By Stephen Lwetutte
Last week the Ugandan oligarchy unveiled the formal list of members of government to lead the country after the massively rigged January 2021 elections. The country had been gripped with anticipation by the superficial delay to announce the list, calculated to divert people’s attention from the social and economic crisis in the country, whose president has hardly been recognised by the international community. The country and the world continues to demand accountability for the killings, torture, disappearances and imprisonment of thousands of manifestly innocent members and supporters of lawful opposition organisations. The economy has collapsed and social services are non existent.
It would have been logical and prudent, for example, to have appointed strong and powerful personalities in the positions of Vice President and Prime Minister in light of the gargantuan tasks to accomplish and the ageing dictator who appears over the years to have failed to reign in on the excesses of his kitchen cabinet and abdication all authority to it. Yet a Jessica Alupo and Nabbanja are appointed to the positions of Vice President and Prime Minister respectively whose persona, political experience and skills, with all due respect to them, are unlikely to he sufficient and robust enough to retrieve the country from the deep abyss it finds itself in after 35 years of misrule. Not that there is much room for them to manoeuvre either as the oligarchic rule has well and truly taken root in Uganda.
It is under these circumstances that on 8 June 2021, following piecemeal seemingly deliberate leak of individual names raising eyebrows for their inequality to the dockets allocated, that the Robina Nabbanja-led government was announced. There was a lot for the keen observers and pundits to take in one go: apart from a few old guards shuffled around in strategic key positions, the rest of the bunch were either new and considered light weight or unknown quantities beyond the ruling party structures or lowly government offices.
The kitchen cabinet, comprised of members of Museveni’s family, most probably acted on the exigencies of the situation nationally and internationally in making their choices for the various formal cabinet positions, terribly alert to the local disquiet about the entrenched misrule as well as to the global concerns about governance issues. It is instructive to note that limited and largely symbolic, but important sanctions have already been imposed on the regime by some of its closest allies, who over the years have sustained economically and on the global stage. To the relief of Ugandans, they have started to take their moral responsibility seriously and would now not back off from demanding thorough accountability for the recent wide scale egregious human rights abuses against the people of Uganda, which might explain the latest noises by the president ostensibly condemning the killing of civilians by his forces. This is not nearly enough to address the human rights crisis in the country.
As a strategy, the kitchen cabinet appears to have decided to appoint to key position relatively clean and probably untainted individuals who are unlikely to be tainted and therefore not subject and affected by the visa sanctions imposed on members of the regime. This would allow them to do their work without fetters and the burden of sanctions hanging over them. Moreover, as the kitchen cabinet is likely itself to have been sanctioned, members of the new formal government are likely to be sent on errands abroad under the guise of official duties to transact businesses on behalf of the kitchen cabinet.
The initial shock and surprise at the members of the newly appointed Nabbanja-led formal government has given way to disappointment and despair as it dawns on the country that this is yet another wasted five-year term and opportunity to redeem the country and set it on a democratic and prosperous path. Be it as it may, Ugandans refuse to to give in and to give up regardless – if the incumbent serves out his full term, it will be 40 full years of Museveni misrule and mismanagement by the time it ends in 2026, in time for the kitchen cabinet to approve the next amenable formal government. It is very unlikely that Ugandans will continue to tolerate this oligarchy.
As Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja gets to work, she will be terribly aware of her limits and limitations with regard to what it is that she can do and achieve just as long as she doesn’t become too independent as to stray from her delineated remit of activities. She would do well to seek the wise counsel from her new Deputy Right Honourable Rebecca Kadaga, who as former Speaker of Parliament, sought to stamp her constitutional authority but was shown the exit and humiliated by the kitchen cabinet as a result – after all, as Deputy Prime Minister in the new formal government, Rebecca Kadaga now reports to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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