Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi has been the longest serving politician to hold the second highest political office in President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
By the time a new cabinet, is read in May this year, Ssekandi will have occupied the country’s second most important office of the Vice President for a record 10 years.
Contrary to what many had projected that Ssekandi who will be 80 later this year would be heading into a deserved retirement, the senior politician surprisingly made it on Justice Simon Byabakama’s ballot for reelection to the eleventh Parliament amid protests from mainly opposition constituents that he should have given way for a new generation of leadership. And understandably, the country’s number two was not spared by the Kyagulanyi storm that swept across the central region.
One of the longest serving lawmakers in the country, Ssekandi had represented Bukoto Central in Parliament since 1996, making his legacy worthy writing and reading about among some of the most outstanding great ones of the country.
Although all the three Museveni Deputies before Ssekandi are remembered for having not blossomed beyond the shadows of their boss – Museveni, the current VP has arguably been the most subtle Museveni second in command among them all.
He has variously been ridiculed by the public for being too dead silent, making some people to forget that the country actually has a Vice President. Monthly social media reminders of “Ssekandi is still the VP of Uganda” have gained popularity on the various social media platforms especially twitter and Facebook with regard to his public rarity.
With the President doing almost all the most important errands himself, rarely delegating to his Vice, Ssekandi resorted to eating his big cake for the office and dosing all the way to and from the legislature where he had been the lucky representative for Bukoto Central.
His reign has been judged with mixed feelings from both the public and political pundits alike.
Having taken over from Dr Gilbert Bukenya, the man whose rumoured appetite for the top seat drowned him into hot soup before Museveni, Ssekandi’s tenure was most likely to be shortlived unless he played his political cards with caution so as not to rouse his boss’s suspicion early or ever at all.
Is Ssekandi politically genius?
Ssekandi’s rare sight before the political cameras has often generated a debate on whether he is a dumb politician or just a cunning one who adopted political insignificance as a survival mechanism to keep him in the Country’s Second position longer.
For purpose of making a well informed judgement on the above question however, it’s absolutely imperative that one understands who Ssekandi is, which is exhaustively discussed below.
Ssekandi was born in Masaka District on 19 January 1942. He graduated with honors from the University of East Africa with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He also holds a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Center in Kampala.
From 1973 until 1978, he served as a lecturer at the Uganda Law Development Centre. Between 1978 and 1979, he served as the Acting Director of the Law Development Centre. He was the lead counsel on the Commission of Inquiry into Violations of Human Rights, between 1986 and 1993. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Assembly, which drafted the 1995 Ugandan constitution, from 1994 until 1995.
In 1996, Ssekandi was elected to the Ugandan Parliament to represent Bukoto County Central, located in Masaka District. He was re-elected from that constituency in 2001, 2006 and 2011. He served as Deputy Speaker of Parliament from 1996 to 2001. He was elected as Speaker in 2001, a position he held until 2011. He was replaced as Speaker by Rebecca Kadaga, the first female Speaker of Parliament in Uganda’s history, on 19 May 2011.
Breaking the jinx of all Museveni VPs being medical Doctors, Ssekandi would later be the first lawyer to serve in that particular office. With most lawyers known for insatiable ambitions and contraversies, Museveni must have been watching his new second with a close eye lest he gets obsessed with more than what he was offered.
But the former Speaker of Parliament seemed to have watched his predeccessor Bukenya with strict intent. The man from Kakiri desperately wanted the President’s chair like he was demon possessed. Through his upland rice programs and agriculture interventions, Bukenya sought to establish his nationwide reach in preparation for a mega political endeavor.
He badly wanted to be Museveni to the extent that he even started talking like him, walking like him and dressing like him and probably feeling he was Museveni himself.
This all destroyed him. The ending was one to forget for the decorated former Makerere University Medical professor, spending some months in Luzira in the process after which he joined opposition with the aim of feeding his Presidential dream. He however didn’t survive there for long, turning around to endorse his former ally for President in 2016 and publicly apologising for the misunderstanding.
Ssekandi seemed to have learnt his best lessons. He as such resolved that his would be a tenure of a silent VP, lying as low as an envelope, going public only when called upon to do so and sticking to written speeches even when delegated to attend a burial of a VIP by the President.
This way, he has succeeded in seeing all potential enemies turn political mesiles a way from him, keeping his name out of the succession debates that would have predictably led to his fall prematurely.
A master at his own game, Ssekandi equally seems to have succeeded in having Museveni who is too conscious about losing power, to feel a dead asleep degree of comfort with the dead silent Muganda Vice President whose ambitions doesn’t sprout beyond his big cheque and returning home in preparation for his eminent retirement or even death.
As such, he still remains an irresistible choice for both Museveni and other forces within the succession debacle inside the ruling side which is most likely to dominate the period between 2021 and 2026 of Museveni’s probably last term in office.
Besides, the need to fix the mess caused by Bobi Wine and his NUP in Buganda could prompt Museveni to maintain his cool deputy in hope that he could help return normalcy to the region that’s politically contaminated with opposition sentiments.
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