Whereas the president shuffled his ministers twice in the last term, it is now almost three and a half years without a mid-term reshuffle.
However, The Second Opinion can exclusively report that announcement of a mid-term cabinet reshuffle will have to wait a little longer.
Sources closer to the corridors of power revealed to this magazine that ministerial appointment hopefuls are now gripped with total uncertainty as the appointing authority continues to study the option of whether or not to reshuffle his cabinet this term.
We have learnt that with only nine months left to the NRM primaries, the party chairman has on his table an intelligence report advising against a reshuffle. “Those waiting to be appointed will have to wait for more time as the head of state studies an intelligence recommendation that the reshuffle is ‘not necessary’ now,” a source said. The source added that in the said report, it is being advised that the status quo remains until this term ends. And to implement these recommendations, those ministers who will make it back to parliament in the next term and are still relevant will retain their cabinet seats while those who will fail shall be dropped automatically.
“In the meantime, those who have been tipped for cabinet appointment [mainly defectors] should be given financial support to do their private businesses and also strengthen their ground in the constituency. They should also be given guards and other classified privileges enjoyed by any minister. When they win their seats, they will be confirmed as ministers in the next cabinet,” a well-placed source further explained. The sources added that this is the reason why more hitherto opposition legislators have more access to state house where they are frequently helping to fix some classified issues for government.
For starters, the reshuffle was expected early this year after the constitutional court ruling upheld the age limit lifting amendment. However, because the petitioners had sought Supreme Court intervention, the appointing authority held back the reshuffle until the court had finally disposed of the matter. It was stated that given the hitherto ‘tense’ political atmosphere [then], some bigwigs in government became unsettled fearing that the Supreme Court could water down the Age limit amendment. Indeed as it turned out, the ruling almost failed after three judges opposed and only the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe saved the situation after siding with three other judges who had okayed it; ending in a 4:3 ruling.
Sources said that as the court carried on with its hearings on the age limit petition, even ministers presented a political case requesting the appointing authority to give them more time as it was apparent that their push for a 2-year term extension had hit a dead end.
The reasoning was that whereas it is true ministers solicited for Museveni’s support to have the age limit amended, most of them paid little attention to securing their seats back in their constituencies hoping that the 2-year term extension deal would also be upheld by court. Several ministers had taken the extension deal as a ‘kasiimo’ (token of appreciation) and were not willing to go back to the political trenches to seek reelection and only wanted these two years to retire from politics [in 2023].
“But the extension was rejected by court and left most of us in the cold. Our calculation had been that if we were granted the two years, several members had planned to quit politics in 2023 after the expiry of that extension. But now, it is a big task for us to go back and secure seats since it wasn’t in our plans,” a senior minister told us. The minister added that this opinion was being held especially among ministers and legislators who are 60 years plus.
It is therefore stated that when the constitutional court unanimously outlawed the 2-year extension, several ministers turned ‘guns’ against the appointing authority claiming that ‘he had not assisted them’ yet they also helped him in mobilizing for his age limit amendment.
“If we had not supported this cause, the age limit crusade would definitely fail because of lack of numbers. It therefore means our effort also needs to be recognized in one way or another,” a minister stated.
Sources said that because the extension deal never worked out, it is being suggested that the ministers are allowed to continue serving in their positions so that they can ‘sort themselves’ financially as they prepare to face what has been described as a ‘politically hostile ground’.
“Those who will win will be returned to cabinet and those who will lose will lose their cabinet seats. This is the reason the reshuffle is delaying or is not going to take place. The delay is intended to cover this perceived disgruntlement by ministers who claim to have done a lot on age limit amendment and as such didn’t strengthen their constituencies hoping that the extension was going to materialize,” sources explained. The source added that the recent decision to retain all parliamentary commissioners [of NRM] after the expiry of their two and a half year-term signals to the fact that the appointing authority is considering maintaining the status quo on all political appointments. Usually, the NRM after the expiry of the term of commissioners, shuffles them with some being dropped totally while others are promoted to cabinet positions.
The other issue holding back the reshuffle is politics. Sources stated that there is growing fear that most of the ministers who will be dropped are likely to turn against the NRM and join the People Power movement. Most of them including cabinet hopefuls in case they miss out on the prestigious list allegedly want to dodge NRM primaries and run as independents in the coming election. By dropping them early, it is being stated; the ministers will make a greater impact on their defection than when they are retained or dropped towards the election period.
Indeed according to seasoned politician and UPC stalwart Ishaa Otto, the reshuffle is delaying because of what he calls fears by powers that be that the political situation doesn’t favor such a development.
“The president is now stuck in his own game plan. He fears everything in his government including his own shadow. The people whom he has appointed in government now operate as mafias and he thinks displacing any minister will cause him problems. He is already held hostage by the subjects that surround him,” he opined.