The Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah made a return to Parliament today morning after more than a month of absence. He returned from the United Kingdom last week in what Parliament says was a private visit.
Oulanyah last presided over Parliament at the reading of the 2021/2022 financial year budget at Kololo Independence grounds shortly after his election as Speaker of Parliament. But his absence from the public triggered speculation about his heath, with media reports indicating that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
There were reports that Oulanyah was transported to Entebbe International Airport in an ambulance and carried on a stretcher to the plane that evacuated him from Uganda. Today as he returned to Parliament, Oulanyah received a triumphant welcome from the Parliament leadership led by Deputy Speaker Anita Among, Parliament Commissioners, and some Members of Parliament.
The leaders stood on the Southern wing of the Parliament verandah from where they welcomed the Speaker with ululations and applause. He greeted each of the leaders who lined up to welcome him, and expressed gratitude that ‘he was back home.’ Parliamentary staff and Members of Parliament sung songs of praise and thanksgiving as the Parliament chaplain led a prayer session in the Speaker’s office.
Oulanyah then proceeded to meet the opposition Members of Parliament who were undergoing orientation at the conference hall. In the meeting, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among welcomed the Speaker back saying she has been answering several questions about his absence and now cannot wait for Oulanyah to fully take charge of the house.
The Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga also welcomed Oulanyah back, saying they cannot wait to work with him.
In his first speech, Oulanyah sparked laughter when he pointed to one of the guests at the meeting, an economist Professor Augustus Nuwagaba whom he said does not grow old and was looking as young as his son. He went on to mention some of his friends among the opposition MPs.
Oulanyah said he made it a case to attend the meeting and face Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu and Kilak North MP Gilbert Olanya who were demanding for his whereabouts, yet for the last one year, when he didn’t chair the house, none of them ever asked.
Oulanyah also said that the country was losing humanity, and sick people are being declared dead instead of being supported to recover. He says if indeed someone is truly sick, the right thing is to pray. He however did not say if he was sick or not.
Oulanyah added that the time has come for parliament to move from the rhetoric of words to action, and start moving and working together, adopting the use of ‘we, and not I,’ forgetting party colours and symbols for the good of the people of Uganda.
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said that they expect the business of the house to resume fully since all the Speakers are now available.
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