FARUK KIRUNDA: Nobody can teach President Museveni to be careful Economically

This is to respond to comments made by Hon. Ssemujju Nganda (MP Kira Municipality and FDC Chief Whip) in which he says that the Government’s frugalness in light of the World Bank’s decision to suspend loans to Uganda should start with the Presidency and State House by cutting what he calls unnecessary expenditures.

To begin with, I think that Ssemujju, a legislator now in his third- and likely not his last and at the same time an investor, should appreciate the stability ushered in by the NRM government that has enabled him to undertake major investments. He should be honest and look back at and see how far the current leadership arrangement has transformed Uganda and the fact that he freely speaks his mind and life goes on. Does he think that this transformation has been by chance or by the winds?

In his comments, doesn’t Ssemujju know the roles of the President and his mandate? Doesn’t he know how the State House operates? Does he appreciate the unique functions of the Presidency/State House within the mainstream Government set-up? I have consistently observed a misconception (or a deliberate act intended to hoodwink the public) of Ssemujju portraying President Museveni as an individual to whom a large chunk of the national purse has been channeled as if to satisfy his personal needs. This is a badly calculated scheme that can only mislead those who want to be misled.

The budget we are talking about is allocated to the Presidency and State House, both institutions of Government, fully recognized as part of Government and carrying out Constitutional duties subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. These institutions employ Ugandans!

Does Ssemujju, a journalist and long-serving legislator not know the oversight roles of the State House and the staff who work to help the President in his delivering on his mandate? Is it the first time he has heard of aides or assistants to the President? Why does it occur to him that he is the one to determine how many there are as opposed to the system determining the strength of personnel it needs vis a vis the tasks at hand?

His Excellency the President is by Law the Chief Minister. But because as a human being, he cannot divide himself into many entities, he delegates his sectoral duties to appointees called Ministers to manage the different dockets on his behalf. It’s the same model for managing the State House with its various departments overseeing and supplementing the roles of other dockets. The number of aides corresponds with necessity and the scope of work.

On Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), the function is recognized in the Constitution under Article 203. But this position is much derided by opponents of the NRM Government because of the important role they play in deepening Government programs and in security management. Errant actors and those with ill intentions always feel frustrated by RDCs. Their reaction is to turn on their offices thinking that if they are removed, it will be easy to overturn the Government. They are also attacked because they represent the President in their areas of operations. It’s an unprincipled fight against cadres doing their job.

Has Ssemujju or anybody attempted to come out with a private member’s Bill, for instance, to have this office expunged? Has he checked why during the Constitution-making process it was deemed fit for the office to exist? Why was the Kira MP on the side of “tojikwatako” (don’t touch the Constitution) if he “agrees” that some provisions were extra necessary such as establishing the office of RDCs?

The same Constitution that establishes the office of MP is the same time that established and stipulates the function of the Office of the RDC. What makes him think that he is more deserving than others whose offices are likewise lawfully established?

Does Hon. Ssemujju know the roles of Presidential Advisors and to whom and how they report? The MP, whom I respect greatly, should take off time and study how the Government operates before making comments of such nature. 

Even then, his FDC has problems, yet not in power. Why not set a great example by having a “flawless” party that Ugandans would see as being different from how NRM or the Government at large is run? Right now, bright Ugandans see a game of trying to divert attention from the sagas in his party. 

I would point to the fact that the White House (the official residence of the US President) and other official homes of world leaders globally, all have solid staffing- to serve different purposes -including serving tea or cleaning, and these are very noble jobs. These do not serve the President (and his family) alone; they serve hordes of people, from within and abroad, in their similar or different classes. Attacking President Museveni from this angle is to say that there is nothing else to attack him for because he is doing his best. Every leader can be criticized but that criticism should have substance.  

Sometimes, I am moved to think that the Kira MP loves Museveni so much that if he spends some time without talking about him he cannot eat or sleep, or that he would lack relevance. I have also been around enough to read the behavior of some of our politicians and how they perceive Ugandans. 

In Uganda, if there is anybody who practices frugality and resource optimization, it’s President Museveni. It’s his culture from back in the day during his struggles when he had nothing but would never fail to pursue his mission due to lack of resources. If he wasn’t a realist, nothing would stop him from amassing personal wealth from public resources. Instead, whatever he is accused of “overusing” is in the service of the people and there is nothing anybody can teach him about cost-cutting and financial prudence.

As I have argued before, such complaints about the composition of the Presidency/State House are intended to undermine the role these institutions play in transforming the lives of Ugandans and keeping them secure, to activate regime change.  It’s a political gamble! 


The Author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary

Contact: faruk.kirunda@statehouse.go.ug