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Ssekandi in third seat: Will he jump up high?

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th October 2005 03:00 AM

A combination of factors make Parliament Speaker Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi difficult to ignore, when considering presidential material. As head of the legislature, Ssekandi is the third most powerful person in the country after the President and Vice-President.

A combination of factors make Parliament Speaker Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi difficult to ignore, when considering presidential material. As head of the legislature, Ssekandi is the third most powerful person in the country after the President and Vice-President.

By Cyprian Musoke

A combination of factors make Parliament Speaker Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi difficult to ignore, when considering presidential material. As head of the legislature, Ssekandi is the third most powerful person in the country after the President and Vice-President.

Article 109 (5) of the constitution stipulates that, “Where the President and Vice-President are both unable to perform the functions of the office of the president, the Speaker shall perform those functions until the President or the Vice-President is able to perform those functions, or until a new president assumes office.”

Now, that alone puts the Speaker into the big picture, when looking at people with potential to become president.

Just like Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya, Ssekandi is both a Muganda and a Catholic, groups that have the biggest vote, if we are to go by the recently released population and housing census report.

His religious inclination is perhaps the more reason why the grapevine some time back was awash with a story that Ssekandi was in the habit of ‘having tea’ with Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala at Pope Paul memorial centre in the evenings, perhaps talking about the church side of things.

In Parliament, there is unanimity about Ssekandi’s impartiality and ability to get on well with both multipartyists and movementists, during and outside the parliamentary debates.

The only time such unanimity came close to breaking, was when multipartyists once accused him of being a member of ‘a secret government committee’, that had been mandated to discuss the transition. Their concern was that his involvement in meetings on the government side would affect his neutrality and the independence of parliament during the heat of the transition.

Ssekandi, in his usual calmness, explained to the House that his role as Speaker involved linking the legislature to the executive, which he would continue doing without surrendering his independence. He said one could swim but that did not mean they “would become fish as a result of swimming.”

Born on January 19, 1943 to Alex and Virigo Kiwanuka in Bulegeya Kyanamukaaka village in Masaka, Ssekandi’s ascent to the third most powerful office in the land rests on a track record of impeccable achievement.

A story is told of how he grew up digging and tending to cattle, with no apparent sign of becoming a lawyer, let alone Speaker of Parliament.

But the inspiration to read Law was derived from his father, who was a court assessor, and the tales he heard from him about court, visibly had an impact on his son.

He from then on keenly read reports and newspapers that his father brought home for court cases.

Ssekandi studied at Kindi Kabuwoko primary school before proceeding to Lubiri Senior Secondary School, and later St. Mary’s college Kisubi for secondary education.

He later went on to Dar-es-Salaam University in Tanzania, from where he did his degree in Law.

His contemporaries there were the Late Francis Ayume, President Yoweri Museveni, Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and the late James Wapakhabulo.

His first job on return was in the ministry of Justice, where he worked as resident state attorney in Mbale. He had a brief stint in private practice thereafter, but in 1972, the Idi Amin government decreed that all university graduates would have to serve government for five years, which forced him to teach at the Law Development Centre.

All this time, Ssekandi steered clear of politics. In 1980, he voted in elections and was around as the disgruntled took to the bush, and he continued working in his chambers, Ssekandi and Co. Advocates.

When the Movement assumed power in 1986, Ssekandi first served as lead counsel of the inquiry into violation of human rights that happened in Uganda between 1962-1968, before joining the political fray as Bukoto central Constituent Assembly delegate.

He chaired the Legal and Parliamentary affairs committee, before chairing the Committee of Rules, Privileges and discipline, the known stages those who eventually attain the highest seat in the house go through. In August 1998, he became deputy Speaker of Parliament.

Besides his acumen and capacity to deliver perfectly, Ssekandi is quick and effective in politics of regional balance, being a Muganda.
His politeness, courteousness and impartiality are qualities that have endeared him to many, earning him immense respect in the house.

Ssekandi believes in compromise and consensus, one of the reasons he won the confidence of the Members of Parliament and ended up being elected Speaker unopposed.

These qualities, one can argue, put him in a suitable position of handling the country, at a time when national reconciliation and unity are coveted items. With the war in the north failing to end by use of weapons, the man’s peacemaking and reconciliatory qualities may appear invaluable.

“Many MPs like him,” says one MP. “He is cool-headed and handles every one with equal measure. Mps always flock in when he is chairing the sittings.”

After he had become speaker, one of the papers said this of him, “Ssekandi from his views through the years, believes that the Movement is not a club of saints. He believes it is a progressive entity that, despite its imperfections, has manifested good will and capacity to transform Uganda from a mess to a marvel to toast about.

He is a self-professed Movementist and he is widely acclaimed as one of the most sober ones who embrace a clear head approach to Ugandan politics, applauding its achievements and calling for caution when shortcomings arise.”

Perhaps the most striking thing here is, that Ssekandi’s strongest points might be his very undoing. The fact that he makes the most appropriate person for Speaker, unbiased and showing no obvious loyalties to any party, is the very reason he very easily ends up neither here nor there.

Now in the multiparty setting we are entering, one needs to be either here or there. This puts Ssekandi at least while still Speaker, in a difficult situation, especially when contenders are already positioning themselves, in the Movement and the different parties locally and nationally.

But then again, one should not sneer at the surprising possibility of him emerging on the nomination list for the Movement Presidency.

Internal affairs minister Ruhakana Rugunda says: “He is one of our very senior leaders in government, heads one of the arms of state and conducs his work very satisfactorily. In my view, he is one of the people to take seriously when looking for our potential candidates.”

So if Museveni, the Movement’s boss hesitated to offer himself, it is not hard to imagine any one nominating Ssekandi.

“Ssekandi is tolerant, down to earth and patient,” says another MP. “He handles all people the same –– politely, unlike his predecessors who were stern and would even blast some Mps and never allow certain ones to contribute to debate.”

Ssekandi has almost all the qualities of a president. He is articulate, with an independent mind and has the capacity to withstand pressure from Movement extremists to do what he believes is good and fair. He is endowed with the ability to get on well with both multipartyists and movementists and keeps his head when all others around are losing theirs. That is Ssekandi.

FACTFILE

  • Born January 19, 1943 in Masaka district.

  • Resident State Attorney in Mbale, (1969-1972).

  • Went into private practice, Ssekandi and Co. Advocates (1972-1973.

  • Lecturer, Law Development Centre (LDC) (1973).

  • Ag. Director, LDC (1978-1979)
  • Lead counsel, Commission of Inquiry into Violations of Human Rights (1986-1993).

  • CA Delegate (1994-1995).

  • MP Bukoto West constituency (1996- todate).

  • Deputy Speaker of Parliament (1998-2001).

  • Speaker of Parliament (2001-todate
  • Ssekandi in third seat: Will he jump up high?

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