Cabinet at crossroads: Museveni undecided as his ministers tear each other into pieces

07 Oct 2023

KAMPALA: With speculation growing over an impending Cabinet reshuffle, President Yoweri Museveni could be keenly watching as rows erupt involving senior ministers and Generals.

Two notable rows taking up most media space include the one where Security Minister Jim Muhwezi and his counterpart at the Internal Affairs docket Kahinda Otafiire clashed openly the implementation of the digital car plates by Joint Stock Company Ltd, a Russian company.

In August, Otafiire and Muhwezi clashed over the project’s practicability and potential implications.

Otafiire also alleged that the Russian company had failed due diligence checks after inspection by a team from the Uganda Police.

Muhwezi claimed Otafiire was a liar whose ministry was deeply involved in the project planning and implementation. He also claimed the company had passed the diligence test.

The multi-billion deal was okayed by the president in 2021 when he instructed Muhwezi thus: “Do not waste time with any other group because these were the first to bring this proposal.”

“This should have been implemented four years ago. This would have made the work of tracing criminals very simple,” the President said about the car-tracking project.

In September, President Museveni emphasized the digital number plates would help in tracking criminals because most people move to and from the scene of crime using either a motor vehicle or bikes.

Meant to start in June, the project has delayed to issues on the contractor’s side.

Otafiire’s issues

Gen Otafiire contends that a Russian company might not be allowed to print plates from Poland since the two countries are currently at loggerheads over the war in Ukraine.

He also contends that the contracted company has never done any similar work anywhere, doubting their effectiveness.

The legislators have since sided with Gen Otafiire, adding fears that the collected data might end up in wrong hands.

More trouble arose when Otafiire directed the company which has no permanent offices in Uganda to remove their computers from the police command centre of CCTV, reasoning that this would affect the contract with the centre managers, Chinese company Huawei.

In addition, the taxman URA has question the costing of new car plates at sh714,000. URA CG boss John Musinguzi said the cost was too high for the common Ugandan.

The two men; Otafiire and Muhwezi have not been seeing eye to eye even when they attend Cabinet, internal sources revealed. We could not verify the authenticity of the information but we are sure the Government has assured the public, going by the social media pushing, the project will take off next month.

The Nabbanja, Lumumba one-sided attack

Away from the Otafiire-Muhwezi feud, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja and Justine Kasule Lumumba, the Minister for General Duties under OPM.

Trouble between the two started after they both attended a meeting in New York on the invitation of UN under the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2023 SDG Summit took place on September 18-19 in New York. It marked the beginning of a new phase of accelerated progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals with high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions leading up to 2030.

A part from Lumumba and Nabbanja, the meeting was also attended by the Vice President Jessica Alupo and other technocrats.

Unverified media reports indicated that more than 70 officials from Uganda attended the summit, costing the country billions of shillings.

However, Nabbanja has since said Lumumba was cleared for the trip and would therefore not be reimbursed the resources she used.

Nabbanja went ahead to disown Lumumba as the minister in charge of SDGs. The PM also dismissed the assertion that an SDG secretariat existed under the Office of the Prime Minister.

Our fact check, however, reveals that Nabbanja is well aware of the assignment of Lumumba to be the SDGs focal person.

During a meeting at Serena last year, Nabbanja said: “As you know, when the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly adopted the Agenda 2030, Uganda was the Chair of that session. We therefore hold SDGs special in our agenda.”

“Within government we have also gone ahead and fully integrated the SDGs in Uganda’s National Development Plan. Currently, – the NDP III is now 90% aligned to the SDGs. We shall continue to work towards attaining all the targets set out in our National Development Plan, the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the NRM Manifesto,” Nabbanja then.

The prime minister was also quoted saying they had put in place the necessary institutional and policy framework to support the SDG implementation.

“The Office of the Prime Minister oversees Government business including SDG implementation. We put in place a national roadmap for implementation of the SDGs. We also appointed a focal point Minister for SDGs (Rt. Hon. Justine Kasule Lumumba). All these efforts are geared toward ensuring that the SDGs are fully localized and domesticated,” said Nabbanja.

But in a twist of events, Nabbanja attributed Lumumba’s action to enemies who want to fight her.

Lumumba who is the former Secretary General of the NRM Secretariat was told by Nabbanja to take back her “fighting techniques” to Plot 10, the seat of the secretariat.

It remains unclear whether the two women will work hand in hand to further supervise the implementation of the SDGs ahead of the 2030 deadline.

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