There is so much public and media ado about the President’s choice of Cabinet that I must also put in my two cents worth of opinion.
The spirit of the Constitution of Uganda is that the people elect a President with whom they entrust management of this country for five consecutive years. The Constitution also provides that there will be a cabinet which will support the President to deliver his / her manifesto. However, the choice of who to hire, (within the confines of the Constitution), is the President’s prerogative, because it is s(he) who accounts to the stakeholders for the five years in office – hence cabinet is really an extension of the Presidency, it being appointed to specifically help deliver the President’s manifesto. It is for that matter that Ministers’ loyalty to the author and trustee of the manifesto is a requisite, that the principle of collective responsibility is a given, and why, when a Minister has irreconcilable differences with the President, it is always the Minister, never the President, who goes. It is also for that matter that politicians subscribing to competing political parties wishing to serve as ministers must relinquish their former loyalties and join the party in Govt, or eventually get fired – but that will be a topic for another day.
As a way of further supporting the President to perform well, the Constitution mandates Parliament to endorse the President’s appointments, but the President bears the ultimate responsibility of delivering her/his manifesto, to the voters. If the current Parliamentary Appointments’ Committee interpreted the spirit of the Constitution this way, they should have one known standard for the moral issues but keep their views on competence more or less advisory, rather than crowd the President’s space to pick his team, because by so doing, the Committee unknowingly assumes some responsibility for the executive’s performance, because the President could easily claim that the committee frustrated his plans when they rejected his first choice team.
Appraisal of the President’s performance is the prerogative of the electorate, done at the next election and if he appointed an incompetent cabinet, he is the one who tastes the voters wrath, not the Parliamentary Appointments’ Committee, not Ministers, who might even be appointed by the next President, without reference to the Voters.
Mind you, the same Constitutional spirit does not hold for other offices appointed by the President such as the Speaker of Parliament (yes, we know that President Museveni has influence on who becomes Speaker), Chief justice, Chairman of Electoral Commission, IGG, Chairperson of Human Rights’ Commission, Auditor General and heads of other statutory bodies because their role is not to support the President but the reverse – to keep Govt in check over negative excesses. The vigor used by the Committee to scrutinize ministers should have therefore been reserved for officials of the oversight and regulatory bodies, while the President should have been allowed space to pick his team, with which he would fall or rise, as is the spirit of Uganda’s Constitution!
For lucky President Museveni, though, rejection of the five minister-designates was a win-win because he is not short of people to pick from, he has paid his moral obligations to the now-rejected and will improve his PR ratings amongst his supporters by appointing more of the long, long waiting list. Infact, the more Parliament’s Appointments’ Committee rejects appointees, the better for M7.
Beti Olive Kamya-Turwomwe
UGANDA FEDERAL ALLIANCE