Uganda: President's wife appointed to cabinet


Janet Museveni

Janet Museveni

February's cabinet reshuffle has Ugandan bloggers making 2011 election predictions.

Among the new appointments President Yoweri Museveni made was the posting of his wife Janet as state minister for Karamoja, a region in northeastern Uganda that has been plagued by conflict and extreme poverty for decades.

While some bloggers think the high-profile appointment could bring much-needed attention to the region, others are more skeptical. Ariaka notes:

Takinfg the cue, H.E President Yoweri finally made the cabinet reshuffle that had lingered in the grapvine for over six months. And what a reshuffle. We saw the appointment of a first lady, also MP for Ruhama county of Ntungamo district to the Karamoja portfolio. We saw Syda Bumba, transfered from Labour to the all important Finance docket. It is the first time in Uganda that a first lady is a Minister, forget that hers is a junior portfolio. It is also the first time that a women has been appointed a finance Minister.

These are not simple appointments. It is a political chess game where the master has his eye set on victory. 

Daniel Kalinaki, a journalist who often blogs on political issues and who published an editorial on the appointment in Uganda's Daily Monitor, agrees:

There is, of course, nothing wrong with Janet’s ambitions. She is a Ugandan and has a right to seek or be appointed to any office for which she is qualified. However, when a President has been in power for 23 years and begins to surround himself with relatives, friends and in-laws, he begins to look more like a village chief bent on carrying on his bloodline than a reforming democrat. 

Antipop at Let There Be Me takes a more humorous approach, speculating on how Museveni arrived at his decision. She offers several theories, including that the announcement was a belated Valentine's Day gift:

The one about Valentine's day
…The next day at breakfast, realizing that he was in trouble, and not willing to get into any confrontation, he told her that last night was a deliberate move to get her all worked up but he had a surprise for her that would sure make up for everything. And on Tuesday Feb 17th, she learned of it in her favorite tabloid. She found out just how long she would have to travel to unveil her belated Valentine ’s Day gift and was not amused. Lingerie would have done just fine. 

Not all bloggers are as critical, though. Phantom of Even Steven ends a post on the Oscars by asking:

In other news, what’s so bad about posting Janet Museveni to Karamoja? 

Commenting on the post, chanelno5 defends Janet Museveni:

There is nothing wrong with that. If she wants what everyone shuns go ahead. In fact those people might benefit from her appointment. 

Tumwijuke at Ugandan Insomiac considers this point of view, but she still questions the appointment:

Perhaps this appointment is Yoweri Museveni’s way of sending a message of solidarity to the people of Karamoja. Perhaps he hopes that the bevy of brown nose humanitarian types who support his wife’s every cause will transfer their ‘goodwill’ to developmental programs in Karamoja. Perhaps a picture of Mama Janet cuddling a snotty nosed Karamojong baby will be good PR for the Museveni government. 

Still, I can’t shake this ominous feeling…

Dennis Matanda, who recently posted the second part of a four-part series titled “Uganda's Next President,” offers his predictions on who will succeed Museveni:

Although the current President has not made an effort to groom a successor from the ruling National Resistance Movement, his wife Hon. Janet Museveni, MP who recently became appointed Minister and his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba are front runners. 

Joe in Uganda summarizes the shake-up in a post titled “Dynasty?”, noting that Janet's appointment “was widely seen as a sign of things to come.” He adds:

On a personal note, having worked on Karamoja for the past two months, I was delighted to see a high profile Minister taking over the portfolio. The region is in urgent need of attention. 

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