Tuesday, May 24, 2016

UGANDA ENTERS A NEW STAGE OF POLITICS

In coming days President Yoweri Museveni is going to announce a new cabinet.

Whether the newness of the cabinet will go beyond it coming after an election cycle, have new faces and a whole new look is left to be seen.

What is clear however that this will be Museveni’s most important cabinet announcement since 1986.

"Thirty years ago the NRM’s 48 member cabinet, while dominated by its own supporters had a liberal smattering of opposition party members and academics, a broadbased government that signalled Museveni’s intention to foster a “fundamental change”...

In hindsight it also served to co-opt many established politicians into the NRM – giving the budding political organisation some traction in places it so badly needed to establish itself, mostly in central and eastern Uganda.

It helped of course that by that time that Uganda had not only looked into the abyss, but had actually fallen in and any leadership that would promise improvement would be welcome.

At the time a certain minimum consensus had to be developed – Uganda first and everything else after. So it is safe to say it was easier to coalesce politics’ leading lights of the time around this agenda.

Of course the degree of commitment varied and subsequent reshuffles showed this.

Over the last three decades the cabinet has tried to remain true to the orginal broadbased nature, if not by coopting the different political parties but at least by having a broad national representation. Museveni argued in the early days when rebellion was real danger that he it was cheaper to have potential rebels in government than outside.

One also suspects a Machiavellian motive too, while he kept his friends close he wanted to keep his enemies even closer.

For the most part that logic has worked, the county is enjoying its longest stretch of peace since independence, it has been more than a decade since the LRA’s Joseph Kony was harried out of the country.

"The challenge now, as the President highlighted in his swearing in speech, is to ensure the benefits of economic growth are felt more broadly by improving service delivery. Given this commitment it will be interesting to see whether regional balancing still has a part to play in the new cabinet?...

Related to that is the sailing into the sunset of many of the historicals – either through loss of their parliamentary seats or in expressing their wish to no longer be in government.

Two things have happened in the last few years, a new breed of Movement cadres who joined the struggle after the two zeros were knocked off the currency in 1987 have come of age and had been knocking on the door with growing insistence and shamelessness.

A population in which easily seven in every ten Ugandans was born after 1986, it makes sense to have that reflected in a younger cabinet than before, if only because if the NRM is going to continue in  power beyond Museveni, they have to keep in touch with this demographic which, while already deciding political outcomes will be more decisive in coming elections.

And finally the elephant in the room, Museveni’s succession. According to the constitution this is supposed to be Museveni’s last term, seeing as he will cross the 75 year old age limt during this term.

One can expect that Museveni’s plans for the future will be hinted at in this cabinet, regardless of whether this becomes his last term in office or not.

A pattern has formed over the years, with the constitution listing the vice president as the successor, but everybody else smiling knowingly, suggesting Museveni’s deputy lies elsewhere.

It would be interesting to see if Museveni bucks the tradition.

The opposition are determined to have a say, never mind that they lost the last presidential election and the numbers in parliament leave no room for manoeuvre.

"So they have decided to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln’s biographer Cal Sandburg, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell”....

They may not want to admit it, but however loud they are may not matter in forcing Museveni’s hand.


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