President Museveni yesterday asked Vice President Gilbert Bukenya to resign from Cabinet, exactly eight years after he was first appointed to the job. Prof. Bukenya confirmed the development in a telephone interview with this newspaper last night. “This is a relief,” the out-going Vice President said. “Now I can live my private life and make decisions that I would want to make. I will continue openly to fight and remove poverty in the country.”
Prof. Bukenya’s resignation is expected to be confirmed today when President Museveni meets the NRM Parliamentary Caucus to discuss his new Cabinet. A renown academic and scholar, Prof. Bukenya had a meteoric rise to the top of the political tree but his stint as the longest-serving VP under Museveni has been marred by allegations of corruption – which he denies – and colourful revelations about his private life.
Prof. Bukenya, whose re-election as MP for Busiro North is being contested in court, said he would remain a faithful member of the ruling NRM party. “I will remain strong in NRM and I will continue supporting government’s strong and positive programmes but I will not hesitate to criticise wrong programmes,” he told Daily Monitor last night. “I thank those Ugandans who have been supporting me and look forward to more advancement of Uganda.”
Prof. Bukenya’s sacking comes after Parliament yesterday ordered ministers who were recently re-appointed by President Museveni without parliamentary approval to vacate offices as MPs voiced concern over the delay to constitute a new government.
While State House did not have an explanation on the delays to appoint a new government, sources told Daily Monitor last evening that the President had summoned the NRM Caucus for an impromptu meeting today at 7:30am, among others, to approve key Cabinet appointments.
Although the 8th Parliament on May 11, a day before President’s swearing-in, had rejected Mr Museveni’s request to re-appoint ministers to their positions in acting capacity, it emerged yesterday that the “Acting” Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi, writing on behalf of the President on May 16, asked the ministers to stay in office.
Kasilo MP Elijah Okupa and Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu raised the concerns in Parliament-describing ministers as ‘masqueraders’ and accused the President of disrespecting Parliament. “We have illegal people in public offices masquerading as ministers,” Mr Okupa said. “Parliament has not approved any minister to serve in the new government yet these people continue to serve illegally. They must leave public offices immediately.”
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told the House that the President wrote to her in the last week of the 8th Parliament, re-appointing ministers, a move MPs insisted was illegal. “I have a letter from the President, he communicated to me. If you want the letter I can bring it.” But when she brought the letter at 3pm, she only waved it and promised to share the details with the members after the session. She later adjourned the House at about 6:40pm without showing them the alleged letter from the President.
New yet old letter
A copy Daily Monitor obtained shows that the same letter Prof. Nsibambi referred to in the House on May 11 when Parliament rejected President’s request was the same letter Ms Kadaga brought. However, the date on the “new” letter was changed to read May 16 instead of April 8.
MPs were concerned that in a letter tagged as “Most Urgent” from the Prime Minister communicating President Museveni’s decision, a specific Article of the Constitution empowering the President to re-appoint ministers in acting capacity in a new government and without the parliamentary approval was not indicated.
Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, a city lawyer, said: “The law is clear; this is a new government with fresh mandate from the people. All ministers must be vetted afresh by Parliament because their term of office expired on May 11 before midnight. It’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal and they need fresh mandate to serve as acting ministers.”
The deputy Principal Private Secretary to the President, Mr Kintu Nyago said: “It’s within his (President Museveni’s) right. He is the one with the mandate to appoint ministers. Those people (complaining) can sue him. He received advice from the minister for Constitutional Affairs.” Meanwhile FDC Leader Dr. Kizza Besigye will today name the leader of opposition in parliament.
Additional reporting by Yasiin Mugerwa & Mercy Nalugo