the time of writing the constitution they clearly demarcated the areas of the three pillars of the state to know where their responsibility starts and stops.
The veteran politician wondered why the Prime Minister has waited for two weeks to claim that the statement was false. The Dokolo MP caused laughter when she asked Parliament to understand the character of the people they put in some positions.
She took out a copy of the now defunct Uganda Confidential magazine published on December 5th 1996 with an article about Darlington Bakunda, the chairperson and founder of Bakunda Development Centre. Bakunda, who had lost the Kinkiizi parliamentary seat to Mbabazi that year, stated that he was unhappy with Mbabazi’s press statement on December 2nd that was leading to the division of the people of Kinkiizi.
The Speaker Kadaga then clarified that it is not true that she is not accessible because no one contacted her. Kadaga said Mbabazi should have gone to the media to deny the Observer story, adding that her office has secretaries, principal officer, senior clerk and a commissioner who would have contacted her.
Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo revealed that the fight between Kadaga and Mbabazi was extensively discussed while in a meeting of Parliamentary Commissioners today. In the meeting attended by both warring parties for the first time in months the commissioners tasked the two to explain why they spend more time speaking to the press instead of speaking to one another.
Chris Baryomunsi also a parliamentary commissioner noted that Uganda is a young democracy yet the political trends in the country show the urge to vulgarize multi-party democracy.
Kadaga is the first National Deputy of the ruling NRM party while Mbabazi is the secretary general.