Museveni orders his ministers to ‘stop embarrassing him’ at his COVID-19 briefings
By Moses Ssejjoba
President Museveni has vowed to fire any of his ministers who will dare embarrass him during his comical national addresses that he has been giving since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Museveni has for the past one month addressed the nation a record 12 times, during which he has repeated himself, entertained Ugandans to unsolicited comedy and turned the addresses into a platform to spew platitudes. This is notwithstanding the fact that millions of Ugandans remain in a state of uncertainty as to where the country is headed. This is because the president has provided no solid policy direction to steer the country’s economy through the economic devastation in the wake of the outbreak.
During his addresses, many of which are held at State House Nakasero, Museveni is always flanked by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and a number of cabinet ministers the majority of whom are members of the taskforce on COVID-19 response. However, what has become clear is the fact that Museveni makes off-cuff declarations – including a raft of measures supposedly to contain the virus – without consulting his cabinet or task force. That tendency has been deemed by commentators as a disaster in itself.
On a number of occasions his ministers have been caught off-guard by some of the measures he has announced. And some of them have stood up to him after they found such measures to be unrealistic. On a couple of occasions Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde has stood up to her boss over some of these measures, openly telling him that they were not practical.
It is as if she has been telling her boss that he is out of touch with the realities on ground. For instance, Museveni had ordered that motorcycles – which were left in operation to continue with delivery of goods especially in Kampala – should stopping operating by 2 pm. Kyambadde stood her ground, telling her boss that this defeated the very purpose of keeping them in operation.
Embarrassed, Museveni changed his mind and extended the curfew for motorcycles to 5pm.
Last week Amelia Kyambadde won the hearts of many Ugandans when she once again stood up to Museveni, telling him the food relief that was being distributed to the poor was unfit for human consumption. “Mr President, the food relief that is being distributed to the people will cause more harm than good,” she told Museveni.
She was echoing the cries of the few Ugandans that have been able to get some of the terrible food and whose children have ended up getting sick. Before Museveni could answer, another Minister, Mary Karooro Okurut, who heads the team in charge of mobilizing food relief, shot up and dismissed her colleague as a liar. But Museveni, who was too embarrassed, did nothing to address this particular issue.
According to several media reports, during a cabinet meeting early this week, the ruling NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba, on instruction from Museveni, tabled a motion to “stop embarrassing the President during his addresses”. Lumumba received the backing of several other cabinet members while Kyambadde who was in attendance chose to keep quiet.
Reacting to the development, many Ugandans said this spoke to the misallocation of priorities that has characterized Museveni’s response to the global pandemic. “Museveni is only looking at this as an opportunity to score political points over his opponents rather than making the right calls in the interest of Ugandans,” said one academic at a local university.
The problem Kyambadde raised, especially about the quality of food distributed, is indisputable because we have been seeing many Ugandans sharing it on social media; the posho and beans being given to people are not even fit for pigs!” According to the academic, the revelation by Kyambadde, which was applauded by Ugandans across political divide could have been an opportunity for Museveni to redeem himself instead of letting Kyambadde hung to dry.
“If I was in his shoes, I would have ordered Uganda National Bureau of Standards to swing into action and vet all these food items before they are given to Ugandans, and also hold to account government officials who are doing the procurement. However, that is not how Museveni saw it. For him, the only thing he saw was being overshadowed by his minister,” said the lecturer.
Other commentators said that Museveni himself actually has vested interests in feeding Ugandans poor or substandard food. His own family is mired in the supply chain of this food.
Reports have indicated that one of Museveni’s daughters, Natasha, was linked to the sole supplier of the grains being distributed by government.