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New Cabinet

By eriasa mukiibi sserunjogi

Forget service delivery, it’s all about politics

President Yoweri Museveni’s strategy in naming his new cabinet appears to have been based on an old management principle; the law of the vital few. Under this principle, only 20 percent of those involved really matter for 80 percent of the outcome.

If service delivery was top of his agenda, Museveni appears to have calculated that Maria Kiwanuka, Irene Muloni, Christine Ondoa, Karooro Okurut, and Abraham Byandala will be the core ministers to deliver.

Top row Maria Kiwanuka, Henry Banyenzaki, Karooro Okurut, Amelia Kyambade, Sam Kutesa Bottom row Christine Ondoa, Abraham Byandala, Peter Nyombi, Irene Muloni, Crispus Kiyonga

Kiwanuka was named minister of Finance, Muloni in Energy, Ondoa in Health, Karooro in Information, and Byandala in Works and Transport. These are the critical budget priority areas for the 2011/2012 fiscal year.

It is significant that Museveni’s core team is 100% new and 80% female.

Other areas which are critical in service delivery also went to individuals with a grasp of the issues and a reputation of delivering; Tress Buchanayandi, who spent years in the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, in Agriculture and Jessica Alupo in Education. One is new, the other has been recycled. Alupo was once minister of Child and Youth Affairs.

Although the voters did most of the work for him by not returning over 20 of the members of the old cabinet and therefore effectively locking them out of the new one, Museveni still had to sack another two; former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and former Housing State Minister Michael Werikhe.

Even then his prerogative to fill cabinet slots with people from outside Parliament which is limited to 10 also got higher pass mark this time. This may not be apparent to a casual observer who focuses on the presence of former Kampala Mayor Nasser Sebaggala on the line up. His appointment as Minister without Portfolio is the perfect illustration of Museveni’s use of these appointments as a 2016 election winning tool.

Sebaggala is a man of modest formal education who cannot be accused of having registered any noticeable achievements as Kampala Mayor over the last five years. But he is a known fixer and a president needs such men.

Some choices were sentimental and designed to cater for interests that are neither political nor meant to drive efficiency. The first such slot went to his childhood friend Eriya Kategaya (First Deputy Premier and Public Service) whose political career ended a decade ago). The second was sentimentality of a different kind and involved Amama Mbabazi’s choice as prime minister.

Donors unhappy

Amama Mbabazi will remain the maestro of Museveni’s latest game of cabinet musical chairs but it will be at a price.

Sources within the donor community have told The Independent that they wanted Mbabazi and former Vice President, Gilbert Bukenya whose fate was sealed when he challenged Mbabazi for the party secretary general job during the NRM primary in mid 2010, to be dropped.

The donors implored Museveni not to appoint Mbabazi Prime Minister, citing accusations of involvement in the CHOGM corruption saga.

The source adds that the donors were specifically concerned that the Office of the Prime Minister handles a big chunk of donor money meant for special projects. But the President defended his man, reasoning that he is innocent and the accusations of corruption were made by Mbabazi’s political opponents. Other ministers implicated in the CHOGM scandal who survived are Sam Kutesa and John Nasasira.

Museveni has made no secret of his deference for Mbabazi, who he says is efficient and loyal.

But donors apart, Mbabazi’s appointment as Prime Minister could polarise government. The fallout resulting from Mbabazi’s posting as Premier reached boiling point when new Kampala Central MP, NRM’s Muhammad Nsereko, used his first chance in the House to speak angrily against Mbabazi’s approval for the position. He also cited corruption.

Mbabazi’s campmates, like his former aide, Ronald Kibuule, made it into the new Cabinet. But so did some of his bitterest rivals within the NRM – Kahinda Otafiire and Henry Banyenzaki. Also, some of Mbabazi’s close allies like Hope Mwesigye were dropped.

It will be interesting to see how as Prime Minister, Mbabazi reins in rebellious Banyenzaki (Minister of State for Economic Monitoring) and Kahinda Otafiire (minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs).

After their rivalry within the party, Mbabazi would have been happy to see their exit.

Mbabazi stepped on many toes and egos with his role in alleged “election irregularities” during the party’s Delegates Conference last year and working against some party members during the recent general elections.

“If he can cheat for some party members just to keep popular members outside the leadership of the party,” wonders a new minister, “why can’t he work against some members in Cabinet?”

The Minister said Mbabazi cannot match former Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi’s special attribute as a “technocratic Prime Minister” who never belonged to any clique within the ruling party, enabling him to command respect from all ministers. This minister believes Mbabazi lacks such an attribute.

But observers say if Mbabazi’s being Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business leads to wrangling within cabinet, it could promote debate and improve performance of government. Hopefully, Museveni had this in mind too.

Unfortunately in a bad economic year, Mbabazi’s appointment does not improve the ratings for Museveni’s cabinet among donors. Donors will also be unhappy that the new cabinet is larger than the last one they were complaining about. They shoulder most of the public service delivery budget.


Despite that, Museveni’s reasoning on Mbabazi could have been the same one he used to pick 21 of the 28 cabinet ministers; including Mbabazi and his three deputies; Eriya Kategaya, Henry Kajura, and Moses Ali from his old stock. Further analysis of the appointments reveals a marked level of prioritisation – on politics.

Most of the old guard have effectively been shunted aside into non-critical portfolios where, as someone once said, they can sleep; Ruhakana Rugunda in ICT, John Nasasira as Chief Whip, Khiddu Makubuya for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister.

These have been Museveni’s high value team now occupying low value portfolios. They know these are just holding positions and basing on political dictates in Museveni’s 4th term, they can easily be switched.

Rugunda’s appointment shatters a myth created by the ICT inaugural minister, tech-savvy Ham Muliira, that the ministry is respected. Muliira held it for less than three years. His successor, then a fresh convert to the ruling party from UPC, Aggrey Awori, was dropped from Cabinet after just two years, along with his showy deputy, Alintuma Nsambu.

The old guard apart, political strategic thinking can be seen in some of the new appointments.

Dr James Sinyabulo Mutende holds a doctorate in Investment Economics from USA and an MBA, and has worked with Museveni and the Uganda Investment Authority in that area.

However, he lost the Mbale Municipality race to Jack Wamanga of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change. At that point, Mutende’s bid was being frustrated by Werikhe although they were all NRM. Mutende’s elevation, therefore, aims to raise his profile with an eye on 2016 when, hopefully, he will recapture Mbale Municipality.

The new Minister of State for Karamoja, Barbara Oundo Nekesa’s appointment serves the same purpose. She is the new Woman MP for Busia district, but that region has lost two prominent names in the new lineup; Gabriel Opio and Aggrey Awori. Nekesa was selected to keep the NRM flame burning in the area and counter the influence of another prominent woman, Kevina Taaka of FDC, who is the new Busia Municipality MP.

Eastern Loses in New cabinet

Museveni left Hillary Onek, Okello Oryem to deliver the northern vote. But longtime northern Uganda backroom fixer, in the Ssebaggala ilk, Sam Engola, has finally sneaked into cabinet. Moses Ali, Alex Onzima, Simon D’Ujanga, and Fred Omach take care of the West Nile/Adjumani/Nebbi axis.

New Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga’s ascendency in Parliament appears to have whittled down eastern Uganda’s influence in cabinet. Daudi Migereko had hoped to snatch the coveted Energy slot but he ended up in Lands which, as they say, is a `dry’ ministry. A minister there is lucky to find a desk. Stephen Malinga lost Health to go to Disaster Preparedness. But what the east lost in quality it got back in numbers; it has 15 of the 45 ministers of state. That is way ahead of the ten ministers of state that Buganda got.

Buganda’s eight-year dominance of cabinet appears to have ended the moment Mbabazi was appointed Prime Minister. Where Buganda previously held the Vice Presidency, Speakership, and Prime Minister’s jobs, it now has only former Speaker Edward Sekandi as Vice President. Observers see an attempt by Museveni to clip Buganda’s wings. There is no Muganda of substance in cabinet, according to Mengo loyalists. They do not respect Ssekandi for his role in presiding over a Parliament that passed two Bills opposed by the kingdom – the one on land and traditional rulers.

Museveni also elevated Katikamu North MP Abraham Byandaala, who presided over Parliament’s physical infrastructure committee that kingdom loyalists accuse of speedily okaying the Land Bill.

In all, Buganda got 11 full Cabinet Ministers against 13 for western Uganda. In the old Cabinet, it had 8 against 10. Eastern Uganda has five full Cabinet ministers against the seven it had in the old Cabinet. The comparable figure for northern Uganda is four, while Karamoja has none.

Another prominent new entrant to cabinet from Buganda is former presidential private secretary, Amelia Kyambadde. She is a high value asset in Museveni’s camp sitting in a high value docket, Trade and Industry, which is not her forte.  Trained hands in the ministers of state ranks; David Wakikona (Trade), and another new face, James Mutende (Industry), complete the triumvirate of low expectations.

First Lady Janet Museveni’s case is similar although she holds the non-core Karamoja portfolio. She remains a powerful cog in the Museveni power machine and has this time got an assistant, State minister Barbara Nekesa, who will do the donkey work.

Old-guard versus new

But the President retained the core of his administration which is security, defence, and foreign affairs in tested hands.  Crispus Walter Kiyonga who has been in cabinet since Museveni came to power in 1986 retained that Defence portfolio he has held for five years, Sam Kahamba Kutesa retained the Foreign Affairs docket, and Wilson Muruli Mukasa  returned to the Security docket he has held before, and Adolf Kasaija Mwesige in Local Government, and Syda Bbumba in Gender. None of these positions require any core competence; Muruuli is a former teacher – but the holders have tonnes of experience in NRM politics.

Compare that with newcomer Irene Muloni who is a respected technocrat in the area of her Energy ministry. An electrical engineer by training, she was involved in restructuring the sector and eventually headed a strand of it; the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. Obviously, old  Museveni hands like Peter Lokeris and Simon D’Ujanga got slots in Minerals and Energy respectively to take care of the political side of things.

It is the same case with the Finance minister, Maria Kiwanuka, who is also not tested in public office. But the proprietor of one of Uganda’s top FM radio stations comes from impeccable private sector pedigree by training; MBA London School of Economics, and experience on various directorships. Kiwanuka raises hopes and questions. Despite having international experience in banking and advisory services, she has spent years as a private business person and some observers say Museveni could have got a more suitable candidate for the influential position. Deputy Bank of Uganda Governor Louis Kasekende’s name has been mentioned. Fortunately, she will be ably supported by proven performers, minister of State/General Duties, Fred Mandir Jachan-Omach and Matia Kasaija in Planning.

But it is Christine Ondoa’s appointment which is perhaps most fascinating. At 43, she is relatively young, but make no mistake, she is known to take no prisoners when on a mission – she is the same one who assaulted the Adjuman district RDC when he tried to undermine her.

If in doubt, ask staff at Mbarara Referral Hospital where she was the director. She will be assisted by old hands, James Kakooza for Primary Health and Richard Nduhura, General Duties. But she inherits a ministry riddled with corruption and inefficiency. The question is whether she, and the other untainted young Turks in cabinet, can deliver.

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