Uganda in 2020: What will be the big news?

Thursday January 9 2020

 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

There are two big appointments coming up in 2020-2021. First is the nomination of a new Chief Justice which has recorded a number of unusual appointments and promotions which have distorted seniority and according to some skeptics lowered standards.

The new finalists for Chief Justice yet to be advertised include Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). This addition in no particular order joins a very hot race; Supreme Court Presiding Justice Dr Esther Kisaakye, Prof Tibatemwa Lillian Ekirikubinza, Stella Arach Amoko and current Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo.

For Governor of Bank of Uganda, it is a wild race. Candidates include Keith Muhakanizi, the third most powerful individual in government and current PS/Secretary to the Treasury.

In 2019, while ailing, Mr Muhakanizi blocked the fact finding visit by Members of Parliament to the Lubowa site of the International Hospital without a whimper. He is the one individual with veto power over financial releases as chief accounting officer. He is on the board of Bank of Uganda along other possible contenders; Dr William Kalema, outgoing Deputy Governor Dr Louis Kasekende.

In the case of Bank of Uganda which has had a tough number of years, changes may come with amendment of the law to decouple as is the case in Kenya the position of Chief Executive from chairman of the board. This is further advised by the growing footprint of the Bank which recently opened a formal Depositors Protection Fund and runs a number of funds on behalf of government like the Petroleum Fund which government has depleted.

Uganda began 2020 for the third straight year without any serious domestic conflict. There is an ongoing tension with Rwanda but not at the scale of the ADF threat. Absent war, institutions such as UPDF find themselves struggling to hold on their missions.

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Parliament recently purported for example to ban UPDF’s operations to halt illegal fishing on Lake Victoria, a breach of separation of powers. UPDF has registered great success in restoring sanity on Lake Victoria restoring fish stocks.

The size of the fish catch has increased substantially and the price of fish has gone down a benefit to Uganda’s burgeoning population which is likely to hit 50 million mid-decade propelling Uganda to the top 25 countries in terms of population size globally. Infact Uganda is projected to hit 202 million in 2100.

Uganda’s exploding population growth has not been matched by appropriate social-health infrastructure.

In 2019, government announced construction of 300 secondary schools in 2020 and 2021. KCCA has embarked on major infrastructure initiatives like flyovers. The first flyovers went up in Africa, in Nigeria, in the petrodollar boom of 1971. So we are 50 years late to the party.

Commodity prices are a major problem. Coffee, tea and cotton have lagged. A Bill to regulate the coffee sector was chased from Parliament last year, causing government significant public embarrassment.

The delicate balance between the different arms of government continued to tiptoe in 2020. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga differed the appointment of at least two ministers, according to unconfirmed reports, named to the Cabinet in December. The courts continue to unseat Members of Parliament for lack of requisite qualifications 25 years after a high school minimum academic qualification for MPs became a constitutional requirement.

End year changes in government exposed a change in opinion at the top. Uganda proposed a new dam at Uhuru Falls. This attracted near universal condemnation as Uganda already produces more power than it consumes and is still settling bills from the construction of Bujagali Dam.

Uganda is still struggling to raise funds to evacuate power and is debating renewal of Umeme’s power concession.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.
kssemoge@gmail.com