The Observer (Kampala)

9 December 2012

Uganda: Oil Bill - NRM's Winning Formular

Photo: New Vision
Parliament passes the petroleum Bill.

How a junior minister roll-called veterans to make sure they voted:

The ruling NRM buildup effort to Friday's passage of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development, and Production) Bill into law began weeks ago, with a web of loosely-knit schemes and behind-the-scenes political maneuvers that ultimately outclassed the opposition, The Observer can reveal.

On the D-day alone, a quiet presidential decree was issued, requiring all ministers with voting rights (MPs) to remain in Kampala and vote. Ronald Kibuule, the minister of state for the Youth, was asked to make sure all 65 ministers with voting rights, were in the House on voting day, Friday.

The grand plot cracked open in part, on Friday, when Kibuule openly rebuked Henry Kajura, the second Deputy Prime Minister and minister of Public Service, before some MPs. Kajura was trying to leave Parliament. Kibuule told Kajura that if he left the chambers before voting, he (Kibuule) would call the president. Kajura, cowed, stayed around, sources said.

Our sources said Kibuule was anointed by the president. He was tasked to keep tabs on ministers and make sure they were in Kampala and in time to vote in favour of the thorny clause 9. The clause gives discretionary powers to the Energy minister to grant or revoke oil licenses. To qualify this mini-decree, sources say, Museveni had calculated that if he got the 65 ministers and the 10 UPDF representatives, whom he has previously described as "listening posts" to vote, plus an extra 100 establishment MPs, the NRM would carry the day. And indeed it did.

We have been told that the decree forced Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa to cancel a trip to Russia in order to vote. President Museveni will this week visit Russia on official duty. Kutesa was supposed to travel earlier, ahead of Museveni, but he left on Saturday after voting on Friday.

After ensuring that he had the 65 ministers and the 10 UPDF lawmakers, Museveni, according to sources, telephoned the Chief Whip, Justine Lumumba and her deputy, David Bahati, and ordered them to make sure that at least 100 MPs were present for the vote--especially the district woman representatives. Museveni also called lawmakers he perceived as neutral and/or undecided on clause 9 and persuaded them to see his point of view.

One such MP was Patrick Mulindwa (Kasambya). He told us that he voted because President Museveni personally called him.

"I have been told by the president to come and vote," Mulindwa said on Friday.

We have learnt that Museveni also called Kajara MP Stephen Tashobya, who had organised a workshop for the parliamentary Legal Affairs committee on Friday at Entebbe, and told him to call it off. These well-tailored initiatives by Museveni happened after "the old man in a hut" suffered several revolts in the five special NRM caucus meetings he called to discuss the controversial bill.

Sources told us that at one time Museveni complained that MPs duped him most times. He said during meetings, MPs pretended to buy into his arguments only to turn around later.

At some point, a seemingly frustrated Museveni, sources said asked Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi during one of the caucus meetings to "scrutinize the (opposing) proposal" by Theodore Ssekikubo, which sought to vest the powers of granting and revoking oil licenses instead in the yet-to-be-created Petroleum Authority.

Sources told us that Mbabazi asked Irene Muloni, the Energy minister to organise a meeting with Ssekikubo, Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) to forge a way forward. However, moments after Muloni, Ssekikubo and Katuntu had settled for a middle ground (which sought to give the minister and the Authority partial powers over oil-related matters), Lumumba told Museveni that there was no need for negotiations because she had mobilised more than enough members to carry the vote.

It is this change of heart by government, we have been told, that forced Vice President Edward Ssekandi to dismiss the consensus meeting between Muloni and the Ssekikubos as "unofficial". Subsequently, cabinet was summoned and Museveni first insisted on going to Parliament to explain his position, but members advised him against that move--preferring that government sticks to its position of giving the minister powers.

Sources also claimed that the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, decided to steer clear of the controversial debate, leaving it to her deputy Jacob Oulanyah. To his credit, Oulanyah steered the debate maturely--giving all sides chance to speak--and he also allowed the recommitted clause to be debated, for the second time, by the committee of Natural Resources--which had initially recommended that the oil powers be vested in the Petroleum Authority.

It was after this well-knit plot that MPs gathered on Friday last week and gave the minister powers to grant, revoke licences and negotiate oil deals. Out of 375 members, 188 attended the stormy plenary, and 147 voted in favour of Museveni's position and 39 voted against it.

Those who voted against included five NRM lawmakers--Monica Amoding (Youth National), Raphael Magyezi (Igara West), Xavier Kyooma (Ibanda North), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), and Vicent Kyamadidi (Rwampara).

No-show

There were many conspicuous absentees across the opposition and NRM political divide. For instance, the following NRM lawmakers had earlier expressed their opposition to the executive's position and none showed up on Friday.

They include; Michael Mawanda (Igara East), Mudimi Wamakuyu (Bulambuli), Stephen Kagwera (Burahya), Atwooki Kasirivu (Bugangayizi West), Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Cerinah Nebanda (Butaleja Woman) and Medard Bitekyerezo (Mbarara Municipality).

Others are Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Hamson Obua (Ajuri), Amos Okot (Agago) Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) Ignatius Besisira (Buyaga East) Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo) Henry Musasizi (Rubanda East) and Julius Bigirwa (Buhaguzi).

Out of the 57 opposition members, only 32 were present. The no-shows included Aruu MP Odonga Otto (FDC), Ken Lukyamuzi (CP-Lubaga South), Paul Mwiru (FDC-Jinja East), Reagan Okumu (FDC-Aswa), Winfred Kiiza (FDC-Kasese Woman MP), Krispus Ayena (UPC-Oyam North), Amuriat Oboi (FDC-Kumi) Betty Aol Ochan (FDC-Gulu Woman), Suzan Namaganda (DP Bukomansimbi Woman) and many others.

Some of these had travelled for the inter-parliamentary football tournament in Nairobi but others like Fred Ebil (UPC), the Kole County MP, were in the House early on but moved out shortly before voting began.

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