Opinion

Okwi: Why We Need an Ark in Parliament

By Okwi Constantine

Many shall wonder who I am and why I think my views matter in who becomes what in the government of the state of Uganda? well, my name is Mr. Okwi Constantine, from Kibale County, Pallisa district, Eastern Uganda. I unsuccessfully competed for the position of Member of Parliament of Kibale County, in the infamous polls of January 14th 2021.

I care to opine in pertinent issues of state and governance for many reasons. First, it is my constitutional right and duty, and second, inter alia, if I had been successful in the January 14th polls, my vote would have definitely counted in the race for speakership of the 11th parliament.

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The item of Speakership of the 11th Parliament has been invariably a controversial topical matter, providing an opportunistic ground for retribution among the NRM linchpins and another of opportunism and brinkmanship for those jostling for the position of deputy speaker and other ministerial posts.

There has been a school of thought, casually and wishfully thinking that a verbal political agreement of compromise is ever sustainable, they even forget that our president, has planted and moved his goal posts several times, coming to clarify that this is what I meant, not that.

For example, after remarking that the problem of Africa is leaders who overstay in power, he clarified, decades after, that he actually meant those that stay long without the will of the people. I wonder, why elements of the same set, NRM, are expected to behave differently, by one yielding to unwritten treaty, based on unwritten law and another, supposedly, a role model, the father in the family, with a dynamic lexicon; alas, a democrat, liberal or fair player would conclude, thus, what is good for a goose, is good for a gander.

Well, what would be a conventional yardstick for the choice of the vice president, speaker of parliament and Chief Justice and who would take the day if one carried a casting vote? I would consider the following;

  1. The dictates in national objectives and directive principles of state policy, especially the democratic principle (II)(iv) of our constitution, “the composition of Government shall be broadly representative of the national character and social diversity of the country” and the objective (III)(ii), of National unity and stability of the same constitution, “every effort shall be made to integrate all the peoples of Uganda while at the same time recognising the existence of their ethnic, religious, ideological, political and cultural diversity”
  2. The principal of Equality and freedom from discrimination as enshrined in article 21, that of affirmative action as provided for in article 32 and of the rights of women as cast in article 33 of the constitution of the republic of Uganda.
  • The historical precedent, that has sustained the socio-political stratum of Uganda.
  1. The valency of the position, and its significance in the distribution of the national cake and sense of recognition and integration.
  2. The nature of the candidates and their mesh with the position.

 

Our constitution was built to capture and include all Ugandans in the governance of the country despite its controversial making process. As learnt from National objectives and directive principles of state policy in the foregoing, a government that conforms to our constitution is one that equitably distributes the government roles across the major geographical and social regions of Uganda, the North, East, West, and Centre.

A reconciliation can be undertaken for the sub regions such as west Nile, Rwenzori, etc. conversely, a president from the West, should pick a vice president from any other part of Uganda, East, Central or Northern, then a speaker should come from another region and so the chief justice. If this holds, then the vice president, the speaker of parliament and the chief justice should come from other regions, not western Uganda since the president announced from the January 14th Polls is from Western Uganda.

A review of article, 82 (Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament), article 98 (President of Uganda), article 108, (Vice President) and Article 133 (Chief Justice) as well as the operational culture over the years, one is able to estimate the power valency of each of these positions.

If the power valency sum of the three arms of government, Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary, including their deputies is 10, I would consider the realties of our state governance and distribute as follows; President, 7, Vice president -1, Speaker 3, Deputy Speaker -0.5, Chief Justice 2, Deputy Chief Justice -0.5, total, 10.

This illuminates the constitutional distortion that bedevils Uganda. Despite the normative conception that the three arms of government should each have sufficient autonomous power to provide effective checks and balances on the other, literally, all power rests with the president and the other two arms seem content and the public, naively reinforces the abnormality by voting into power, those representatives that are sent by the president. Dissecting intra position dynamics, the vice president of Uganda must excel at both physical and spiritual obedience to the president or lose their appointment.

It is not different at Parliament and Judiciary, the deputies are at the mercy of the magnanimity of their principals and nature (Sickness), or unavoidable pleasure-seeking schemes or kind of state obligations for them to be accorded opportunity to steer ship. Annual leave is no guarantee, it can be sold for a monetary benefit, for one to continue running the show uninterrupted, and alas, the principals have power to manipulate these circumstances to their favour.

Diametrically, there are only three positions that have real power in Uganda, The president (A lot of power), Speaker (Some power), and Chief Justice (some power). It is these principal positions that should be distributed regionally, for the constitutional objective of a broadly composed government to stand.

We know that the winner for president announced from the January 14th 2021 election originates from Western Uganda, and the serving Chief Justice, since 20th August 2020 hails from Northern Uganda. It is thus minimal logic that unless a modality of altering the status quo is conjured, the speaker of parliament should come either from the East or Centre of the country.

We should not seem to orchestrate individual interests, when we have a country to serve. I hear that the justification for the candidature of Rt. Hon. Oulanyah L’okori Jacob is premised on a verbal social compromise that members of a given family, NRM reached in 2016, that Rt. Hon. Alitwala Rebecca Kadaga (ARK), would not be challenged by the former on condition that she would be taking her last shot at speakership and ultimately reciprocate in favor of the former in subsequent opportunities.

I wonder where this leaves our democracy? it is conspicuous that internal democracy is absent in NRM, to extend this to parliament is an insult to Ugandans, that know the constitution provides for a democratic mode of electing the Speaker of Parliament. Anyway, If Mr. Oulanyah believed this treaty, then he needed to review his understanding of politics, this kind of settlements never stand.

Why didn’t he review similar treaties between HE, the President and the people of Uganda, such as that on the issue of leaders that overstay in power (1986), Of stepping down in 2006 (2001) and of “definitely” not running for office beyond the age of 75 (2016). This type of analysis would have helped him and his promoters appreciate that the reward he got in 2016, position of deputy speaker was commensurate to the courtesy he extended to NRM and particularly to the candidature of “ARK” at that time.

He would thus deduce that 2021, would be a clean slate, to be marked by the constitutional and other practical realties of Uganda, consequently, saving himself of the egg that seems to be building on his face.

 

Considering the tenets of Equality, freedom from discrimination and that of affirmative action as envisioned in our constitution, we do realize that there are some regions and the people that are increasingly getting alienated and pushed from the table of equity and equality and cast in the chasm of discrimination.

It is reported that of the 20 top government positions, only 1, (5%) is occupied by a female, 19 (95%), thus the incumbency of males. At the level of parliamentary representation, 356 (67%) of the 529 members that shall compose the 11th parliament are male, while only 173, (33%) are women.

The apportionment of these members by region reports that Central Uganda has 106 (20%) of the 529 legislators, Eastern Uganda has 150 (28%), Northern, 133 (25%) and Western 140 (26%) of the portion of parliament. However, rather controversially, Central Uganda is the largest administrative region covering 23,707.90 Sq.mi, (25%) of 93,263 Sq.mi total land area of Uganda and accommodating 11,952,600 people (28%) of the 42,885,900 people in Uganda.

Eastern Uganda, straddles 15,242.80 Sq.mi (16%) and supporting  11,164,800 (26%) of the total population, Northern Uganda covers 32,969.90 Sq.mi (35%) and carries 8,870,200 people, (21%) of the total population and Western Uganda stretches over 21,342.40 Sq.mi (23%) and carrying 10,898,300 (25%) of the total population. Literally, a legislator from Central Uganda represents 112,760 people, that from Eastern Uganda represents 74,432, that from Northern Uganda represents 66,693 people and that from Western Uganda represents 77,845 people. If regions are arranged in descending order of the population, the order is Central (11,952,600 people), Eastern (11,164,800 people), Western (10,898,300 people), and Northern (8,870,200 people).

Considering the status of executive structure, of 86 positions (Cabinet ministers, Ministers of state, Secretaries and Advisors), 57 (66%) are occupied by Men and only 29 (34%) occupied by women. Further analysis shows that 18 (21%) are from Central Uganda, 20 (23%) from Eastern Uganda, 17 (20%) from Northern Uganda and 31, (36%) are from Western Uganda.

This analysis has illuminated the fact that the female gender is stilly grossly marginalized in terms of opportunities of leadership in Uganda. It also reveals a repugnant imbalance between and among regions in the sharing of power, which is a precursor to the sharing of the national cake.

The composition of the government of Uganda since 1962 (independence) has always tried to create regional parity in power sharing, save for the period of 1971-1979 when someone was deluded to a supernatural life president. For example, in 1962, When the president came from the Central Uganda (Edward William Frederick David Walugembe Luwangula Mutebi Mutesa II), the vice president came from Eastern (William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope III) and the prime minister came from the North (Apollo Milton Opeto Obote) the Speaker (John Bowes Griffin) and the Chief Justice-Acting (K. G. Bennet), unfortunately were still White. Thereafter, when the North took the presidency (Apollo Milton Opeto Obote), the East and the West took the Vice Presidency (William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope III and John Babiiha respectively), India took the Speakership (Narendra M. Patel), and Nigeria  and Ireland took the Chief Justice (Egbert Udo Udoma and Dermot Joseph Sheridan respectively). Even during the time of Yusufu Kironde Lule, Godfrey Lukwonga Binaisa, Paulo Muwanga, Saulo Musoke, Polycarp Nyamuchoncho, Yoweri Hunter Wacha-Olwol that were from the Centre and North variously, the speakership and chief justice went to Western (Edward Rugumayo) and Eastern (Samuel Wako Wambuzi) respectively, office of the vice president was in hibernation during this period. Upon return of Apollo Milton Opeto Obote (1980-1985), and being from north, the vice president went to the centre (Paulo Muwanga), the speaker to West, (Francis K. Butagira) and the Chief Justice to the East (George Masika).

Even at the subsisting epoch of HE. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the status quo has been propagated in some historical precedence, save for the period 1986 to 1996 when as Chairperson, he doubled as a pseudo speaker of NRC, assisted by Vice Chairman Al-Haji Moses Kigongo. Being from the West, his Vice presidents have come from the Centre (Late. Samson Kisekka, Gilbert Bukenya and incumbent, Edward Ssekandi), The East (Specioza Kazibwe). The speakers have also been naturally rotated, ensuring that no one region has more than one core positions and if it happens, an expeditions correction is taken. Consequently, Museveni has served with a speaker from the East (James Wapakhabulo RIP, and Rebecca Kadaga), from the North (Francis Ayume RIP) and from the Centre (Edward Ssekandi). The Chief Justices that have served with him include; Peter Allen (England), Samuel Wako Wambuzi (Eastern Uganda), Benjamin Josses Odoki (Eastern Uganda), Steven Kavuma in acting capacity (Central Uganda), Bart Magunda Katureebe (Western Uganda) and the incumbent Alfonse OWiny-Dollo (Northern Uganda)

During the ephemeral reign of Idi Amin Dada Oumee, the Vice president role fell vacant after John Babiiha for the period 1971-1977, then Mustafa Adrisi (Northern) assumed office. There was no parliament during this period, but he rotated his Chief Justices from Benedicto Kiwanuka (Central Uganda), Samuel Wako Wambuzi (Eastern Uganda), to Mohammed Saied (Hong Kong).

Paradoxically, there has been a kind of perfect force that keeps the positions of president, speaker and chief justice equitably distributed, in a balanced manner, among the administrative regions of Uganda. There has been an ephemeral instance of one region having two of the core positions such as between 1994 and 1998, and between 2013 and 2015, when Eastern Uganda claimed both the position of the speaker and Chief Justice (James Wapakhabulo and Samuel Wako Wambuzi, Rebecca Kadaga and Benjamin Josses Odoki) and between 2015 and 2020 when Western Uganda enjoyed both the position of president and chief justice (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Bart Magunda Katureebe)

Now, speaking about the two candidates, everyone knows that Rt. Hon. Oulanyah L’okori Jacob has ever doubted himself and his ideology when he switched from the UPC to NRM. There is no need to delve deeper into the motivations, whether prebendalism, patriotism or necessity, it is not important at this time. We can only deduce that he is either expedient or opportunistic or rather selfless. What is convulsive is a record of his inability to work well with some members of parliament. Members ever embarrassed by him can attest to this. We also know that his affinity to worship the executive, the president in particular is unrivalled, and his commitment to keep the status quo is meticulous (NRM and president Museveni won massively in his region of origin in last polls).

It is just evident that he may submerge parliament in the drain of the executive arm, to the chagrin of all Ugandans. If the North had not already got its share, (Chief Justice) Rt. Hon. Oulanyah L’okori Jacob, would effectively further the work that the current Vice President is doing with distinction. However, the Vice President role being validly occupied by Central Uganda, I see Rt. Hon. Oulanyah L’okori Jacob as a square peg in a round hole, unable to fit anywhere, unless he swallows the humble pie and returns to compete for the role of Deputy Speaker, to which Ugandans shall not lament, if the current status quo is maintained in parliament to 2026.

Now to the inimitable ARK, Alitwala Rebecca Kadaga, she has been ingeniously consistent in her political credo, firm in her political ideology, serving her party, (NRM) with diligence, and working effectively with the executive, the president, without forgetting her duty to Uganda. All the strides in parliament work well with her and whenever necessary, she checks the excesses of other arms of government. She truly, is the vessel, the ark, that can carry Uganda through the difficult waters of democracy and rule of law.

She is the only remaining symbol of women emancipation in Uganda and integration of the people of Eastern Uganda in the Political power centre. If she losses, the role of Speaker, it shall not be her loss, but that of all women of Uganda, that of all the people of Eastern Uganda and that of the Women of Africa. It shall never leave the women and the people of Eastern Uganda the same. It shall be reckless for Uganda to experiment with excluding women and the people of Eastern Uganda from the power centre, the damage shall be so insidious but ubiquitous. It shall affect the political dynamics of Uganda beyond 2021.

This sermon shall be incomplete without some few verses. I would like to add a verse on those that say ARK can take role of Vice President or Prime Minister. The sponsors of this verse are enemies of the people if Eastern Uganda. These people are aware that they have lost quite a lot in social economic progress, from cattle in Teso, the railway, and industries in Bukedi, Bugishu and Busoga to the collapse of their education infrastructure, but are cooperative and feel that a little bit of power, as wielded by the speaker is a worthy pacifier. They know that the roles of vice president, prime minister and deputy speaker are good but not sufficient. Thys thus want that of the SPEAKER of Parliament.

The second verse is to the Elected Members that shall constitute the 11th parliament. There are anecdotal claims that some candidates are bribing their way to prominence and thus success as either speaker or deputy speaker with lots of money. Please save your legacies, vote with your conscience, knowing that you have a people to protect.

The third verse is to Hon. Suubi Juliet Kyinyamatama and Hon. Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda. You made a good announcement, the country has heard you, now, in the spirit of fairness, bearing the facts in the foregoing, support the candidature of Rt. Hon. Alitwala Rebecca Kadaka (ARK), such that in future, you shall have honor in Uganda. Hon. Ssemujju, you are one of my icons, I can’t disappoint my people and ever I was elected an followed your footsteps. Be the democratic and liberation activist you have been. Your candidature is not good for the country now. I have heard you make stinging statements against ARK, but this can be forgiven. Hon. Kyinyatama, you are a woman, if you choose to fight with another woman, the man may take the day, and the whole world shall look at you with dishonor. Unite with your kind, a woman, ARK, and defend the position of women emancipation.

The last verse is that of brethren from Eastern Uganda that are fighting a shade of the tree, role of deputy speaker, instead of fighting for the tree, role of speaker. It is rumored that these brothers and sisters are fighting the only candidate from the East, for the role of speaker because they know that from historical antecedents, it shall be difficult for the speaker and deputy speaker to come from the same region. They therefore want to sell the position of Speaker to the north, such that the deputy comes to the East. Ouch, how treacherous, how self-defeatist, how embarrassing.    It is time for all the candidates for deputy speaker to withdraw their candidature and express solidarity with other voices that are pushing for the triumph of Eastern Uganda in the quest for role of Speaker.

What is the fair settlement then? Bearing in mind the physical geographical and population facts as shown in the foregoing, as well as the constitutional principles discussed above, sandwiched by the historical precedents and the current status quo, the role of president remains in Western Uganda, the position of vice president should remain in Central Uganda, that of Speaker should remain in Eastern Uganda and that of Chief Justice, should remain in Northern Uganda (First time since independence one has come from here)

Constantine Okwi

Consultant and Politician

Kibale County, Pallisa District

 

 

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