Saturday, January 13, 2024

This week power changed at the National Unity Platform (NUP party with Mathias Mpuuga, the Nyendo-Mukungwe MP, former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) handing over to Journalist-turned politician Joel Ssenyonyi, 37. Mpuuga limped off as LoP after two and a half years without much to show in policy initiative or achievement except flourish language at the dispatch box. In fact, even his principal, Robert Kagulanyi a.k.a. Bobi Wine expressed some time back saying “Oluzungu lungi”, or “the English is too much”, apparently because as LoP, Mpuuga didn’t exude the belligerence and unreasonable obstruction tactics they had expected of him. Senyonyi’s elevation, seen as meteoric among some NUP leaders, left Mohammed Muwanga Kivumbi and John Baptists Nambeshe licking wounds because they had been lobbying citing their seniority, religion, and tribe. 

In appointing Ssenyoyi, seen as intransigent, many believe that Kyagulanyi is molding NUP leadership in parliament for a confrontational posture in preparation for 2026 elections, which they hope brings electoral dividends. By last December, parliamentary journalists were derisively describing Mpuuga as Speaker Anita Among’s ‘walking stick’, because of the suspiciously cozy relationship he enjoyed. Mpuuga’s last-minute hollers and filibuster tactics to harangue government with falsehoods over the so-called disappeared NUP supporters were just gimmicks to try and his buttered bread as LoP which came too late. And although is now a Parliamentary commissioner mainly as an appeasement, he’s a toothless bulldog.

When Mpuuga became LoP in July 2021, he boisterously listed a lengthy policy initiative that he would pursue allegedly to make Uganda much better. Top of it was a Constitutional amendment to restore presidential term, and age limits that were scrapped in 2005 and 2017 respectively. Mpuuga also said he would ensure that Electoral reforms laws were enacted to make future elections more free, fair, and credible. Well, he tabled none. 

Many watchers of Uganda’s politics like in premonition cautioned him not be over excited with bravado because previous LoPs from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) since 2026 when multipartyism was restored had fallen far short of their membership and public expectations. Mpuuga who used NUP as a convenient vehicle to get re-elected to parliament which has only 57 MPs wouldn’t accomplish much. None of the LoPs have lived up to their publicly avowed policy stance of functional democracy, transparency, frugality and focus to serve the general good. They have all been picking patronage and sweeteners that the NRM offers them.

Academic-turned politician, Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, the premier LoP who served longest for five years did not only fail to deliver FDC’s then main stated goal to evict President Yoweri Museveni, but instead suffered an electoral defeat that he never recovered from. Today, Latigo has become so obscure political figure whose actual stand on major national issues is hard to locate.

Former journalist, and senior editor-turned opposition guru, Phillip Wafula Oguttu became one of the most extremist, insolent and uncompromising politicians who staged many parliamentary walkouts to embarrass President Museveni whenever he showed up for the budget, and State of the Nation presentations. Wafula too fell spectacularly, leaving behind not much to write home about. He was walloped out of rural Bukholi Central constituency, Bugiri district in 2016 by a then novice youthful Solomon Silwanyi (NRM) and am not sure many Ugandans even still remember that Wafula was once a LoP.

Another firebrand LoP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi was kicked out by then FDC President Greg Mugisha Muntu with whom he had tussled for the party’s top position in 2016 and failed to reconcile. Mafabi has now ended up like Ogenga Latigo and Muntu, as pariahs within sections of the once loud opposition party. Muntu abandoned FDC for a stillbirth, the so-called Alliance for National Transformation (ANT, while Ogenga Latigo has chosen to be a dubious ‘independent.’ 

The first female LoP, Winnie Kiiza, and two-term former Kasese Woman MP, rode a political roller-coaster to please Kizza Besigye’s extremist faction until she sadly discovered how hard it was to assuage a ghost. During FDC internal contestations she sided with Muntu but found that her electability in Kasese district where Besigye was then still favoured had become untenable, and Kiiza abandoned elective politics altogether. As for Betty Ocan Aol, Gulu Woman MP, and immediate past LoP, there is so little any political sketch-writer or indeed anyone else will remember about her two-and-a-half-year tenure under whose watch FDC got washed out.


Under Old Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, and May He Rest in Peace, former DP President General from 1980 to 2006, Uganda witnessed most MPs cross the floor to UPC (1980-85) and later NRM from which DP has never recovered to-date, a pattern that has followed FDC. NUP, a tribal and adventurist outfit can still holler, but pundits predict that some of its MPs may decamp in 2026. And so, clearly, the political ball both in and outside parliament is still for the NRM to lose if it does not polish its work methods, public service delivery and image.