Newly appointed Leader of Opposition (LoP) Betty Aol Ochan has called for support and unity from all opposition members in parliament so they can push all push for good governance and democracy in the country.
Amidst applause from majorly the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MPs, Aol said that everyone had something to offer to the country and pleaded with her colleagues to team up with her to form a formidable opposition that will push for better alternative policies.
Aol was making her first speech as LoP in parliament yesterday Wednesday afternoon. Her statement comes amidst divisions in the country's largest opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) arising out of a reshuffle by party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat.
Amuriat was elected FDC president in November last year after defeating the incumbent president Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu. In his first appointments after assuming the presidency, Amuriat dropped Winnie Kiiza, the Kasese Woman MP and several other legislators, who campaigned openly for his challenger in the race.
The changes have been described as a reward for loyalty to supporters of Amuriat, who was backed by former party president Dr Kiiza Besigye against pro-Muntu supporters. But Aol says the opposition in parliament is numerically disadvantaged and cannot afford to be divided in order to maintain relevance as a force that has the ability to hold government accountable.
She observes a need for dialogue to heal the wounds and divisions triggered by the reshuffle, adding that opposition members need to work together, respect each other and accept diversity in opinion.
According to Aol, the office of the LoP remains one line of defence for the people and especially a place to put government in check.
"On that note; while differences in opinion are healthy and should be encouraged, we cannot afford to be divided. We need every one of us to be together. Against that backdrop I'm cognisant of the mixed reactions that this recent leadership change, there is need for dialogue. We need to sit down as leaders and chart a way forward for the great for the greater good of the opposition," Aol said.
Aol praised her predecessor Kiiza for putting up a spirited fight against the removal of presidential age and exhibiting valor and leadership when she stood with those opposed to age limit lifting all the way.
Kiiza on her part thanked fellow MPs for working with her and congratulated Aol for being appointed as the LoP. She pledged to work with Aol and give her the cooperation she desires in order to make the country better for all Ugandans.
"I rise to heartily congratulate my dear friend, sister, colleague and honourable leader Betty Aol Ochan upon her appointment as the current Leader of Opposition in the parliament of Uganda. Honourable Betty, congratulations and I would like to take the same opportunity to thank you the Rt Hon speaker and colleagues for having given me utmost cooperation that I needed in my tenure as as Leader of Opposition. I don’t take it for granted that you treated me as a friend, you treated me as a colleague, you treated me as leader with dignity and respect." Kiiza said.
It was a change in tone from Kiiza's last press conference earlier this week when she appeared to question Amuriat's appointments. Then she'd insisted that her term of office was supposed to end in December and therefore the reshuffle had come prematurely. She had also threatened to use any legal loophole to hold unto office. But addressing MPs on the floor of parliament yesterday, Kiiza attacked the media for having tainted her character that she did not want to hand over office to Aol.
"Contrary to the media speculations and actually the article that appeared in the Daily Monitor. It was sad that the Monitor could come up with such a statement about Winnie the person and my character that I said I’m not going anywhere. Actually what I said was that; I’m waiting for the parliamentary process so that I can do the handover process to my colleague Betty. It was so shameful for the Monitor to bring that cover story, tarnishing my image. It was unfortunate and I condemn it in the strongest terms possible. Otherwise thank you colleagues, I want to thank the FDC party under the leadership of Gen Mugisha Muntu for giving me the opportunity to serve my country." she said.
Kiiza said that she will hand over the office at an appropriate time. Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, congratulated Aol and assured her of government support. She also congratulated Kiiza saying that she did everything to defend the opposition on the floor of parliament.
First deputy prime minister Moses Ali said Kiiza was outstanding and that government supported her in a lot of ways. She singled out Kiiza's ability to visit Zoka forest and Apaa boundary where there is an ongoing dispute between Amuru and Adjumani districts.
Deputy speaker of parliament Jacob Oulanyah read a letter written by FDC secretary general Nathan Nandala Mafabi which communicated Aol as the new LoP. The other appointments confirmed include that of Kiira municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda as the opposition chief whip and Harold Tonny Muhindo the Bukonzo East MP as his deputy.
Also confirmed are Rukungiri municipality MP Roland Mugume Kaginda appointed as a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Francis Mwijukye as a parliament commissioner, Mukono municipality MP Betty Nambooze as a representative at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
The others are Busongora North MP William Nzoghu appointed as a Pan African Parliament (PAP) representative while Mbale municipality MP Jack Wamai Wamanga is sent to represent FDC at the African Caribbean and Pacific Parliament (ACP).
Oulanyah also confirmed the opposition changes at the committee level highlighting the appointment of Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi as new chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Agago Woman MP Franca Judith Akello as chairperson of the Local Government Accounts Committee, Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa as chairperson of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).
However, Oulanyah said that the status quo on two positions of opposition backbench parliamentary commissioner and representative to the Pan African Parliament are to remain until the necessary steps for changes are followed.
The positions are currently occupied by Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal and Agago North MP Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo respectively. Oulanyah said that the speaker's office was to make an official communication on the two positions.