Why has isolating President delegated tasks to Nabbanja?

Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja. Photo | File

 President Museveni’s decision yesterday to go into self-isolation after contracting Covid-19 and delegate his tasks to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has raised questions as to why he skipped other officials higher in the National Order of Precedence.

An order of precedence is a “sequential hierarchy of nominal importance”, and in Uganda, the highest ranked government official is the President, followed by the vice, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Chief Justice. Others higher in hierarchy than the Prime Minister, the 8th on the ladder, are the Deputy Speaker, deputy chief justice and the vice chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Framers of Uganda’s Constitution clothed an incumbent president from arbitrary assignment of functions of the office they for one reason or other are unable to perform by prescribing the next responsible official.

“I have therefore, self-isolated at Nakasero [State Lodge in Kampala] and I have delegated my work for [yesterday] and [today’s] (Heroes’ Day celebrations in Luweero) to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja,” Mr Museveni tweeted aft er confi rming he had picked Covid-19.

Article 109 (4) of the Constitution states that “whenever the President is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office of President, the Vice President shall perform those functions until the President is able again to perform those functions”.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Faruk Kirunda in response to our inquiries why the President had picked the premier to do his work, said “the Vice President (Jessica Alupo) is out of the country on offi  cial duties”.

He, however, did not explain why other political executives who rank higher on the order of precedence than the prime minister were not instead assigned. Article 99(4) provides that a president may exercise the executive power vested in him or her by Clause 1 of the Article “either directly or through” subordinate officers, but do so in accordance with provisions of the supreme law of the land.

According to Article 109(5) of the Constitution, “where the President and the Vice President are both unable to perform the functions of the office of the President, the Speaker shall perform those functions until the President or the Vice President is able to perform those functions or until a new President assumes office.”

The law does not specify the presidential function to be delegated as prescribed in the Constitution, leading Mr Chris Obore, the director of communication at Parliament, to argue that “the President is not away. He is around. There is no vacuum”. “And he simply delegated his duties to the PM (Prime Minister) just as he can delegate the PM to chair [the] Cabinet,” he said, adding, “The President being in isolation doesn’t imply being unable to perform his duties. He has simply delegated his work to the Prime Minister. A leader who delegates is not the same as one who is unable to perform his duties.”