President Museveni allegedly appoints individuals to his Cabinet as a reward for loyalty and fires or demotes the strong-minded; thereby compromising government’s competence, US Ambassador Jerry Lanier has said in a leaked diplomatic cable he authored two years ago.
Mr Museveni, the envoy said in his cable, named his wife, Janet, for the first time to cabinet during the February 15, 2009 reshuffle, to allegedly broaden her access to state “resources and perks” while hoping on the downside that the Karamoja docket would present the First Lady an “intractable problem” to allegedly weaken her growing popularity.
The ambassador’s views, never before heard in public, are contained in a 2009 diplomatic briefing to Washington, leaked by whistleblower website, Wikileaks.
In it, Mr Lanier says the First couple’s allegedly “frosty relations are no secret in Kampala”.
After repeated attempts to get a comment from her, Ms Museveni, through an aide, last evening promised to call and respond to the issues in the US ambassador’s briefing, but had not done so by press time.
Mr Lanier reported to Kampala seven months after the 2009 cabinet reshuffle and noted that individuals named ministers at the time allegedly had “no conscience” and would reportedly pull all stops, including “dirty” tricks, to enable Mr Museveni win the February 18, 2011 vote.
The incumbent won 68 per cent of the ballot, although his opponents, without adducing tangible evidence, said he allegedly bought the vote using a rushed Shs600 billion supplementary budget approved during campaigns.
In the dossier, the envoy describes the former Finance Minister, Ms Syda Bbumba, as “incompetent” and also highlights ex-Trade Minister Janat Mukwaya’s “lacklustre performance”.
“Technically competent ministers in ministries of growing importance to the economy such as that of Finance, Energy, Information, Communication and Technology were replaced with less capable personalities,” Mr Lanier noted.
Such changes, he observed, were of concern because the three ministries are sources of growing revenue and patronage opportunities. Affected technocrats cited included Dr Ham Mulira and Dr Ezra Suruma dropped from the ICT and Finance dockets, respectively.
The dossier says their reassignment as senior presidential advisers - a less influential posting – was because they had no political base since they were not elected MPs in the first place.
It is revealed in the diplomatic cable that Dr Suruma twice tried to resign as Finance minister, but was allegedly restrained by President Museveni, after allegations surfaced that he pressured then National Social Security Fund (NSSF) head Chandi Jamwa to release Shs10 billion of workers’ savings to buy land from former Security Minister Amama Mbabazi.
The 2008 Temangalo land deal later became a subject of parliamentary inquiry.
The ambassador said the President allegedly stopped Dr Suruma from throwing in the towel because doing so at the height of the rancorous investigations would make Mr Mbabazi, now Prime Minister, look “guilty”.
Both the former Finance Minister and Mr Mbabazi held shares in the National Bank of Commerce and reportedly used the cash they obtained from NSSF coffers to safeguard their interest from being bought out by some Nigerians.
Ambassador Lanier wrote that the President allegedly dropped his brother, Gen. Salim Saleh, as Micro-finance Minister on health grounds.
The diplomatic cable also indicates that former Energy Minister, Mr Daudi Migereko allegedly lost the portfolio because an allegedly “powerful and corrupt” technical officer in the ministry may have “done him in” due to incessant clashes.
Mr Migereko was made government Chief Whip and the envoy said this happened because the minister reportedly opposed “several project tenders involving Janet Museveni and (Foreign Affairs Minister) Sam Kutesa’s firm, Aggrekko”.
But Mr Kutesa yesterday denied any connection with the company. “I do not have any connections whatsoever with Aggreko but I believe its is owned by people like Charles Mbire and to my knowledge I don’t think the First Lady is connected to it,” he said.
The US embassy, according to the cable, did not expect his replacement, Eng. Hillary Onek, to be effective since he was appointed because “he is a northerner and the new oil finds in Amuru District [were] already generating conflict over land ownership in the area”.
Eng. Onek, who had public squabbles with a technical officer during his short tenure, has since been moved to Internal Affairs.