What you need to know:
- After his swift vetting and confirmation by Parliament as Justice minister, Mr Mao vowed to stay on as DP president general amid growing calls for him to step down.
Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao is facing a fierce backlash from his party following a controversial cooperation agreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and President Museveni.
Mr Mao, 55, was yesterday swiftly vetted and confirmed by the House as Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, hours after being appointed by President Museveni. He vowed to stay on as DP president general amid growing calls for him to step down.
In the coming hours, Mr Mao and his secretary general Gerald Siranda are expected to call a meeting of their allies to zero down on the junior ministerial appointee to be forwarded to President Museveni.
A source close to Mr Mao told Saturday Monitor that the DP president general and his allies are likely to forward the name of outgoing East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) legislator Fred Mukasa Mbidde or Dr Mayambala Kiwanuka, the party’s national chairperson.
Mr Mbidde and Mr Mao had a public fall-out in the run-up to the 2021 General Elections after the former backed Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine’s presidential bid.
It is not clear whether the two have since reconciled. Mr Mbidde has maintained a quiet presence since losing the bid to represent Nyendo-Senyange Division in Parliament last year.
In an interview, Uganda Media Centre executive director Ofwono Opondo was non-committal on which junior ministerial position President Museveni will fill with a DP nominee.
“You ask Mao which [position] he was promised,” Mr Ofwono told Saturday Monitor.
Mr Mao was unavailable for a comment by press time. On Thursday, President Museveni filled all the vacant ministerial posts, with Mr Peter Ogwang becoming the State Minister for Education and Sports. He replaced Mr Hamson Obua, who was elevated to the cabinet level Government Chief Whip job, which fell vacant after Mr Thomas Tayebwa was elected as Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
In the same reshuffle, Ms Akello Beatrice Okori replaced Mr Ogwang as the Minister of Economic Monitoring in the Office of the President.
A cooperation agreement, which Mr Mao described as a “draft” during a Thursday political talk show on NBS TV indicates that besides the Justice and Constitutional Affairs docket, the DP will have one state ministerial position and four posts in government departments and agencies. Mr Mao also confirmed that he has been engaging the government “for some time”, and that a position—he didn’t disclose—was extended to him nearly a year ago.
The DP Bloc held a media briefing yesterday in which they roundly dismissed the deal. A coalition of three Opposition parties, the DP bloc was formed in 2019 to take on NRM. It comprises the DP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), People’s Development Party (PDP) and other change-seeking forces.
Speaking to the media, the DP Bloc principal, Mr Samuel Lubega Mukaku, said they had anticipated the developments.
“For long, we have internally endured Mao’s manoeuvres and schemes to obstruct the party and the DP Bloc from taking effective and decisive actions against the NRM junta,” he said.
Dr Michael Lulume Bayigga, the Buikwe South lawmaker, said the DP bloc has taken an uncompromising decision to work closely with organs of the party to effect the due process of relieving Mr Mao and Mr Gerald Siranda of their party positions of president and secretary general of DP, respectively. Mr Siranda is widely expected to—with the backing of NRM—replace Mr Mbidde as Eala legislator.
“As DP Bloc, we have imposed several sanctions against Mao and Siranda, and these include recalling and stripping them of all honours, accolades and awards so far accorded, banned from attending DP Bloc and all Opposition activities or to isolate and excommunicate them by effecting a ban on them from attending all political, social, cultural and religious events,” he said.
Inside the deal
Both Mr Siranda and Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the ICT and National Guidance minister, have praised the deal. Dr Baryomunsi described it as “a positive ideology” for political parties to cooperate and engage for the good of the country.
DP and the ruling NRM penned a 42-clause agreement, agreeing to share some political power, foster constitutionalism and the respect of human rights.
Per the agreement, DP will cooperate with NRM in supporting the overall governance agenda and supporting parliamentary votes on matters of confidence and supply for the full term (2021-2026) of this Parliament.
DP has only nine legislators in the House of 529 MPs, of whom more than 300 belong to the NRM. Mr Mao, as minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, will be the lead minister for coordinating the national dialogue and the whole of government response on constitutional reforms, with the mandate to coordinate budget proposals in the Justice Law and Order Sector.
“The ministerial portfolios and other public sector appointments offered to DP shall reflect areas where DP expertise provides a valuable contribution to the NRM government,” the agreement reads.
“Ministers from DP agree to be bound by collective responsibility in relation to their ministerial portfolios. When speaking within portfolio responsibilities, they will speak for the government, representing the government’s position in relation to those responsibilities,” the agreement adds.
DP also committed to supporting the NRM government on procedural motions in Parliament and in committees provided there is consultation among the parties through their whips.
“The DP undertakes to keep full voting numbers present whenever the House is sitting where DP has committed to support the NRM government and on matters of confidence and supply. DP also undertakes to keep full voting numbers in committee, unless otherwise agreed,” the agreement reads.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Mao will rein in the legislators on the party ticket, majority of whom have vowed to throw him out of the party leadership and are opposed to the deal with the ruling NRM.
Other than the ministerial appointment, the NRM committed to supporting the nomination of a DP MP to be the chairperson of a standing committee and another deputy chairperson of an additional committee.
The NRM also agreed to support the election of the DP candidate to Eala. Mr Siranda has already been nominated as the party candidate in the election that is to be held later this year. DP is also to propose up to four individuals for appointment to departments, statutory bodies and government agencies, the portfolio of which shall be discussed and agreed upon in advance by both parties.
The agreement also states that Mr Mao will be meeting with President Museveni every three months or as required to monitor progress against the areas of cooperation that are set out in the agreement.
Uganda’s Justice ministers over the years
Grace K. Ibingira (1962-1964)
Ibingira was born on May 23, 1932, in Ankole. He was Justice minister in the first post-independence government by Obote. Widely known for reportedly playing a prominent role in designing Uganda’s flag, he died in December 1995.
Cuthbert Joseph Obwangor (1964-1966)
Born on November 1, 1920, Obwangor represented Teso in the Legco. He served in various ministerial posts in Obote’s government, including Justice and Law. He died in 2012.
Peter James Nkambo Mugerwa (1971-1973)
Mugerwa taught at the University Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In 1964, he became deputy Solicitor General and was later promoted to Solicitor General of Uganda, a role he served in from 1964 to 1971. He handled the famous case of Uganda Vs Commissioner of Prisons Exparte Matovu. In 1971, he was appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, only to be fired by President Idi Amin two years later. He died in 2020.
Godfrey Serunkuma Lule (1973-1977)
Born in 1932, Lule attended the University of Bombay, where he obtained a Bachelor of Laws. He worked as a State Attorney at the Justice and Constitutional Affairs ministry. In 1964, he was appointed Assistant Administrator General. He founded Sebalu & Lule Company Advocates with Paulo Sebalu.
Dani Wadada Nabudere (1979)
One of Uganda’s best known scholars, Nabudere who died in 2011, graduated with an LLB in 1963 and worked as a barrister at law in London in the same year. He became Justice minister in 1979, having previously served as an Associate Professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, and a visiting Professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He was replaced as Justice minister by Edward Ogbal, who served in the same position until 1986.
Justice Joseph Nyamihana Mulenga (1986-1989)
Mulenga graduated from the University of London with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) in 1965. He first worked as a Public Prosecutor in the Department of Public Prosecutions in Uganda, rising through the ranks from Pupil State Attorney to Senior State Attorney. He also served as Justice minister and Attorney General and later as Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, among many other roles. He died in 2012.
George Kanyeihamba (1989-1990)
Prof Kanyeihamba was born in 1939 in Kigezi Sub-region. He served in various positions, including as a lawmaker, as well as Justice minister and Attorney-General. He served as a judge of the Supreme Court of Uganda from 1997 to 2009.
Abu Mayanja (1990-1994)
Born in 1929, Mayanja was expelled from Makerere University College in 1952 because he and other students complained about the diet and started a strike. He escaped Uganda and completed his education at University of Cambridge.
He served as Education minister under Amin, but was relieved of his duties in 1972. In 1986, he became Attorney General and Deputy Prime Minister. Before his death in 2005, he also served as Justice minister.
Joseph Ekemu (1994-1996)
Born in 1944, Ekemu served as Justice minister of Uganda from 1994 to 1996. Ekemu, along with David Kamwada, his personal assistant, were jailed for two years at the Luzira prison over the Shs113m theft meant for Teso people, who had lost their cattle during the insurgency of 1987 to 1990. In 2002, he completed a two-year jail sentence. He was the first high-ranking Uganda government official to be convicted over fraud.
Other Justice ministers over the years include: Bart Magunda Katureebe (1996-1998); Jehoash Mayanja-Nkangi (1998-2001); Janat Mukwaya (2001-2003); Amama Mbabazi (2004-2006); Khiddu Makubuya (2005-2011); Kahinda Otafiire (2011–2019); Prof Ephraim Kamuntu (2019-2021), and Muruli Mukasa (2022).
Additional reporting by Shabibah Nakirigya & James Kabengwa