By Joyce Namutebi,
Born on May 24, 1956 in Kamuli district.
and Milton Olupot
JUBILATION filled Parliament Conference Hall yesterday when Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga was declared the Speaker of the ninth Parliament as it commenced business.
Kadaga, an accomplished lawyer, becomes the first woman speaker since Uganda attained independence in 1962.
Her election yesterday did not come on a silver platter, as Kadaga had to put a spirited fight before her party finally gave in and allowed her to take the position, according to an NRM insider privy to behind the scenes discussions.
At about 2:00pm, Kadaga, 55, was declared the new Speaker by the Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, who presided over the secret ballot election. Kadaga immediately promised to be impartial and a Speaker for all, reminding Parliament that Ugandans are increasingly demanding for â€œvalue for money.â€
In her maiden speech, Kadaga urged MPs to serve the nation diligently.
â€œMuch is expected from us. We are part of a vibrant society which has access to information. They (Ugandans) want value for money, accountability and transparency. This should be the main focus of Parliament,â€ Kadaga stated.
As Speaker, Kadaga is the third highest official in Uganda, below the President and Vice-President and just above the Chief Justice.
The Speaker is also the head of the legislative arm of government, which gives her more powers and influence.
Kadaga will be responsible for chairing all debates of Parliament with the assistance of her deputy, Jacob Oulanyah.
The Speaker also presides over the influential parliamentary appointments committee, which vets all nominees for presidential appointments.
On his part, Oulanyah urged MPs to put national interest over their parties.
Kadaga, an unrelenting woman rights activist, easily beat her rival, Nathan Nandala Mafabi (FDC), fielded by the opposition, in a 375-member House where the ruling party enjoys a huge majority.
While Mafabi got 57 votes, Kadaga garnered 302 votes out of the 361 votes.
Kadaga, the Kamuli district woman MP, received a standing ovation from the NRM MPs. Her ascension to the Office of speaker was virtually guaranteed after her NRM party unanimously endorsed her candidature.
A vote cast for former Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, and another for Omoro County MP, Jacob Oulanyah, were declared invalid. The two were not contesting for the post of Speaker.
Earlier, Kyaddondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC) nominated Ssekandi for the post, but the two-term Speaker declined.
Kadaga was nominated by Kinkizi West MP Amama Mbabazi and seconded by MPs Rose Namayanja (NRM, Nakaseke) and Bright Rwamirama (NRM, Isingiro North).
On the other hand, Mafabi was nominated by Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo (Jeema) and Kitgum MP Beatrice Atim Anywar (FDC).
After Kadaga took her seat as Speaker, a jolly Mafabi escorted by Kyanjo, congratulated Kadaga with a handshake.
While President Yoweri Museveni was supposed to swear in Kadaga and hand-over to her the instruments of power, he delegated the role to Odoki.
Odoki then handed to Kadaga a copy of the Constitution, a book containing rules of procedure and the glittering gold-coated mace, the symbol of the authority of the Speaker.
He said her good record in and out of Parliament puts her on a pedestal to do an excellent job.
The Speaker, thereafter, presided over the election of her deputy, Oulanyah, who scored 299 votes.
His challenger, Odonga Otto (FDC), got 58 votes. Odoki also handed over to Oulanyah instruments of power as MPs applauded. Otto stepped forward and congratulated Oulanyah to the amusement of cheering legislators.
In his acceptance speech, Oulanyah promised to serve diligently to deserve the confidence the MPs had shown in electing him.
He urged MPs to debate basing on facts presented and embrace the virtues of; reason, sound logic, tolerance, mutual respect and harmony to reach consensus.
Kadaga becomes the eighth Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda since Independence in 1962.
Who is Rebecca Kadaga?
Went to Namasagali College for high school education.
1978:Graduated with a law degree from Makerere University.
1979: Diploma in Legal Practice from Law Development Centre in Kampala.
2000: Diploma in Womenâ€™s Law from the University of Zimbabwe in 2000.
2003: Master of Arts in Womenâ€™s Law in 2003 University of Zimbabwe.
1984 and 1988: She was in private law practice.
1986/89: President FIDA-Uganda.
1989: Woman MP for the Kamuli District Constituency
1996: State Minister for Regional Co-operation
1998: State minister of Communication and aviation
1999- 2001: Minister for Parliamentary Affairs
2001-2011: Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP.
May 2011:Speaker Parliament of Uganda.
Who is Jacob Oulanyah?
Born March 23 1965
Pursued secondary education from St. Joseph College Layibi, Dr. Obote College Boroboro and Kololo SS.
1988-91: Makerere University, BA Agriculture Economics.
1991-94: Makerere University, LLB (Guild Speaker).
1995: Law Development Centre.
1997 Lecturer LDC and Private practice at Oulanyah, Onoria & Company Advocates.
2001: Member of Parliament Omoro under UPC.
Chaired the legal and parliamentary committee which recommended the constitutional amendments that lifted the presidential term Limits.
Participated in the peace-talks between the LRA rebels and the Government
July 2006: Joined the National Resistance Movement.
2008: He chaired the team that probed the controversial sub-lease of Kisekka Market.
He is also a member of the Uganda Wildlife Authority board, which is under probe.
May 2011: Deputy Speaker Parliament of Uganda.
Reactions to Kadagaâ€™s election as Speaker
Fr. Sylvester Arinaitwe, executive director Uganda Joint Christian Council
We are happy that the MPs have elected a lady to be the leader of the Parliament of Uganda. It is a landmark in the history of this country. Electing her means that they have faith in her and that she has the experience to run the House.
The last two terms as Deputy Speaker of parliament were learning moments for her. She knows the challenges and will not make the same mistakes.
As religious leaders, we wish her well and pray that she leads the House in a professional and objective manner so that they execute their legislative and executive roles as expected.
Mwabustya Ndebesa, history lecturer, Makerere University
It was expected. I think she will only add the emotional value because she will represent women. It is more of symbolic value.
She has been the Deputy Speaker of Parliament for a long time, what new value is she going to add?
As Deputy Speaker, she had the mandate to advise or make decisions. The value system, attitude and norm that she has will not make a difference.
James Mukasa Sebugenyi, President of the Uganda Law Society
It is a wonderful opportunity for the ladies in the country and an opportunity for the law fraternity in Uganda to lead the Parliament.
We expect that as a lawyer, Kadaga will be principled, upright and maintain the integrity we believe in. We pray that she maintains the integrity of the profession and integrity of the office she holds.
We also pray she listens to voice of reason.
Usher Willy Owere, National Trade Union Chairman
I am happy a lady has taken over the leadership of the Parliament. She is sympathetic to the cause of workers because in the past, she has responded positively and promised to work on our demands.
With her on the side of workers, we hope for the best.
Compiled by Barbara Among, Sylvia Nankya and Barbara Nambozo