There was drama in a Cabinet meeting on Monday as ministers argued over preparations for the Shs7 billion swearing-in ceremony of the President.
Trouble started after NRM secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba criticised ministers for Presidency and Health, for increasing the number of invited guests, in contravention of Covid-19 guidelines on gatherings.
A minister, who attended the meeting, said Ms Lumumba faulted Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, for allowing Ms Esther Mbayo, the Minister for the Presidency, to invite 4,000 guests and questioned her scientific competence.
Ms Lumumba was pushing for a virtual swearing-in ceremony akin to what sources called ‘the Shs500b NRM delegates’ conference.”
Dr Aceng shot back at Ms Lumumba saying: “What are you saying? The other day you took MPs-elect to Kyankwanzi for a retreat, how come you did not raise these matters? What is wrong with 4,000 people for the swearing-in of the President?”
Dr Aceng also described herself as “a very good scientist” and reiterated that all the necessary precautions will be taken before the ceremony including testing all invited guests apart from the heads of state.
She said Ms Mbayo requested for a waiver and it was granted with conditions attached in order to ensure safety of all the invited guests.
As Ms Lumumba continued to push Ms Mbayo and Dr Aceng other ministers were infuriated and started booing and heckling her.
Ministers reacted with consternation, and accused Ms Lumumba of trying to make the President’s swearing-in ceremony “miserable”.
The President, who first listened without uttering a word, intervened and called the meeting to order. He made it clear that it was him, who ordered the number to be revised upwards.
The President also rejected the virtual ceremony on account of being expensive, and cited the recent NRM delegates’ conference.
While addressing journalists yesterday, Ms Mbayo said 42 presidents were invited for the May 12 ceremony, and 21 have so far confirmed attendance.
“The budget contains many things. You know the estimate, I asked for Shs7 billion, hoping it would facilitate the process, the details are with the organising committee chairperson, Hajji Yunus Kakande,” Minister Mbayo said at Media Centre yesterday.
She explained that unlike the previous ceremonies, the 2021 ceremony will be conducted “scientifically” with a limited number of people because of the raging Covid 19 pandemic.
The invited guests include 17 delegates from all the districts, MPs, all former presidential candidates, all ministers, members of the NRM Central Executive Committee, MPs to the East African parliament, business representatives, religious and cultural leaders. The list of foreign delegates has been slashed by half.
Defending the violation of 200 people limit, Ms Mbayo said: “This is momentous occasion, it is change of government. We will still follow all the standard operating procedure. We have been guided by scientists and each tent will seat 200 guests.”