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By Our Special Correspondent

If you have been wondering why House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya have gone bare knuckles and no longer seem to care whether their fight becomes a subject of public speculation, let us unpack the conspiracy for you.

While it is obviously about the contest for Speaker’s chair which Oulanya can no longer wait to take from Kadaga come May next year, there is a third top legal personality whose fate must be determined first before the final showdown between Parliament’s two highest officials.

The third personality is Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo, current Deputy Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice of Uganda Bart Katurebe is retiring this month and he has unequivocally stated that he is going home. Justice Owiny Dollo is largely expected to be appointed to replace him. However if that happens, it would spell the end of Oulanya’s dream of becoming speaker. Why?

Matters of ethnicity are still very sensitive in the country’s fragile democracy. President Museveni has said before that when making appointments, a lot of balancing has to be done. The three arms of government have to be ‘balanced’ as far as top appointments are concerned. If the President is a Munyankole, the Speaker a Musoga, then a Chief Justice from Acholi would work perfectly. Owinyi Dollo is an Acholi.

Once Owinyo Dollo becomes Chief Justice, another Acholi for speaker would be one too many at that level. And before you say that Katureebe has been CJ while Museveni is also a Munyakole, just recall that it took a long stretch before he was appointed even though he was very credible and highly recommended. His predecessor Benjamin Odoki was kept on the job, the DCJ Steven Kavuma was made to hold the office when Odoki could no longer be kept in it, until Kavuma’s continued acting tenure was no longer sustainable, then Katureebe was appointed – two years later! And the messages congratulating the president for the worthy choice started flowing in! Don’t also forget that Katurebe’ Ankole identity can be somehow argued away by playing up his Bunyaruguru sub-group. Some have even called him a genetic Muganda of the stock whose forefathers migrated to Ankole. They even mischievously point to his Magunda middle name which interestingly was a judicial title in ancient Buganda.

It follows almost automatically that Rebecca Kadaga now needs an Owinyi Dollo as CJ more than anything else for her retention of the Speaker’s job. The point needs no further elaboration. If President Museveni selects Owinyi Dollo to succeed Katureebe, Dollo would be approved almost before he goes before the appointments committee chaired by Kadaga.

One thing to watch out for therefore, is Museveni’s nomination for CJ. If he picks somebody other than Dollo who comes from outside Acholi, for example Justice Mike Chibita (former DPP who has also worked as Solicitor General and was Museveni’s legal assistant for almost a decade), then it would be an indication that he has decided to let Kadaga sweat to retain job. Still it would be an uphill task for Oulanya to unseat Kadaga if both of them were in the race for the speakership. Kadaga is very strong because both (or all) camps in the house look at her as their leader. But then parliamentary elections tend to bring in a whopping majority new membership. Some two-thirds of sitting MPs are likely to lose their seats and the newcomers will take about a year to start regarding Speaker Kadaga as their mother – which she works on very fast and achieves in a matter of months –  yet election of the speaker is the first business of parliament. The newcomers are more likely to be influenced by the president’s people, especially if they are from the ruling party. Clearly, there are several hurdles for the big two contestants to overcome before the final showdown.

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