On May 4, President Yoweri Museveni held an emotional last meeting with his outgoing cabinet at State House Entebbe. Its high point was a group portrait taken on the main front porch. The photo exposes, in an amazing way, the changes coming in Museveni’s next government.
The photograph (above) has been analysed over and over again and three common motifs have emerged. The most easily noticed but least important is that Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda should have sat on Museveni’s right after Vice President Edward Sekandi to reflect their constitutional hierarchy.
The other is that the only historicals in it – Jim Muhwezi and Kahinda Otafiire stand desperately directly behind Museveni, as if fearing that they could be swept out of it at any moment.
The campaign period is over and none of the ministers wore yellow, the NRM party colour, except Sam Kutesa who also stood behind Museveni like his ADC and Muhwezi who wore yellow ties.
Finally, that the average age of the front row where Museveni is seated with six others – his wife, Janet Museveni, Ssekandi, Rugunda and his three deputies – Kirunda Kivejinja, Moses Ali, and Henry Kajura – is 75 years. Museveni who is 71-years old is among the younger half; which includes his wife at 68 years and Rugunda at 69 years.
Although Museveni, whose swearing in on May 12 for the fifth five-year term is being heralded as a mark of his political invincibility,he faces a tough next term as it is clear that over 80% of the faces in this last portrait will not be in the 2021 portrait.Selecting a brand new team will not be easy for a President who often favours continuity over change when selecting his cabinet. That is why Museveni’s next cabinet is being anxiously awaited.Who is replacing Ssekandi, Kivejinja, Moses Ali, and Henry Kajuraon the front row?
Even if he wanted to, Museveni can no longer cling to his aging comrades. The age spots and wrinkles on their faces, the dyed hair and wigs, and the creased brows show how long Museveni has been in power since he tookthe oath of president for the first time on the steps of the Parliament building on January 29, 1986.
Back then, the 42-year old Museveni was mobbed by enthusiastic crowds and was glorified for freeing Uganda from autocratic regimes. The revolutionary fervour of his ragtag army, which had just overrun Kampala, made the crowd believe Museveni when he vowed to end dictatorship, wipe out corruption and also when he took a swipe at African leaders who overstay in power and blamed them for Africa’s myriad problems.
As Museveni extends his 30 year rule over Uganda, he will have to contend with growing opposition forces and intense pressure for his government to deliver
Today, after 30 years in power, Museveni has stayed in power three times longer than Idi Amin, who had ruled longest before him. Corruption is rife. Police brutality is being compared to the era of Amin as they face off with an indefatigable opposition. Museveni also has to battle with a struggling economy, succession battles, and the occasional standoffs with a money-minded parliament and schisms within his ruling NRM party.
The designate Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, and her deputy, Jacob Oulanyah, have clashed openly and are likely to have a tense working relationship. The NRM Secretary General Justin Lumumba Kasule is under pressure for alleged poor performance of her job and the embattled Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Lord Mayor, EriasLukwago, after winning an overwhelming re-election, is likely to remain a pin in KCCA Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi’s seat.
Amidst the whirling challenges, Musevenihides behind mazes of bullet-proof glass when addressing gatherings and ensures that the police and army block his opponents from leaving their homes or holding meetings. He is under scrutiny from Ugandans and the international community, especially since his election victory remains heavily disputed by his opponents and discredited by international observers.