Kadaga I & Kadaga II: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast – Gawaya Tegulle

Someone seems to have assured Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga that she is the one who invented Parliament and has an eternal patent thereto; or she is the owner thereof and everyone therein, complete with a Certificate of Title. Oh, how the illusions of fleeting power do flatter!

But it’s only communists who begin with the conclusion; so let’s start at the beginning.

We’ve had quite some jesting in the Uganda Law Society (ULS) lately, but one incident easily takes the cake. Someone passed around a “Certificate of Incompetence” prima facie issued by ULS to Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga – and apparently signed by ULS President Simon Peter Kinobe.

Images of the document were passed around at a speed that would have lightning accused of imitating the tortoise. By the time the amiable Kinobe woke up to clarify that the ULS had done no such thing, it was kinda late.

There was one big problem though; the vast majority of lawyers actually thought Speaker Kadaga had properly earned her certificate and that denying her the same would be a travesty of justice! She had made an excellent job of trashing the Attorney General, the really nice William Byaruhanga, Esq, over the case in which Member of Parliament for Ntungamo Municipality Gerald Karuhanga sued Parliament and Government over the notorious UGX 10 billion Covid-19 money. The Speaker, on national TV, trashed the AG – and the Judiciary which issued the order, using some very strong, unsavoury language. She didn’t slap him – surprise, surprise!

A neutral watching from say, New Zealand, would have been forgiven to think the AG was nothing more than a small, errant, non-entity of a man who holds the Speaker’s umbrella for her and carries her handbag.

The ULS Certificate of Incompetence is the ultimate crown of shame, reserved for advocates who have brought the profession into disrepute and who, their peers feel, are no longer fit to be counted among their number anymore.

Ironically, the incident happened just when Kadaga had applied to be crowned as “Senior Counsel” – a statutory recognition for lawyers who have not only served for ten years and more, but have also distinguished themselves as exemplary, and “demonstrated integrity, appropriate temperament and respect for professionalism”, added value to jurisprudence and brought honour to the profession, etc.

“Attorney General” sounds a bit too American and the role and meaning is easily lost. Here we could call him “Advocate General” or “Lawyer General”, so that ordinary Ugandans

understand that not only is he the Constitutional Legal Representative and Advisor of Government – he is also the Head of the Bar (all advocates).

By insulting the AG, Kadaga in effect insulted the lawyers that he leads; and by insulting the Judiciary, she was essentially declaring that she has no respect for the Judiciary though, as an advocate, Kadaga is by law, an officer of the court. It’s that intricate. The other bit is that lawyers do like the AG as a person; he is calm, measured and polite – a nice guy who didn’t deserve Kadaga’s unfair, undeserved and completely unbecoming dress-down.

That is why, the moment Kinobe declared that someone had forged his signature, several lawyers immediately moved to petition the Law Council against Kadaga’s application for Senior Counsel recognition. Sound about right too; for no advocate worth her salt, talk less of worthy to be recognized as Senior Counsel, would trash the AG (her head of the Bar, at law) and the Judiciary (whose officer she is, at law). The Advocates (Senior Counsel) Regulations, 2018, are very clear.

Two things must be said here.

One is that Kadaga hasn’t always been like this.

For those who didn’t see Kadaga in her younger days… you really missed. She might have been born in Kamuli and all that, but whoever did bake her, does bake a pretty good biscuit! Kadaga was dazzling! If any man didn’t turn to take a second look as Kadaga passed, you knew he had a stiff neck.

The media in every country is always on the lookout for a new darling that they subtly goldwash so that everyone may fall in love with them – and sometimes, a new moron that they encourage everyone to hate. Kadaga though, showed up already plated in gold; crowned with a first class brain. A media darling, all the way from Kamuli, with love…and sparks.

When the media loves you, there are few forces more powerful. And if they don’t like you, then for these banana republics we live in, you need guns and sacks of money to continue in power, as someone has aptly demonstrated. Another story, another day.

My most memorable interview with the then Minister of State for Regional Cooperation was nothing about politics. It was about people who were no longer young, but managing to look really good in spite of their age. They were all in their forties. One was Moses Matovu of Afrigo Band. After 22-23 years, I forget the others; but I cannot forget Kadaga – heck, what do you take me for? In giving me the assignment, Sunday Monitor Editor – Richard Tebere, bless his soul – mentioned her name with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Affable, genial, jovial, sociable, pleasant, easy-going actually all mean the same thing – but Kadaga was every bit of that. Attractive, gorgeous and stunning might again sound like repetition, but she was all that, even to a 20-something who could hardly tell the difference between a man and a woman.

You always left Kadaga’s company smiling; she was such a wonderful soul. That was Kadaga-1!

So much can change in a long time, as the legendary wise man that the king ordered to teach his pet monkey how to talk [in five years], said. Another story that.

For the lovely Kadaga, two decades have been a long time indeed; long enough to facilitate or instigate (have your pick) a metamorphosis from the sweet, affable politician to a shenanigan-prone, fire-spitting, this-be-my-turf brawler; a despot in her own right.

I now use specs, so I just might be seeing wrong, but physically, she’s still beautiful. Even with the wear and tear occasioned by aging, a good look tells you that in her day she was fire. It is the “inner man” that is hardly recognizable, thanks to extreme software makeover, clearly on the wrong side of the Number-line.

Abrasive in speech, scant respect for fellow MPs, arrogance born of severe delusions of command and clout, obvious lack of discretion; observing a seeming conspiracy of silence when she ought to be speaking out, speaking when she ought to be quiet and often completely off-colour she speaks…introducing Kadaga-2!

The second point is that the shame and scandal the current Speaker has brought to what used to rightly be called “The August House” just might make people think this is how things ought to be. No, thank you!

Between 1986 and 1994, the Speaker of the National Resistance Council (NRC), the de facto legislature then (5th Parliament), was actually the NRC Chairman – does the name Yoweri Museveni ring a bell? Exactly! But for obvious reasons, he couldn’t be there; so the proceedings were conducted by a certain Al Hajji Moses Kigongo, NRM Vice Chairman. Kigongo (ring a bell, again?) was sober and knew how to work with people.

But the man who really made the position of Speaker truly lofty and glorious was James Wapakhabulo, bless his soul. Wapa, as we all fondly called him, was a close friend of the President – they studied together at Dar es Salaam University. In 1994, Wapa – an excellent lawyer – actually lost the Mbale Municipality election to his former Chief Justice George Masika in the Constituent Assembly (CA) race. But he made it to the CA as one of the Presidential Nominees. Good thing he did too, for he was elected Chairman or Speaker for the CA.

 He steered CA proceedings so well for the two years that when the Sixth Parliament was constituted in 1996 (ostensibly on ‘individual merit’), both NRM and the opposition alike were in complete agreement that there was only one candidate for Speaker. Wapa was simply fantastic and won hearts easily; balancing extreme Musevenists and extreme oppositionists with equal ease. He was, unfortunately taken to the NRM Secretariat as National Political Commissar in 1998 – sniff! I smell a story there! – and later ended up as Foreign Minister. Wapa was so professional that when, in 2003, Museveni started his machinations for a referendum to lift the term limits, he singlehandedly took the President on, even when the rest of Cabinet was/were flashing a how-dare-you card in Wapa’s face.

Wapa did this in spite of two things – his historical friendship with the President, and his sickness, from which he eventually died in March 2004.

Looking back, I say Wapa brought honour, dignity, stateliness and distinction to the office of Speaker. Kadaga’s shovel has actively thrown it all out and away. Wapa would never allow Parliament to descend to the level it has under Kadaga.

And looking back, I say the Beauty then, is a Beast today; and as for the distance between Kadaga-1 and Kadaga-2…you’d rather walk from Kamuli to Kampala.

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