By Obed K. Katureebe & Bob Roberts Katende
MPs have been trembling with excitement over the last three years as rumours of cabinet reshuffles ‘” and possible promotions to ministerial posts ‘” swirled around them. Facing a number of political challenges, the president and his coterie sent out signals that some MPs would be considered for cabinet posts if they supported the ruling NRM’s programme.
Excitement had become so feverish that some MPs even fell prey to unscrupulous conmen purporting to be operatives from State House.
These scammers would approach the MPs seeking money, claiming they were seeking to verify the intended choices for ministerial appointments. One wannabe minister for works allegedly parted with as much as Shs 500m. Last September, the problem spurred Dr Beatrice Wabudeya, the minister for the presidency, to issue a warning to MPs about the scam.
Now, at last, President Museveni has made his reshuffle, putting an end to the anticipation, speculation and trepidation. The word in parliament is that eight MPs in particular are seriously distraught after missing out on the new cabinet list. These parliamentarians did everything within their means to catch the president’s eye ‘” but were cruelly spurned.
Abraham Byandala (Katikamu North MP) The physical infrastructure committee, chaired by Byandala, is charged with ensuring that the Land Act Amendment Bill is passed it. Aiming to please President Museveni, its chief architect, Byandala has vehemently supported the controversial bill.
Byandala’s support for the bill has not come without its costs. The MP, who represents a mainly Baganda constituency, found himself drawn into conflict with the Buganda government over the proposed law. He adamantly refused to meet the Katikkiro of Buganda before the bill’s second parliamentary reading. According to some of his fellow MPs, Byandala hoped the president would reward him with a ministerial post for taking on these battles on his behalf. But he has been left empty-handed.
Some MPs think Byandala was overlooked because the land bill has not yet passed; any appointment for the MP would be interpreted by many as an attempt to bribe him. They point to the appointment of Asuman Kiyingi, who previously headed the ‘save Mbabazi’ taskforce, as state minister for lands to support their argument.
David Bahati (Ndorwa East) Bahati must have been surprised to have missed out. Sources close to him suggest that he has been playing an intermediary role between the government and ‘rebel MPs,’ including Okot Ogong, Sanjay Tana and Henry Banyenzaki, among others. They say that Bahati advised the rebels to soften their pressure on party secretary general Amama Mbabazi over the Temangalo scandal, in the run-up to a meeting of the NRM caucus with the president. Bahati’s efforts bore fruit when a common stand was hammered out to save Mbabazi’s neck. On several occasions, the MP was heard to boast that this time round, he would make it to cabinet level, on the grounds that he had given his all to the NRM, and that it was time for the president to reward him.
Saleh Kamba (Kibuku County) Kamba must be seriously aggrieved. He had previously declined to take up the post of commissioner of parliament, fearing it would jeopardise his chances of becoming a minister. He also worked clandestinely in the ‘save Mbabazi’ taskforce, hoping that the ‘super-minister’ would support him for appointment to cabinet once his name appeared on the list of expected ministers. Apparently not.
Frank Tumwebaze (Kibaale County) The chairman of the Uganda National Farmers Federation is among those sources say were on the initial list of proposed ministers. According to NRM insiders, Tumwebaze, a star mobiliser for the NRM party and his constituency, lobbied for a cabinet post through the First Lady Janet Museveni, a member of the farmers’ federation. He belongs to a cadre of the young and vibrant NRM MPs who are advocating strong reformation of the party so as to fully embrace new challenges in Ugandan politics. Now the MP, whose star had been rising rapidly, is apparently struggling to comprehend how all of a sudden it seems to have stalled. He is said to believe that the NRM general secretary Amama Mbabazi is undermining his chances of rising.
Dr Sam Lyomoki (Workers MP) Lyomoki was initially vocal about the Temangalo land scandal, calling for punitive action against the ministers involved. But in a dramatic U-turn, he came to support the very people whose head he had called for. This surprised many workers, who considered recalling him from parliament. According to sources, Lyomoki expected his drastic repositioning to be rewarded with a ministerial appointment. The MP, a medical doctor, thinks he was promised the position of health minister by the Mbabazi camp. He went so far as to go around telling some people that he was simply waiting to be sworn in. Now he is eating those words.
Stephen Tashobya (Kajara) Tashobya has been a star performer in parliament and his constituency. President Museveni has visited the MP’s constituency several times, lauding him for initiating poverty eradication programmes. Tashobya previously worked as managing director of Uganda Cooperative Transport Union, turning it around into a profit-making venture. He can therefore perhaps be forgiven for hoping that Museveni would grant him the much-anticipated new ministry of cooperatives.
Tashobya’s efforts to up his chances of a ministerial appointment became apparent when he sided with Mbabazi during the Temangalo debacle. The MP went on to author his infamous minority report, which argued for exonerating Mbabazi of any wrongdoing, against the report of the majority of MPs on the investigating committee who wanted to see the minister censured. Tashobya’s report was later controversially adopted by parliament, after the president strong-armed NRM MPs into supporting it. After this, Tashobya decided that his ministerial appointment was effectively signed, sealed and delivered.
Okurut Karooro (Bushenyi Woman MP) Along with new agriculture minister Hope Mwesigye, Karooro is one of the pioneers of the ‘yellow girls brigade’ [read NRM zealots]. The lady from Bushenyi regards Museveni as a second father; her relationship with the president is so close that she is regularly given special assignments for the First Family. Her steadfast loyalty to the NRM far outshines some of her fellow Bushenyi MPs. So Okurut hoped that she would be rewarded with a ministerial appointment. She can continue to hope.
Henry Banyenzaki (Rubanda West) Banyenzaki is one of the MPs who think that the best way to make your way up the political ladder is to criticise the government from within. According to NRM MPs, Banyenzaki likes to compare himself to the late information minister Basoga Nsadhu, who vehemently criticised the regime until he was brought into the fold through a ministerial appointment. But this trick did not work for the hapless Banyenzaki.