The Speaker of Parliament, Right Honourable Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga has for long been a popular Ugandan politician and viewed by some as an “iron lady” for her principles and strong resolve over the years. Her rising political star at one time got her on the radar of potential revered politicians who could possibly take over from incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as President.
Kadaga was also popular on the international scene especially at the time when she served as the Head of Speakers of Commonwealth Parliaments. She came out with a strong stance against the push - then to have Homosexuality and same sex relationships normalized across the Commonwealth. Her name was sung by especially Conservative and Cultural purists from Africa.
Rebecca Kadaga has also kept an admirable record as a Parliamentarian representing her people in Kamuli and Busoga region. Her ascent to Speakership was seen as a gift to both the people of Busoga and to women. She has been able to steer the Ugandan Parliament through tough times. In the NRM, she has been able to hold the Fort and push for the interests of the Party ensuring that her boss’ desires are legalized through the House.
Despite her impeccable record thus far, Rebecca Kadaga has not steered clear of controversy. Over the years, she has been able to sail through quite a number of (scandals). I remember the time she was put on the spot for appearing in the press while she had gone to a traditional shrine. There have been constant rumours about her health to the extent that she has severally been pronounced dead. Her health condition recently got worse and had her hospitalized for a long time.
The marvel of Kadaga has however most recently been how she was able to appeal to both NRM members of Parliament and the Opposition. At the opening of the new Parliamentary tenure, she had to battle with Jacob Oulanyah for the Speakership and her appeal across the board aided her. To many opposition politicians, Kadaga is viewed as moderate and somehow sensible.
It is interesting therefore how much Parliament has degenerated under Rebecca Kadaga. Under her tenure, President Museveni has been able to use trickery to get his way. From the lifting of the age limit to the institution of Laws such as the Public Order Management Act; Parliament is now viewed as an extension of the NRM caucus. More interesting however, Rebecca Kadaga has suspiciously been absent on the passing of most of these legislations leaving the House under the care of her Deputy Jacob Oulanyah. Parliamentarians have been given various payoffs by the state that have led to public outcry. These include the over 20 million shillings given to each Member of Parliament to carry out “Consultations” before the lifting of the age limits on the Presidency.
The Coronavirus pandemic will however go down as the magic wand that revealed the true nature of Rebecca Kadaga. Her name came into disrepute the day she spoke on the Floor of Parliament that an American Professor working with a young man from Busoga had discovered the “medicine” and “cure” for the coronavirus. She went ahead to state that the American Professor had donated the patent to Uganda. Kadaga took the same delegation to meet President Museveni who equally looked ridiculous affirming their suspicious allegations. As it turned out, she was only touting the manufacturing of a mere sanitiser. However, Kadaga thought she could fight her way through this scandal too and went ahead to issue more contradictory statements. It is safer to say that her credibility on the issue of the coronavirus went down the drain. But she did not get it!
President Museveni has always been a smart politician. The day he discovered the error that Kadaga and her team had made, he did not make any further comment on the “cure”. He also started distancing himself from Rebecca Kadaga. This is probably why her name was left off the National COVID TaskForce headed by the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. And Rebecca was smart enough to see that she was being alienated and so she resorted to individual efforts to keep her name in the press and appear to be working for the people equally. At Parliament, she started receiving donations of food and other supplies which she later donated in Busoga. The Prime Minister’s Office is just a stone throw-away from Parliament but however we saw some donations to the National Task Force being received by Kadaga.
High on adrenaline to redeem her name, Kadaga stepped up her game in convening Parliamentary seatings to quickly pass National interventions towards COVID19 response. Parliament and Rebecca Kadaga’s social media pages went in high gear to show the good work she was doing. Many tweeps realised that the Speaker was trying so hard, so much so that she was erring the more and attracting public scorn on social media. After passing the National Supplementary Budget on the Corona Virus response, news broke out that Parliamentarians had allocated themselves a whooping 10 Billion shillings!!!! In the interim, it was not clear what the money was for. However, the news flying was that each member of Parliament was to receive 20 million Shillings to help them contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus.
The 10 Billion shillings has stained Rebecca Kadaga’s name far more than she could have anticipated. On the onset of the scandal, she came on the floor of Parliament and forbade MPs from discussing the payment but rather left it to the Parliamentary Commission. This was after several MPs went public with several explanations for the money. Most MPs argued that they had Ambulances that were available to the National Taskforce and therefore needed to be fueled and staff paid. However, some Members of Parliament returned the money while two MPs ran to Court to contest the payment.
Kadaga found herself in a legal conundrum yet again. The Court issued Interim Orders on 21st April 2020 stopping Parliament from disbursing the said money to MPs. The Speaker then summoned the Attorney General William Byaruhanga to guide Parliament. In his opinion, even when the Court Order was overtaken by events (Parliament Commission had disbursed money to MPs accounts on 17th April) the order extended to MPs who were now custodians of this money not to spend it. Kadaga disagreed with both the Attorney General’s view and the court and decided to issue her own orders to MPs. News broke of her contempt of Court. This however was not her first time to dishonour the judiciary on the floor of Parliament.
It appeared later that Kadaga met President Museveni who was equally not happy with MPs appropriating funds for their benefit. He ordered the Speaker to instruct MPs to pass on the money to District COVID-19 Task Forces. On Tuesday this week, during his National address, Museveni appeared to throw Speaker Kadaga and Parliament under the bus for their actions. To add salt to Kadaga’s injuries, High Court Judge Micheal Elubu ruled in favour of Gerald Karuhanga and ordered Members of Parliament to hand over the money to their District Task Forces.
As it appears, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga is a woman whose public image continues to stain. Like the proverbial green snake in green grass, it seems that the drought that browns grass has exposed her. When curtains close, Rebecca will look at the coronavirus pandemic as the moment her “things” began to fall apart.
This article was originally written by Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja and can be accessed here.