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No storm as Aol takes over mantle of Opposition leadership in Parliament

Much talked about 'hailstorm' in Parliament turns out to be mere passing cloud

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PARLIAMENT | Reports of impending stand-off among Opposition legislators in Parliament on Wednesday proved to be a mere passing cloud as a daily newspaper retracted a story that claimed that Winnifred Kiiza would not relinquish the seat of Leader of Opposition in Parliament and several online portals edited their stance.

And Betty Aol Ochan was confirmed as the Leader of Opposition with her predecessor congratulating her and releasing a concession statement on her social media page.

Aware of the fact that her appointment was met with so much criticism in Parliament, Gulu Woman MP Aol wasted no time in hitting back at her critics asking them to give her time to prove her capabilities.

“We also need to understand that to effectively work together, we should respect each other. Every one of us is gifted differently and everyone has something to offer towards a better Opposition,” Aol said.

The FDC legislator was speaking soon after Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya had confirmed her as new Leader of Opposition in Parliament, ending a week of social media and public brouhaha about the reshuffle in the Shadow Cabinet.

FDC president Patrick Amuriat reshuffled the minority leadership in Parliament last week, dropping Kiiza, a darling of the public and former president Gen Mugisha Muntu’s appointee, as well as other well known faces such as Abdu Katuntu.

The reshuffle was long awaited yet, when it finally knocked in, it was too bitter for many to swallow, with Kiiza initially appearing to question the decision and stating that she had not received any communication to that effect.

Social media capitalised on her post-reshuffle tinkering and the media was just about more than glad to fan the ‘fallout’ in the biggest Opposition party in the country.

Matters were not helped when Katuntu reportedly called the reshuffle a ‘purge’ while maverick Odonga Otto threatened for the umpteenth time to quit FDC. Elijah Okupa would just about confirm the anger in those affected by the Amuriat changes when he suggested at a news briefing that some of them could be compelled to walk out on FDC and form another political party.

With the atmosphere heavy like a dark cloud, Parliament sensed rain on the House and Tuesday’s plenary was cancelled to leave speculation rife that there wouldn’t just be a light rain in Parliament when Opposition MPs stomp but a storm heavy enough to shake the fabrics of opposition politics in the country.

However, by Wednesday, the expected announcement of a third force could not materialise, neither would there be a storm, let alone a drizzle. Alas, it was all about a drivel driven by social media and the media.

Before the plenary, Gen Muntu had already confirmed as much when he was variously quoted on local media as having castigated leaders who do not accept defeat. “The reason we’ve had instability in this party is because some people could not accept loss” Muntu reportedly said.

Aol too excited to wait

Outgoing LoP Winnie Kiiza was not around to witness the recognition of Aol, who was smiling from ear to ear and wasn’t patient enough to allow Oulanyah to complete his address. As the Deputy Speaker introduced her, Aol jumped to her feet ready to make a statement, but the amiable Oulanyah was quick to remind her to “contain your excitement as your bridal moment will surely come.”

Oulanyah recognised the new Minority Leader and Shadow officials Semujju Nganda (Opposition Whip), deputised by Tonny Muhindo who replacing Roland Mugume, and Francis Mwijukye as new Commissioner, to take over from veteran politician Cecilia Ogwal.

Other changes saw Roland Kaginda as a member on the Inter-Parliamentary Union, while Betty Nambooze was nominated as member on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), and Busongora North MP William Nzoghu the new member on the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). Mbale Municipality MP Jack Wamai Wamanga is to represent FDC at the African Caribbean and Pacific Parliament (ACP).

However, Oulanyah ‘rejected’ the appointments to the international bodies, saying FDC will have to wait until the current members serve their tenures until they are withdrawn.

Handed the floor, MP Aol kicked off by thanking God for the blessings He has done in her life by granting her the opportunity to serve as LoP, as well as her party leadership for entrusting her with the responsibility of leading the opposition in the 10th Parliament.

Reading from a prepared speech, Aol commended her predecessor for gallantly leading the Opposition with valour and called for unity among all parties, saying it would give the Opposition the ‘credibility’ it needs to form a more formidable and respected force to push for change.

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