Thursday, December 15, 2011


The Minister of the presidency Kabakumba Masiko tendered in her resignation yesterday in a move that may, salvage the wreckage of her political career, make other ministers shift uneasily in their seats and galvanise the NRM rebel MPs.

A police investigation into the minister’s complicity in the alleged theft of a transmitter from UBC by the Kingdom Broadcasting Services (KBS), which the minister controls, was broken by the New Vision two weeks ago.

Subsequently she has come under pressure from parliament, her party and her fellow cabinet ministers to step down.

It was always a matter of time before the honourable member from Bujenje county, Masindi county either jumped or was pushed. Not since the resignation of Kirunda Kivejinja in 1999 has there been such damning physical evidence of wrong doing against a serving minster.

Kivejinja opted to resign rather than suffer parliamentary censure on evidence that he, as transport & communications minister had diverted 2000 liters of fuel from Uganda Railways Corporation to aid his re-election campaign.

"For better or for worse, in politics perception is everything, so much so that facts tend to bend to fit the perception...

Whether she was involved with the actual appropriation of the transmitter is really immaterial in these particular circumstances, a point that was totally lost on the minister when she attempted a rebuttal in parliament.

Indications were that she was willing to fight on, but saner – or maybe self-interested, minds prevailed upon her to step aside. And it maybe the best thing she could have done if she hopes to bounce back into the cabinet at a later date.

"To have tried to fight a censure motion would have been akin to death by a thousand cuts, as MPs of all political shades would have taken pot shots at her under the cover of parliamentary immunity shredding her credibility – or what was left of it, in the process...

But the greater concern will be for other ministers currently facing the threat of censure or future ministers who will inevitably follow.

It seems, given the Kabakumba and Kivejinja’s precedents, that resignation becomes an option when there is physical evidence adduced against you and when there is a real threat of parliamentary censure.

Leaks from within the NRM caucus meeting on Monday suggest that a clear distinction was made between her case and that of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs minister Hilary Onek.

Allegations have been brought against the two ministers and foreign minister Sam Kuteesa alleging they have received bribes from oil companies. The ministers have declined to resign.

Independent investigations have however revealed that the basis of the allegations – bank statements from banks in the UK, cannot be authenticated.

With the demise of Kabakumba the pressure on the minsters to step down may mount uncomfortably in coming weeks, though it is unlikely to trigger a domino effect of resignations.

But the real “winners” of this sordid affair are the NRM “rebel” MPs who are cutting out a niche for themselves as public defenders.

A throw back to the Young Parliamentary Association of the late 1990s, which spearheaded the censure of Kuteesa, and the then primary education minister Jim Muhwezi, the rebels, have forced the party hierarchy to seat up and grudgingly take notice of them.

The group whose most public faces are Theodore Sekikuubo and Meddie Nsereko, while breaking with party ranks have in effect hijacked a project that ideally would be sustained by an opposition party.

"Though cause for much looking-over-the-shoulder by NRM big wigs the rebels may serve a useful purpose in lending credibility to the party as one that is concerned about corruption.

To badly paraphrase former US president Lyndon Johnson, the NRM probably figures it's probably better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in...

Kabakumba’s action is bound to send reverberations through the political establishment least of all because it makes a minister’s resignation a real possibility again.

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