Kampala, (UG): A significant reshuffle has ensued inside the National Unity Platform (NUP) camp after the party’s principal Robert Kyagulanyi opted for Nakawa West MP and party spokesperson, Hon Joel Ssenyonyi as the new Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP).
Ssenyonyi takes over from Hon Mathias Mpuuga who in turn assumes the mantle previously held by Francis Zaake as a parliamentary commissioner.
The former journalist turned politician who has only been in parliament for about two years, was announced as the new LOP on Friday, December 22, 2023, during a press briefing at the party headquarters at Makerere Kavule.
In his acceptance speech, Ssenyonyi acknowledged that he is not the most educated or experienced among the opposition legislators, adding that some argue he is not the most deserving of the position.
“I may not be the most educated or experienced among the Opposition members. Some may argue that I am not the most deserving to be appointed as LOP, but such is leadership,” he said.
The outgoing LOP Mathias Mpuuga urged all legislators in the opposition to support Ssenyonyi in his new role, advise him and not undermine him.
“I want to invite all those who believe in a new and better Uganda to back the new team leader in Parliament. Back him up; do not undermine him. Advise him; do not backstab him. Work with him; do not downplay his energy, sacrifice, and efforts,” he said.
Prior to his appointment as LOP, Ssenyonyi was serving as the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on commissions, statutory affairs and state enterprises (COSASE), where he received praise from the party boss for his work, especially for exposing the corruption in the Uganda Airlines saga.
Why Mpuuga was dropped
In February, a local online bulletin; ChimpReports reported that Kyagulanyi was uncomfortable with Mpuuga for being “so diplomatic” in dealing with the central government.
The publication further reported that Kyagulanyi preferred a more combative LOP to pressure the government to free NUP activists languishing in jails.
Bobi Wine’s decision to drop Mpuuga comes just weeks after the NUP boss told BBC in London that some MPs in his party were “working with General Museveni.” While Bobi did not mention names, many quickly pointed fingers at Mpuuga and the ‘sacking’ doesn’t come as a surprise.
The silent conflict between Kyagulanyi and Mpuuga started bubbling over the surface after the state freed MPs Mohammed Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana from prison.
Several activists from within NUP quickly took to social media, saying Mpuuga had quietly worked with senior NRM government officials to secure the MPs’ release.
Kyagulanyi commenting on the developments distanced himself from any negotiations with the government to free the NUP MPs, saying “If anyone took part in any negotiations to secure court bail for detainees, they did not without my knowledge or endorsement.”.
“Our position remains that we must not beg Museveni and his criminal regime to grant us our God-given rights,” he added.
This statement forced Mpuuga to appear on CBS radio where he denied holding negotiations to release Ssewanyana and Segirinya.
“I will do what has never been done in history – resign from my position as LOP and also as an MP if anyone out there can prove that I negotiated with President Museveni,” said Mpuuga.
Mpuuga had also come under intense criticism by NUP activists for not doing enough to pressure the government to release NUP activists who disappeared at the hands of security forces during the 2021 election campaigns.
Realising his job was in danger, Mpuuga recently mobilised NUP MPs to shun Parliament until the activists were released. However, many argued that his actions were half-hearted.
Mpuuga’s supporters say Mpuuga “is democratic and believes in diplomatic solutions not street battles with security forces”.
Mpuuga recently distanced himself from Kyagulanyi’s remarks that some of the NUP legislators who passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 were working for Museveni. “I don’t know what he meant,” said Mpuuga.
The LOP enjoys the benefits of a Cabinet Minister. These include a lead car, a car allowance and a fully-fledged office with employees. The office runs a budget that covers, among other, trips for Opposition MPs.
As per the 2021/2022 FY, the budget for the LoP is Shs3.9bn.
In the other changes made by the NUP secretariat, Mpuuga has been appointed as the new commissioner to parliament, a position that was previously held by Francis Zaake.
Zaake will now serve as the new deputy chief whip and will deputise John Nambeshe.
FDC Spokesperson and Kira Municipality MP, Hon Ssemujju Nganda has bounced back as the new shadow Minister of Planning and Economic Development and Betty Nambooze as Shadow Minister for Internal Affairs).
Derrick Nyeko (Makindye East) is now shadow Minister for Tourism while Shamim Malende retains her position as shadow Minister for Justice and Human Rights.
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