Dr David Livingstone Ruhakana Rugunda’s challenges when he officially assumes office as Prime Minister will be whether he will be able to retain his decades old natural charisma and affability at the helm of government business. Rugunda’s career has had its ups and downs. As the longest serving cabinet minister, his fortunes took a hit in the aftermath of the 1996 elections when he lost full cabinet rank in a ministry he once headed.
The 1996 elections were conducted in a near state of formalised lawlessness as the inventory of voters’ cards distributed to pad NRM’s majority in the presidential election in May, caused divisions during the parliamentary elections that were held on a different day. In Mbarara Municipality, former candidates, for example, accused each other of monopolising these “voters” cards. At the university where I was at the time, I thought I could collect enough of these but failed. They were simply too many. Erias Lukwago, one year ahead of me, brought an entire batch that was distributed to the Kalungu Students Association by two Members of Parliament. In those days, the particulars of the voters were written in ink controls were weak or non-existent.
But the enterprise called Uganda has forged ahead. Rugunda seems to have simply prevailed by having learnt his lessons from the misgivings of earlier in the day. He arrived in the NRC the beneficiary of a two-vote margin, supplied by two Catholic voters in 1989 in Kabale Municipality after switching allegiance from Robert Kitariko. After 1996, having figured his profile and character were not well suited for the rough and tumble of elected politics, he offered not to stand again in 2001. With time, memories have faded of this episode.
One of his biggest assets is that people from all walks of life feel comfortable around him. In that, he scores well and beyond his predecessor, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a first class brain, workaholic but one unlikely to earn invitations to drink a beer at the pub. As Uganda’s permanent representative to the United Nations, he was named in that cabinet reshuffle as a full minister but during his tenure at the UN, he had to endure sitting behind our Foreign minister who, by designation, is our “Secretary of State” with permanent instruments to conduct Uganda’s foreign relations. During the big meetings at the UN Security Council, he dutifully played supporting role behind Sam Kuteesa whom he will now be supervising in cabinet.
As Prime Minister, Rugunda’s first and foremost challenge will be de-politicising the cadre-kind of politics favoured by his predecessor. Methodical to a hilt, Mbabazi, favoured machine or system politics that sought to fill government with “cadres” to the brim, even where their skills were lacking or simply absent. Misplaced cadres in the absence of direct supervision are likely to forget when to catch the last drink to ride home or reach out for the number of a designated driver. These “cadres”, once out of their depth, have the potential to cause great damage.
The second challenge will be to open up government to new ways of thinking and methods of work. Tunnel vision is now a major problem in key centres of government. As a result, innovations like KCCA are likely to be remembered in the future as lost opportunities. The city is starting to reap the benefits of excessive politicisation of decision making.
Lastly, the Prime Minister has to restore the role of technocrats in governments to render professional aice without fear of being reprimanded or in the alternative, implementing decisions that land them in jail.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Aocate.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor