In Summary
  • Questions. President Museveni has moved to contain the fight between Governor Mutebile and IGG Mulyagonja.
  • But should it be the President and not some kind of institutionalised committee to be doing so?

While swearing in his Cabinet, President Museveni explained why he had constituted it in the way he had. “This Cabinet is aimed at maximising unity of the country; that’s why we brought in a few members of the Opposition,” he said.
Besides explaining his actions, Mr Museveni outlined, among other things, the need to combat corruption and conflict of interest, fight environmental degradation and “aggressively look for investments” and avoid delays in decision making in order for the country to achieve middle income status within four years as he had promised in re-election manifesto.

One would, therefore, have expected to see an 81-member team of ministers bringing their diverse talents and strengths together in order to achieve what had been spelt out by Mr Museveni on June 21, 2016.

Sniping away
But that seems to have been lost to the team. Sniping away at each other seems to have become the norm. Clashes have been played out as public spats such as seen between Junior Lands minister Persis Namuganza and her ICT counterpart Aidah Nantaba in February 2017.
Others such as the clash between Ms Namuganza and her boss Lands minister Betti Amongi have played out in a quieter manner, but still ended up in the public domain.
The bickering has not been confined to Cabinet. There have been fights between ministers and heads of other government agencies and fights between heads of different government agencies.

Who will stop quarrels between government officials

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. FILE PHOTO

The clashes
These have manifested through the clashes between Gen Henry Tumukunde and Gen Kale Kayihura; between Kampala minister Beti Kamya and KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, between Governor of Bank of Uganda Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile and Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja, and between junior Lands minister Namuganza and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

Mr Museveni as the chief executive, chairman of the NRM and appointing authority has largely been missing in action here. Why? Is he losing his hold on the team that is meant to deliver Uganda to middle income status? Or does he think that the team can still deliver even when it is squabbling?
Prof Paul Wangoola, a former Makerere University don who was also a member of the National Consultative Council, argues that in Mr Museveni’s strength as the person who subjugated all forces that had risen up against him lies his weakness.

“When you defeat all your opponents you become weak. Mr Museveni thinks that he is so strong that he thinks he can afford the luxury of a threat of disagreement from within,” Prof Wangoola argues.
However, Dr Sabiiti Makara, a Political Science lecturer at Makerere University, does not agree, saying this is about Mr Museveni’s style.
“No. The way he operates, I think he is simply waiting for things to boil over then he comes in,” he says.
Whatever the arguments, the endless squabbles are depicting an image of a government in chaos.

But Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for ICT and National Guidance, tries to play down the level of conflict in government.
“There are no personal or individual conflicts in government because the work being done is not personal,” he says.
While the fight between Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja and Mr Tumusiime-Mutebile is grounded in differences in interpretation of the laws governing their respective institutions and areas of jurisdiction, but this, according to Dr Makara, can always be harmonised through a constitutional amendment.

The other squabbles are a bit different. It is very hard to place a finger at what it is that has precipitated them.
Even more difficult to understand is how what should be internal disagreements or what should have been reported to Cabinet and other organs of government for remedial actions have always ended up in the public domain and at times come in the form of vitriol against counterparts or seniors as was, for example, seen during the Namuganza vs Nantaba fights or in the video which went viral showing Ms Namuganza attacking Ms Kadaga.

Dr David Babi Kamusaala, a psychologist and head of human resource in the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) does not rule out lack of personal discipline.
The biggest challenge, he argues, is how to make junior people understand the need to respect their elders.
“You may not necessarily agree with someone, but even if you don’t, it is incumbent upon you to respect them for their age, achievements or the offices that they have held and continue to hold,” he argues without naming anyone in particular.

Disagreeing. Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja (left) and Central Bank Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile. FILE PHOTOS

However, he attributes the problem to “lack of discipline in government”.
“Governments have standard operating procedures and constitutions. When disagreements arise they should be dealt with inside government. The President should have come in to discipline them right away,” he argues.
President Museveni has moved to contain the fight between Mr Mutebile and Justice Mulyagonja. He is scheduled to meet the two tomorrow, but should it be the person of the President and not some kind of institutionalised committee to be doing so?

If no such committee exists does, Cabinet or government have an internal mechanism for dealing with such conflicts?
Mr Tumwebaze says it exists and is one of the items on the Prime Minister’s docket.
The continuous squabbling would, however, suggest that the Prime Minister’s intervention has not helped much to contain or deter others from engaging in similar actions. This means that the only option will always be the President who might not always be available to call his troops to order. Who then will stop the quarrels in government?

What they say

Governments have standard operating procedures and constitutions. When disagreements arise they should be dealt with inside government. The President should have come in to discipline them right away,”
Dr David Babi Kamusaala, a psychologist

“When people disagree on work or operational issues due to different legal interpretations or mandate clashes, the Prime Minister, who coordinates government work, intervenes and gives guidance. He does this many times,”
Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for ICT and National Guidance

imufumba@ug.nationmedia.com