Ministers should fold their Sleeves beyond the Elbow

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The much anticipated cabinet reshuffle made by President Yoweri Museveni last Saturday appears to have come too late, too little in the estimation of many Ugandans who had believed that a massive shake up was necessary to kick out evident inertia in what had been christened Kisanja hakuna mchezo. Clearly, the public is demanding that more blood flows especially on corruption related issues which they believe this reshuffle hasn’t decisively dealt with, but merely people going through the revolving door. 

Nevertheless, since appointing cabinet is the prerogative of the president, Ugandans shall make do with his line up and hope those who made it are able to see the urgency to fold their sleeves beyond the elbow in order to deliver on the NRM mandate 2016-2021, and not merely relapse into pettiness, and self-aggrandizement. Also, we all cannot fit into cabinet, but are expected to reinforce other branches of government from where we are.

While some skeptics think that President Museveni is being held hostage by various interests, it is necessary to understand that politics is only the art of the possible. Therefore, modest as these changes appear, they are commensurate with the times because Uganda needs continuous healing to maintain strategic balance of forces, dynamism, internal stability, progress and predictability.

While it is difficult to pin-point reasons for each of the changes, there is at least one qualified caveat, for Minister Janat Mukwaya who had written requesting the president to let her retire after long service which was granted. For the others especially dropped or redeployed, analysts believe that reasons are varied including addressing administrative malaise of absenteeism, incompetence, insubordination and suspected corruption.

A lot of time, and resources have been lost in endless prevarication in policy debates that sometimes leave ministers looking unsure of which direction to take and creating public anguish. The energy sector is one area where government had pinned so much hope that once oil begin oozing out, Uganda would have been sorted but alas there has been evident feet dragging.

President Museveni had in 2016 assured Ugandans that government would work jointly with investors and funders to review the investments modules in the hydro-power subsector to bring electricity cost down to approximately six US cents especially for industrial consumer end users thereby making it sustainable and affordable.

It is necessary to explain that today’s cabinet continues to reflect the historical and strategic posture of NRM as a national liberation organization whose mission is socio-economic transformation. As such, the cabinet must reflect trans and multi-generational tendencies comprising mixtures from the extreme pole, those above 80 years like Kirunda Kivejinja, a political veteran from the pre-independence student movement, and immediate post-independence radical political youth-wingers whose stubbornness refuse to diminish to-date. Then we have Moses Ali, an army veteran from the mid-1960s who horned his metal under Idi Amin, fled the UNLA in 1979 before making peace with NRM in 1986 which he continues to serve diligently. 

Many would have perhaps wished that mainly on account of age and longevity, Vice President Edward Sekandi, Matia Kasaija, Ephraim Kamuntu, Ruhakana Rugunda, Janet Museveni, Kahinda Otafire, Hilary Onek, and Peter Lokeris were shown the exist. However, these are part of glue to Uganda’s internal political stability linking the old and median generation.

Then, on the other extreme pole are youngsters mostly born just before the advent of the NRM and even some, its own babies like Evelyne Anite, and Ronald Kibuule busking alongside David Bahati, Frank Tumwebaze, Florence Nakiwala, Chris Baryomunsi, Peter Ogwang and Hamson Obua among others. These should truly absolve the NRM from the often false accusations of not grooming capable young leaders. With the line-up of Beti Kamya, Betty Amongi Ongom, Christopher Kibanzanga, Nakiwala, Agnes Akiror, and now Beatrice Anywar, Museveni, appears to be living up to his vow to raid from the main opposition political parties FDC, UPC and DP to build a broad-based government within a multiparty dispensation.

Thirty-three years of continuous NRM administration under president Museveni has been a strong sign of solid support and good will from a broad section of Ugandans countrywide. And as the old adage goes, to whom much is given, much is also expected, and therefore NRM leaders have no reasonable excuse to fail to deliver both politically and technically.

With only one year left to end its current term, NRM is behind schedule in the implementation of a number of key targets it set out in the 2016 election manifesto. Among these is delivery of the much hyped middle income status by 2020 in which a majority of Ugandans were expected to have transited into earning a minimum of 1030 US dollars per year (324,000 monthly). Also getting behind schedule is the funding negotiations and construction of the Standard Gauge Railway whose timeline now appears stuck inside a long pipeline.

All said however, it is evident that President Museveni has appeased MPs, consolidated gains in Teso, Lango, Acholi, and Rwenzori sub-regions, kept NRM strongholds intact, and left the flamboyant opposition grieving in an unenviable political dilemma.