KAMPALA- President Museveni has always said he takes into account regional balancing in ministerial appointments, in line with the constitutional requirement that Cabinet must reflect a national character.
The new Cabinet list released at the weekend, however, reveals that 20 out of the 30 senior ministerial positions have been occupied by individuals from western region.
This means two out of three senior Cabinet Ministers now come from western region.
The list also shows that of the 20 ministers from the west, eight hail from Kigezi sub-region, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi’s home area.
These are Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Information minister Jim Muhwezi, Agriculture minister Tress Buchanayandi, among others.
Some of the state ministers from the west include state minister for Health Chris Baryomunsi, State minister for Planning David Bahati, Economic Monitoring Henry Banyenzaki; Public Service Prisca Ssezi Mbaguta, and Philemon Mateke Regional Affairs.
Central region comes in second position with five senior cabinet ministers: Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa, Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba and Gender’s Muruuli Mukasa.
And while Luweero Triangle (the geographical area where Mr Museveni waged his five-year bush war) was in the past given preferential treatment in ministerial appointments, it appears to be losing its attraction with the sole surviving senior representative Abraham Byandala being demoted from minister of Works to minister without portfolio.
Former ministers Syda Bbumba, Kiddhu Makubuya and Rose Namayanja who all hail from the area, have since left Cabinet.
Minister for Primary Education Chrysostom Muyingo is the only other minister from Luweero. Third in position is the eastern region with three senior ministers: Education Jessica Alupo, Energy Irene Muloni and Lands minister Daudi Migereko.
Northern region, long thought to be indifferent to Mr Museveni, came last again with only two ministers; Second Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali and minister for Disaster Preparedness Hilary Onek. The form book is slightly altered when it comes to junior ministers, also known as minsters of state.
Eastern region leads with 18 followed by western with 12. Central region comes in third with 11 ministers but the north trails again at eight. The government spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, yesterday told Daily Monitor that there is no imbalance.
“When you look at the reshuffle, there are only five new ministers who were appointed and the rest of the team members were either promoted or transferred to work in other ministries,” he said.
Explaining the criteria the President uses to appoint the ministers, Mr Opondo said Mr Museveni looks at one’s loyalty to the NRM party and his political support in a given region.
“The western region votes as a block and the President has never lost any elections there. In some districts of Buganda, the votes are contested but not in the western region. The President appoints those who give him votes,” said Mr Opondo. “Joining Cabinet is by loyalty.
The western region is not homogeneous but distinctive.”
Mr Opondo added: “Minister Adolf Mwesige, for instance, is said to be a Mufuruki (foreigner) and the Bakiga are very significant.
Frank Tumwebaze serves the Bahima and Batoro immigrants while Byabagambi serves a huge Catholic constituency, so does Chris Baryomunsi. Buganda is a large area but fairly homogeneous,” he said.
He said other reasons such as competence come later as he emphasised numerical strength, especially with MPs that have constituencies.
On why the northern region is underrepresented, Mr Opondo observed that they do not vote for the President.
“They have been having only one minister who is Moses Ali. The President gave them Mr Omara Atubo who was lands minister and people denied him votes. The President says, ‘I give you ministers to serve you and you don’t vote me’,” he said.
Addressing the media during a weekly news briefing, the Forum for Democratic Change spokesperson, Mr John Kikonyogo, noted that the President was deliberately courting the people of Kigezi through his appointments.
When you look at Cabinet, Kigezi has got three more slots because President Museveni has people to convince there but the President has no more fears in the central region. He is taking the region for granted, we now know where he has more fears and like boxers, we have to punch him in his weakest area.” he said.
Mr Medard Ssegona, the opposition shadow minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said :“The President is coming from the west, the Prime Minister from the west and other ministers. It is not a government for Ugandans but his clansmen. He does everything himself.”