Margaret Zziwa, the Speaker of the East Africa Assembly



Margaret Zziwa, the Speaker of the East Africa Assembly
Margaret Zziwa, the Speaker of the East Africa Assembly

At the time of writing this story, President Yoweri Museveni was about to enter a meeting with Commissioners for Arusha-based East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

Each country produces two Commissioners and Mike Sebalu is one of the two Ugandans sitting on EALA Commission. Museveni had wanted to use the meeting to deepen his understanding of what is happening at Arusha where 36 out of 45 MPs recently signed a petition to remove Speaker Margaret Zziwa.

The weekend meeting at Rwakitura was just a follow up to many others Museveni has held before. The most previous one, prior to Rwakitura, was held at State House Nakasero where Museveni met all EALA MPs with exception of UPC’s Chris Opoka and DP’s Mukasa Mbidde. Despite not being NRM, independent Susan Nakawuki forced her way into the Nakasero meeting. She came late but Museveni begged members to allow her in.

During that meeting, Museveni persuaded Ugandans to pardon Zziwa in case she wronged them in the bigger interests of Uganda at EAC.  He also begged Zziwa to be ready to forgive members in case it turns out they maliciously signed the petition against her. Led by Nusura Tiperu, Ugandan EALA MPs made their case against Zziwa who also made her case against them. Nakawuki, a leading blue eyed girl for Zziwa, interjected demanding that Museveni forces the Ugandan EALA MPs to withdraw their signatures (all of them except Mbidde, Nakawuki & Mike Sebalu signed Kenyan Peter Mathuki’s petition demanding Zziwa’s removal) to demonstrate they have genuinely forgiven Zziwa.

They, however, protested this saying it wasn’t necessary. Museveni reluctantly agreed with them but suggested EAC Minister Shem Bageine, who also in the meeting, attends the last Tuesday session. Museveni suggested that, since he is entitled to attend and speak as an ex-officio, Shem Bageine immediately rises to Zziwa’s defense as soon Mathuki moves his motion (which he did last Tuesday) in Arusha. Shem Bageine was supposed to argue that Uganda needs more time to study the petition before it would decide on how to defend Zziwa who is eating things as Speaker on Uganda’s behalf.

That was the consensus at the Museveni meeting but Shem Bageine, whom Zziwa’s husband Francis Babu says is working with the MPs to undermine the Speaker, never acted as instructed. It depends on who you speak to. Those in favor of Zziwa agree with Babu’s analysis (aired on his Metro fm radio on Saturday) that Bageine hasn’t sufficiently supported Zziwa. Those against Zziwa defend Bageine arguing he was willing to do as Museveni instructed him to but was frustrated by Zziwa who over depended on Susan Nakawuki and Mukasa Mbidde’s advice during the last Tuesday session.

Zziwa, who delayed to start the session by two hours, walked in with Mbidde and Nakawuki and announced the House’s adjournment Sine Die (meaning adjourned indefinitely). This sparked anger prompting more Kenyans to sign the petition. Members accused the Speaker of adjourning the House without consulting Commissioners as EALA Rules of Procedure require. Sources say this is the reason Museveni on Saturday offered to meet the 10 Commissioners who claim Zziwa has been sidelining them from EALA business.

They also fault Zziwa for not reprimanding Nakawuki who made sexist remarks insulting MPs during the Tuesday session. They carried to Museveni a video and audio recording of Nakawuki shouting obscenities at them as she shielded Zziwa to walk out after adjourning the House on Tuesday.

The videos portray Nakawuki as sexually attacking male EALA MPs opposed to Zziwa. She among other things told them to “go hang” and “castrate” themselves if their “balls became too big to handle.”  


We spoke to Nakawuki who admitted making the verbal attack on Zziwa’s rivals. “When your colleagues become native what do you do? You also become native and that exactly is what I did,” said Nakawuki who is famous for her combative politics.  She admitted things won’t be easy for Zziwa whom she said was a “victim of deeply complicated politics within NRM.” She said people were out to get the Speaker “and this has nothing to do with the alleged incompetence and misconduct.”

She said whereas Kenya’s Mathuki appears to be on the forefront, the invisible hand are people from Uganda and “some of them are big people in government.” Nakawuki claimed Zziwa’s woes started in January 2014 when she introduced new rules on members’ sitting allowances. The Kampala session was for two weeks and members wanted to be paid their lump sum at the rate of $300 per day. Zziwa, according to Nakawuki, changed this system insisting that members should be paid daily for only those sessions they attended.

“Many wanted to get their pay for two weeks and disappear. Quite often we have had problems of Coram which the Speaker was curing by insisting on daily allowances,” Nakawuki says denying claims that Zziwa herself and Mbidde have been favored with many trips by Zziwa. “To the contrary, Nusura Tiperu has had a lion’s share on the trips. She always took it for granted that she is entitled to much more because she nominated Speaker,” Nakawuki argued.

She added Zziwa’s other problem with Tiperu started during the EALA games in Uganda in January when she (Nakawuki) was appointed by Zziwa to coordinate the netball tournament. “I was innocent as you know. I got in to do the job not knowing somebody was unhappy because she was targeting the $40,000 budget that was available for the team. I was innocent and even left my colleague Bernard Mulengani to go and buy those jerseys and other things. I realized much later that somebody wanted that small job to make enjawulo [difference]. It’s true the Speaker is in problems because of that,” Nakawuki concluded.

We separately established that prior to the Tuesday session (during which Bageine was supposed to execute his pro-Zziwa assignment), Museveni intended to use the sidelines of the Brussels meeting (last week) to plead with fellow EAC presidents to prevail over their EALA MPs to forgive Zziwa and allow her complete her term as Speaker. However, the anger members from the 5 EAC countries exhibited during the Tuesday session left Museveni doubting if they would ever forgive Zziwa.   


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