By Matsiko wa Mucoori & Obed K. Katureebe
Those who know Museveni well knew, even before the announcement last week, that Inspector General of Government, Faith Mwondha, was not going anywhere. She was not going to Parliament for approval, she was not going to vacate her office ‘” she simply was not going to budge. All the moaning and groaning from Parliamentarians and other government officials would only fall on deaf ears.
Just days prior to the announcement from State House that Mwondha would be reappointed, a senior intelligence operative divulged his reasoning on the matter to a small gathering tucked away in an alcove in the city suburb of Kansanga.
A number of those present had voiced their opinion that the lady from Kamuli would not survive the beating she was taking from Parliament ‘” a number of MPs had written to the President asking him to drop her after she snubbed them by failing to respond to her summons for vetting on April 1, 2009, and NRM MPs on the Appointments Committee had met personally with the President informing him that she was the wrong choice for the job. Through all this the operative listened attentively. Finally, with a sarcastic smile, he cleared his voice and went on to explain how he knew Mwondha was not going anywhere.
He argued that despite the IGG’s rasping style of management, Mwondha was still Museveni’s soldier of choice ‘” the one who could tame the corrupt in his government. After several intelligence reports, it had emerged that Museveni felt more comfortable working with Mwondha, who owed him absolute loyalty, than with those who pledge their allegiance to institutions like Parliament. The operative further reminded the group that just as Museveni ignored Parliament’s attempted censure of Minister of Security Amama Mbabazi during the Temangalo saga, so too would he ignore their pleas to rid government of the interminable Faith Mwondha.
Museveni knows very well that the moment he allows Parliament to begin exerting some level of independence, including the power to veto his decisions, he will be setting a very dangerous precedent for himself ‘” one that may come back to bite him in the near future. He does not want a Parliament that brings checks and balances to his regime, even if that is the purpose of a legislative branch in the first place.
In other words, Museveni does not want a replica of the 7th Parliament, which gave him sleepless nights whenever he wanted to push through any controversial legislations and amendments. An independent Parliament at this moment in time, when President Museveni faces a critical stage in his life presidency project, could be dangerous.
Secondly, it has emerged that Mbabazi submitted a dossier to the President, detailing how a group of opposition politicians has infiltrated Parliament and cabinet and is now using historical NRM politicians to bring down the NRM. In this dossier, the Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was not spared the accusation. Ever since Kadaga’s alleged support to FDC’s Abdu Katuntu, who defeated NRM’s Kirunda Kivejinja in last year’s Bugweri parliamentary by-elections, Museveni has been studying the Deputy Speaker’s influence in Busoga region. The reappointment of Mwondha, Kadaga’s nemesis, is a slap in the face of the Deputy Speaker and her ilk, and a further statement that she should either stop or cede her influence in Busoga to Museveni.
While meeting NRM MPs of the Appointments Committee at State House, Nakasero, Museveni stated that Mwondha was a star performer and had done far better than both of her predecessors, Augustine Ruzindana and Jotham Tumwesigye, combined. ‘Don’t look at Mwondha the person, look at the achievements the office has registered under her tenure,’ the President told the MPs. Those who know Museveni well argue that the achievements he refers to are the punishments that Mwondha has meted on his ‘enemies’.
Unlike her predecessors Ruzindana and Tumwesigye, Mwondha works to appease President Museveni. Those who know Museveni say that he likes it best when his cadres are locking horns with each other. And Mwondha is doing exactly that. She has clashed with the Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi, Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, all cabinet ministers and heads of government bodies. An IGG that is not on speaking terms with all of Museveni’s bureaucrats is a very important tool for him. In the event that he feels like punishing any of his cadres, he needs only to invite Mwondha, who will duly shoot without hesitation, and the stubborn politician will be brought to the ‘correct line’ or be diminished.
Jim Muhwezi and Capt. Mike Mukula, the previously perceived ‘untouchables’, who were implicated in abuse of both the GAVI and Global Fund money, could be the reason Mwondha has retained her position. Museveni seems hell-bent on apprehending the two for their role in the scandals, and Mwondha has positioned herself as the only person fearless enough to handle the case before she leaves office.
Judging by the way Mwondha handled Muhwezi ‘” to the extent of sending him to Luzira Prison ‘” Museveni believes it is only this IGG who can deal with such recalcitrant people.
Neither can her reappointment be divorced from the suspicion that the likes of Muhwezi and Mukula are developing bigger political ambitions, which must be tamed in infancy. At the moment, the best tamer in the eyes of Museveni is the Fearless Faith Mwondha.
What does Museveni decision mean?
Political commentators and analysts say Mwondha’s reappointment has rendered Parliament irrelevant. But also the reappointment has bigger constitutional implications that border on the overthrow of the supreme law of the land.
‘By going ahead to reappoint Mwondha without the approval of parliament, President Museveni is telling parliament that it’s a useless and irrelevant institution. He is also telling the country that he has no respect for the Uganda constitution because it’s the constitution that commands parliament to vet presidential appointments. He has thrown a rotten egg on the face of parliament,’ says Soroti Woman MP Alice Alaso.
Besides, the reappointment has eroded the independence of the IGG. According to the constitution, the IGG is supposed to exercise his/her authority without the direction of anybody or any authority. But now Mwondha will see Museveni as her Godfather without whom she would not have been reappointed. And this will deal a big blow to her independence as IGG because she will pledge her loyalty to Museveni rather than parliament.
Her refusal to appear before parliament for vetting implied that she disregarded the people of Uganda who voted the MPs to represent them.
Constitutionally, the IGG reports to parliament. For example she is supposed to submit her reports to parliament for scrutiny. But now after this scenario, the IGG will no longer need to report to parliament.
This means, Ms Alaso says, Mwondha will be reporting to Museveni instead of parliament, something that will dilute the authority and independence of the IGG office.
‘Museveni wants to show that he is the alpha and omega. He now appoints and vets,’ Alaso says.
She dismissed the argument that reappointment of Mwondha was Museveni’s calculation to win political support in Busoga. She says Mwondha has been conflicting with prominent politicians in Busoga like the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and does not command influence that can bring any meaningful political dividends.
‘I don’t think Mwondha has political clout in Busoga. She alone cannot deliver Busoga to Museveni,’ Alaso says.
Many observers warned that the sending of the deputy IGG Raphael Baku on forced leave after he had been approved by parliament, may politically backfire on the president. ‘I don’t think the people of West Nile will take the issue of Baku lying down,’ one political commentator warned.
Baku, unlike his boss Mwondha, appeared before parliament which approved his reappointment. But surprisingly, the president has sent him on forced leave and instead reappointed Mwondha who snubbed parliament.
Lawyers say the President’s action is a violation of the constitution because. He received an interpretation of the constitution by the government chief advisor, the attorney General, and parliament but he has chosen to ignore all that and act to the contrary.
‘Technically, President Museveni has carried out a coup against the constitution. The moment you disobey provisions of the constitution, you have carried out a coup against the constitution,’ says lawyer Erias Lukwago.
He says the reappointment of Mwondha is ineffective and she is in office illegally. He says her reappointment is challengeable in court. Several people The Independent talked to said it appears Uganda is degenerating into a pariah state where rule of law does not work. People are also sceptical whether going to court will change anything. Their argument is that if the president can overrun parliament, there is nothing that can stop him from doing the same to the judiciary.
According to the findings of The Independent, there are many voices warming up to challenge Mwondha’s appointment in court.
Observers say the president faces a huge legal test if Baku decides to go to court over his forced leave. They say it’s unfortunate that Baku who complied with the law and went for vetting has been punished whereas the one who defied Parliament has been reappointed.
What will Parliament do?
Many analysts don’t expect much. They say that despite the fact that Museveni has overrun the authority of parliament, it will not do anything. The MPs may rant about it but that’s all they can do. They say it’s not the same first time he has defied parliament. They say he did the same during the sale of Uganda Commercials Bank and when the Black Mamba military squad besieged the High Court. ‘This parliament does not have the guts to censure Museveni. So what do you expect? Nothing,’ an observer said.