Looming M7 Cabinet Reshuffle: Margaret Muhanga, Betty Anywar, Abdu Katuntu and Raphael Magyezi set to eat Big

To eat big: L-R, Abdu Katuntu, Betty Anywar and Margaret Muhanga
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ENTEBBE, Uganda: News in the corridors of power indicates that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has already drafted a list of people he intends to work with as the country gear towards the stormy 2021-23 elections. In this cabinet list, there are names from unexpected circles which are going to scoop big Cabinet positions.

Among the shocker names the President is firmly considering for a big position is the opposition big fish, the Bugweri County Member of Parliament Hon Abdu Katuntu. The president has been struggling to beef up the legal team in his government and he finds Abdu Katuntu to be very central in this project.

Although Katuntu is known to be one of the strong founder members of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, he has in the recent past been very critical of its leader Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye. Some two years ago (December 2016) Katuntu gave an interview to The New Vision (a government owned newspaper) in which he lambasted Kizza Besigye for mismanaging, misleading and personalizing the agenda for regime change.

Katuntu said in the interview that he doesn’t support Col Besigye’s defiance strategy and strongly believed that the opposition can influence decision making by talking to the people in power. “You do not influence decisions of the government by throwing stones at them. “Anybody who thinks that I need to be an extremist is mistaken,” said Katuntu, the only opposition MP in Busoga sub-region who has been elected four times. He added; “I don’t believe in politics of extremism.”

Going by the precedence which has been set over the years, any member of the opposition who comes out strongly to condemn col Kizza Besigye has been quickly co-opted into president Museveni’s cabinet. Among the most prominent examples are Hon Betty Kamya and Hon Alex Onzima who scooped cabinet positions immediately after announcing their fallout with Besigye.

What makes Katuntu’s appointment more certain is also derived from the fact that he has NOT been a vocal part of the Togikwatako crusade which rocked the country in the last recent months in opposition to the lifting of the age limit. Other prominent people to eat big in the next cabinet include Hon Margaret Muhanga.

This MP for Burahya County in Kabarole was one of the few MPs who came out openly to support the lifting of the age limit.  She is known to have expressed high interest in becoming a cabinet minister in this country. She has fortuitously been supported in this endeavor by the fact that she is also a sister to two other prominent proponents of the Museveni regime that include Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga and motor mouthed journalist-turned Museveni strategist Andrew Mwenda.

Muhanga is said to been one of the top favorites to land a big cabinet position due to her long experience in the august house. She has journalistic background having worked for very many years with The New Vision. She is actually been considered for the docket of ministry of information and national guidance.

Another controversial but not necessarily surprising name on this cabinet list is Hon Betty Anywar, another prominent member of the FDC who recently fell out with Col Kizza Besigye. Last month, Betty Anywar shocked Ugandans when she voted for the lifting of the age limit. Incidentally, and to take you back twelve years ago in 2005 , Anywar was one of the opposition members of parliament who refused to support the lifting of term limits.

She even demonstrated her resolve by returning the five million shillings which had been given as consultation money for MPs in regard to the lifting of term limits. Before and during the 2016 elections Betty was one of the politicians who strongly supported Hon John Patrick Amama Mbabazi aka JPAM’s presidential bid.

As the reality sunk in that Amama couldn’t make it, the Kitgum woman MP started hobnobbing quietly with President Museveni. Today, it’s believed that she is too close to the President that she has a direct hotline access to the Ugandan leader.  It’s rumored that the president is considering her for the ministry of environment and natural resources a docket which she is known to be very passionate about since the days when she led a big demonstrations against the giveaway of Mabira forest.

Museveni’s basis For Cabinet appointments

Those who have been close to President Museveni for the last three decades he has been in power will tell you that he makes appointments basing on three reasons. These are; mission-driven appointments, compassion-nostalgic driven appointments and, loyalty-nepotism driven appointments.

The mission driven appointments are normally made after the accomplishment of a given mission. For instance immediately after the war in 1986, President Museveni made appointments mostly basing on the criteria of who fought, opposed or even hated fallen President Milton Obote most. That’s how the likes of Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere, Jabel Bidandi Ssali, Ssebaana Kizito and many others got cabinet positions.

When the Obote factor evaporated, another challenge emerged in 2001 when estranged Col. Kizza Besigye emerged on the Ugandan political scene. Since 2001 to date, the Besigye factor has been decisive in determining who to be picked for cabinet post basing on how they have opposed Besigye.

It’s on record that so many have benefited from opposing Col Besigye in the past and so many continue to reap from the same oppose-Besigye mission. Other mission-driven appointments include the group which spearheaded the lifting of term limits in 2004-5. The beneficiaries of that term limits project included Kabula County’s Hon. James Kakooza among others.

On the other hand those who opposed the lifting of the term limits like the late Eriya Kategaya, Hon Bidandi Ssali, Miria Matembe, Amanya Mushega and then Internal Affairs State Minister Sara Kiyingi were all kicked out of office.

The Lifting Age Limit Group: Today the biggest supporters of the lifting of the age limits are the ones at the forefront of reaping big from the impending cabinet reshuffle. These include the chief mover of the motion Hon Raphael Magyezi.  It’s rumored that he is actually being considered to takeover a senior ministry which revolves around finance, education or constitutional affairs.

The President has actually made Raphael Magyezi his biggest name for consideration because he endured a lot of hostility during the bid to lift age limit which was eventually passed late last year.

Others who fit in this category are the likes of Kassanda’s Simeo Nsubuga who is being considered for a state minister of internal affairs. The former cop has served international police and is known to belong to a clique that joined the police with the likes of the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi and Judith Nabakooba.

That clique is believed to be very loyal to President Museveni and has consequently been in position to be considered for senior positions. The sentimental and compassionate appointments include the one of Hon Okello Oryem who is son to the late former head of state Gen Tito Okello. The last one is the loyalty-nepotism driven appointments which are made due to mere consideration of blood relations to the President. Watch this space for the list of people who are about to be dropped from cabinet.

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Join Fred for the latest News and Analysis in Politics in Uganda and Around Africa. Fred Daka Kamwada is a journalist and a blogger you can connect with him on [email protected]