Cabinet reshuffle catches political class off-guard

Thursday December 19 2019


By Karoli Ssemogerere

The President at the weekend reshuffled his Cabinet dropping seven Cabinet ministers (including Idah Nantaba, Janat B Mukwaya, Irene Muloni, Monica Azuba Ntege, Charles Bakkabulindi, Alex Onzima and Abdul Nadduli). He promoted two ministers of state to Cabinet rank (Mary Kitutu – Energy and Katumba Wamala- Works and Transport).

He appointed to Cabinet rank Minister of ICT (Judith Nabakooba) and Local Government Raphael Magyezi.

In the reshuffle, key portfolios remained unchanged. Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Internal Affairs, Trade & Industry.

The President transferred the ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze to Labour, Kampala Minister Beti Kamya to Lands switching with Betty Amongi, Ephraim Kamuntu to Justice, Kivejjinja to ministry without portfolio and Kahinda Otafiire to East African Affairs. New Tourism Minister Tom Butime replaced by Raphael Magyezi at Local Government.

In his tinkering with the candidate, the President cleaned up the pay for play shop that his private office had begun bringing his office into disrepute.

Even though the official reason given is to allow the former PPS Molly Kamukama to participate in the campaigns, this raises even more eyebrows, as National Resistance Movement (NRM) party campaigns are likely to maintain tribal schisms as NRM already has a full secretary general and treasurer (Justine Kasule Lumumba and Rosemary Namayanja Nsereko).


Both had a number of events, Kasule redid her wedding in flowers that left Cathedral plaza in Rubaga dripping with petals of flowers, Namayanja sidelined by a car accident managed to squeeze herself into a scout suit.

In the reshuffle, the President seems to emphasise he was still counting on the south-west (central) belt for a majority of his vote tally in 2021. This left the more volatile regions out of the mix; West Nile, central Buganda, Busoga, eastern and parts of northern region.

He saved face for some of his favourite ministers Kamya and Amongi keeping the axe close to allow them to transition themselves out of his government. He also mischievously moved the former Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana back to his place of exile, Labour and Industrial Relations. He kept Elderly and Disability and Industry portfolios empty.

Writing the Cabinet list has become a strange exercise. The Cabinet is already large yet regions like northern and West Nile are really not at the table. They have gone to sleep, shutting them out in the national debates. A minister of State is far more limited in visibility.

In writing the new Cabinet list, the President believes he has neutralised both Forum for Democratic Change party and People Power.

The intra-Opposition battle for supremacy has left the two groupings even more detesting of each other.

The President is ready to lose up to 70-80 seats and play the bargaining chip of amending the Constitution further to deny the office of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament legitimacy by playing on its low MP count.

It appears Speaker Kadaga performed very well in the new Cabinet. Irene Muloni lost her job for aversion to her authority after a trip she made to Kisozi. She didn’t get Abdu Katuntu into Cabinet but that may come in the future as he is a potential candidate for Deputy Speaker in the next Parliament after he retires from elective politics.

Betty Amongi was lucky to keep her flag after a dressdown at the Commission of Inquiry on Land. Her talent was identified in UWOPA by Kadaga.

This column noted last week, that the oil policy had not delivered, as no oil will come out of the ground before 2025 and some key players need to be retired.

The second scandal in the sector are the mounting bills in the power sector that are stifling economic growth.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.