Museveni celebrates 30th year in power, appoints wife to key cabinet post

In the business of Government, just like in corporations, portfolios with the biggest budgets are most coveted. Little wonder, then, that Presidents are surrounded by sycophants. Especially where they are empowered to chop and change posts at their whim – as is often the case in Africa. But in Uganda, 71 year old leader-for-life Yoweri Museveni has taken this concept of having cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President to the extreme. This week he handed one of the plum portfolios to Janet, mother of his four children and his wife of 43 years. First Lady since 1986, Janet Museveni was elected to Parliament ten years ago and in 2009 appointed State Minister for Karamoja, the area in Uganda’s extreme North East. Now elevated to running Education, a portfolio with one of the biggest budgets, her appointment says more about Museveni’s grip on his country than Uganda’s talent pool. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Alec Hogg

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA, June 6 (Reuters) – Uganda’s veteran leader Yoweri Museveni named a new cabinet on Monday that retained his prime minister and ministers in the key energy and finance jobs while giving the education portfolio to his wife.

President Yoweri Museveni inspects the military parade during his inauguration ceremony at Kololo his swearing-in ceremony at the Independance grounds in Uganda's capital Kampala, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu
President Yoweri Museveni inspects the military parade during his inauguration ceremony at Kololo his swearing-in ceremony at the Independance grounds in Uganda’s capital Kampala, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu

Museveni, 71, who has ruled the east African country for 30 years, was declared winner of the February presidential election with 60 percent of the vote and sworn in for a new term on May 12. Most of his main ministers were reappointed.

His main rival Kizza Besigye rejected the results and called the election a sham, citing widespread rigging, intimidation by security forces and use of state funds to bribe voters.

Tensions have been simmering since the February poll, with Besigye kept under virtual house arrest for several weeks while security clashed with his supporters on multiple occasions.

Read also: Uganda blocks social media, clamps down as Museveni extends rule to 35 years

On May 13, Besigye was charged with treason after a mock ceremony in which his party said he had been sworn in as Uganda’s president. He has been in detention since.

In the new line-up, Museveni reappointed his Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and maintained Matia Kasaija and Irene Muloni as the important finance and energy ministers respectively.

Museveni’s wife Janet Museveni was named as the new minister of education and sports, usually a coveted portfolio in Uganda because it takes one of the largest chunks of the annual budget.

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Andrew Karamagi, a human rights lawyer and political commentator told Reuters the new cabinet’s selection criteria appeared based on a need to balance varied ethnic and religious interests to maintain a broad base of political support.

Many of the new faces were in smaller ministries or as ministers of state.

“It’s less about performance, about delivery, about citizens,” Karamagi said.

Government spokesman Shaban Bantariza rejected the accusation, saying Museveni was certain about his appointees’ merits.