Uganda: Akena Gets Cold Feet On Joining Museveni Cabinet

Jimmy Akena, the leader of a faction of Uganda People's Congress (UPC), has reportedly developed cold feet about joining President Museveni's cabinet, sources within the party told The Observer this week.

Last month, we reported that the Lira municipality MP and son to former UPC leader, Milton Obote, was set to join cabinet as deputy prime minister. His wife, Betty Amongi, the Oyam South MP, was recently appointed minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. As part of the deal, we wrote that there will be three other ministerial slots for Akena's group.

However, sources told us this week that Akena has now become more cautious in his engagements with Museveni, having received a barrage of criticism from sections of UPC supporters, family members and the wider opposition. Last month, Tony Akaki, Akena's elder brother, told The Observer that his brother's decision to work with NRM will be construed as if UPC has been bought.

"... as part of the precaution, he has decided to consult the leadership of the party from across the country right from village to district to find out their individual opinions about his relationship with President Museveni," said the source, who belongs to Akena's faction.

On Monday, Akena declined to comment about the latest developments.

"There have been developments but I will only brief the media when ready," Akena told us, without being specific.

We are told that Akena first convened his faction's cabinet, which supported the idea but advised that the matter must be discussed and approved by the UPC National Council before the respective appointments could be effected.

In the second meeting with his cabinet, it was agreed that a sub-committee to prepare alliance documents and a draft memorandum of understanding with NRM be formed.

Thereafter it was decided that the matter will be presented to the party's national council which will advise on whether Akena should or should not join Museveni's cabinet.

Sensing that this route would be tricky, sources said, Akena abandoned the idea of having to consult the national council and instead adopted a strategy of generating the approval using the party district conferences.

"This move was prompted by the fact that the first approach could not be pursued since the idea of joining government could easily be shot down by the national council, since the calibre of its membership is more anti-Museveni," one of our sources told us.

We have been told that in some districts Akena has since contacted individual leaders at village level (who form the district conferences) seeking to have his position (of working with the NRM) supported.

NEW HURDLE

Meanwhile, the other faction of the party led by Olara Otunnu has not given up on efforts to have Akena deposed from the party leadership. Ishaa Otto, the national secretary for mobilisation in the Otunnu-led faction, said their group has been following all the moves taken by the Akena faction.

"It is because of our vigilance that they have not yet got the resolutions and approval they need. If we were sleeping, all that could have been done," Otto said.

The Otunnu group, which is under the leadership of Joseph Bbossa, pushed Milton Obote Foundation, the custodian of the party property, to file an application that seeks to prove that by holding out as the UPC leadership, the Akena group is in contempt of court which earlier maintained that the Otunnu group were still the rightful leaders.

On July 1, Otunnu resigned his position as president of UPC leaving Bbossa, the party vice president, to take over in acting capacity. Bbossa is expected to conduct elections to renew party leadership within six months.

Peter Walubiri, one of the lawyers representing the Milton Obote Foundation, under whose auspices the application was filed, said they cannot look on as Akena's group disrespects court directives.

"The application is meant to find the group guilty of abuse of the court process following its refusal to respect the court orders stopping them from holding out as leaders of UPC," said Walubiri, who is also a member of the Otunnu faction.

Source: The Observer