Speaker Jacob Oulanyah

By Richard Wanambwa

On March 20,2022, President Yoweri Museveni announced to the country the passing on of  Jacob L ‘Okori Oulanyah, the Speaker of the 11th parliament using his twitter handle.

In his subsequent follow-up post, the Head of State said it was “a hard decision” to announce the death of the Speaker.

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The Speaker is number three in the leadership hierarchy of this country.

He also said that he had delayed to announce the sad news for three hours to the country because he wanted his children to be informed first.

The former Speaker died in Seattle in the United States where he had been hospitalised for almost three weeks.

What makes Oulanyah’s death more sad and disheartening is that he had just assumed office after a tough and tiring contest with his former boss Rebacca Kadaga before he defeated her.

He assumed the office of the Speaker of Parliament in May but has not lived to preside over 11th parliament which he said wanted to reform in terms of debate and making it “more pro-people”.

Secondly, Oulanyah was the first Speaker of Parliament hailing from Acholi sub-region and the first National Resistance Movement (NRM) party Vice Chairman representing the same sub-region.

Despite being an NRM member, Oulanyah was a gentleman and nationally acceptable because of his respect for the law and neutrality which gave him a national appeal on issues that affected Uganda.

Oulanyah was not only politically mature to respect divergent views, but viewed Uganda as a political entity that should be united and that’s why he never believed in tribalism.

His loathing for tribalism was not only through his words but also his marriage which is always a controversial and can cause fights within families when one decides to marry from a different tribe.

After completing his Makerere University education Oulanyah married a Mugisu woman, the late Dorothy Nangwale, the daughter of Eng. Abner and Ms Jane Nangwale from Bududa in Eastern Uganda who are both deceased.

Dorothy and Jacob met at Makerere as students.

Eng. Nangwale was the Minister of Works and Transport during the second government of the former President Milton Obote.

Oulanyah’s mother in-law also served Obote as his first black secretary in 1963.His amiable character made him interact and accept Ugandans from different cultures.

Nevertheless, he never accepted to be carried away by the airs that come with high offices and this explains why he would occasionally jump from his high table on functions he is presiding over to dance with whoever was entertaining the guests.

Yes, he was an Acholi but he was a nationalist whose national appeal was way above tribal sentiments.

His ideals and beliefs were national in character and represented all tribes/cultures in Uganda.

With his death, we need to be mindful of his qualities and mourn such a leader with dignity and sobriety. The remarks made by a section of leaders hailing from Acholi are unfortunate.

The remarks by the Paramount Chief of Acholi and a section of Acholi parliamentary group that Speaker Oulanyah and other leaders from the same region have died in recent times are due to poison or mischief are intended to stir tribal sentiments and unacceptable.

They don’t reflect well on their part as leaders because other areas in this country have lost leaders too.

Addressing the press at his palace on Monday, the Paramount Chief, Rwot David ACana II questioned whether poison is the latest tool used in eliminating some of his subjects that have died lately.

He listed former Gulu LCV chairman Col. Walter Ochora, Maj. Gen. Julius Oketa and former Deputy IGP, Lt. Gen. Paul Lokech as those that have died under “unclear circumstances” in recent times.

On the same day, Kilak South legislator Gilbert Olanya ‘expressed dismay over the continued death of Acholi people who occupy high ranking positions in the NRM government’.

This same legislator had been attacking Oulanyah for his political beliefs and indeed during the election of Speaker last year, he supported his main rival. 

Olanya said the government of Uganda must come up with a very clearly explanation before burying Speaker Oulanyah or else they will order all their Acholi people in government to resign leave government jobs.

“Why is it that when you attain a position in this government and the only thing you must eliminate, what is going on? What is unique with the people of Acholi in this government? We need an answer from the government of Uganda before burying Oulanyah.” Gilbert Olanya is quoted.

It is true the Acholi people have lost their son but as earlier pointed out, the late Oulanyah was a national leader whom we all ought to mourn and celebrate his life.

It is acceptable to have sentiments during this trial moment but it is equally wrong for the leaders to start taking advantage of the situation to incite the local population in the region.

Why would any leader cite Col. Ochola, Gen. Oketa and Gen. Lokech? I am sure all these leaders before the burial, their postmortem reports where availed and shared with their loved ones.

Apart from politicians trying to ‘cease the moment’, none of their family members have come out complaining.

One wonders if it is sometimes necessary for government to give reports including the health underlying health conditions someone had before their death in order to rebut these comments.

But it is a wrong practice to reveal details of someone’s health secrets.

Why incite the population even as leaders when you know the truth?

Let us assume the Kabaka of Buganda questioned the cause of death of Archbishop of Kampala His Grace Cyprian Lwanga who died in sleep just two days after walked in the Way-of- the Cross?

How about the Bakiga/Western Region questioning the death of former Governor Bank of Uganda, Late Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile?

What would the Orthodox Church say when they lost Metropolitan Archbishop Jonah Lwanga in Greece? What about Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata Batte?

Just a year ago, our neighbour Tanzania lost President John Pombe Magufuli but did his kinsmen question his death given that they knew his underlying issues? What about if they contested the cause of death, what would have happened to Tanzania?

Busoga lost Deputy Minister late Ali Kirunda Kivejinja and Teso recently the Emorimori of Teso?

The Speaker was such a man of integrity and unity and never believed in tribalism. Let’s honour his dignity and avoid tribal talks.

In conclusion, as we send off this great son of Uganda, let’s be mindful of the language and hate speech.

Rest in Peace

The Lion of Omoro