Presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi has disagreed with The Democratic Alliance (TDA) on their proposed size of cabinet and formation of a transitional government if the Opposition wins the 2016 elections.
Mr Mbabazi told the TDA members on Thursday that there is no justification to form a transitional leadership after the elections when the country is under democratic dispensation and can have a substantive government with an elected president.
According to insider sources who attended the Thursday TDA closed-door meeting, Mr Mbabazi argued that a transitional government is created in situations of emergency such as after a coup or a war.
Article 12(36) of TDA Protocol states: “Upon winning power, the Alliance shall establish a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU), which shall serve for a period not exceeding five years.”
The immediate goals of the TGNU over the transition period are to undertake appropriate political and electoral reforms as well as reorganise and rebuild state institutions and cut down the size of government.
“He doesn’t have a problem with the five years, he sees himself playing the role George Washington played in the USA or Nelson Mandela in South Africa. His point of departure is that the idea of a transitional government doesn’t arise because we have a democratic dispensation, at least under our legal framework. Transitional governments ordinarily arise in circumstances such as a coup,” a highly placed source, who attended the TDA meeting, quoted Mr Mbabazi as saying.
The source further said Mr Mbabazi disagreed on the TDA’s proposed size of government on account that it would essentially return the country to what he termed “Musevenism”.
On the size of government, the TDA Protocol states: “The Cabinet under the Transitional Government of National Unity shall be comprised of not more than 21 ministers and 21 state ministers. The President of the TGNU shall not appoint more than 10 advisers unless this commitment is varied by a decision of the Summit.”
On this, the source said Mr Mbabazi counter-proposed that instead, the country adopts the United States or Chinese model of government to cut down the cost of public administration and improve efficiency.
Currently Uganda has a 71-member Cabinet, one of the world’s largest Cabinets with a bloated Parliament of 375 members.
“Mr Mbabazi’s proposal is that we need just about six ministries and we don’t need presidential advisers. What we need to do is strengthen State institutions and departments and make them more efficient without duplicating their roles. So the government can run smoothly even when the President is absent,” a source close to Mbabazi team said.
Under the new arrangement, the former prime minister also wants the current title of “minister’ substituted with “Cabinet secretary” like the Kenya model. The 2010 Constitution of Kenya allows a maximum of 22 ministries with their heads bearing the title “Cabinet secretary”. A Cabinet secretary is not a member of the Kenyan Parliament.
Mr Mbabazi also objected to the proposal that upon winning the election, the TDA Protocol should be sent to Parliament for ratification to be the basis of governance in the new government.
Mr Mbabazi, the source said, argued that this would amount to overthrowing the national Constitution and replacing it with a protocol, which is unacceptable.
Mr Mbabazi also reportedly agreed with TDA on immediate restoration of two five-year presidential term limit. He, however, objected to the proposal that the next president who comes through the coalition leads for only one five-year term, saying that would be unconstitutional.
When Saturday Monitor read out the statements attributed to Mr Mbabazi regarding his views on the TDA Protocol, Mr Fred Muwema, the head of Mbabazi’s legal team, confirmed them as correct.
Mr Muwema was appointed two weeks ago as Mr Mbabazi’s representative on TDA legal committee.
“Whatever you have said is true. Perhaps what is missing is the issue of independents. Our concern is that whereas the leaders of political parties are automatic members of TDA, the Summit determines the admission of other persons to TDA and we think it is unfair to subject one’s admission to another organ,” Mr Muwema said after listening to the statements attributed to Mr Mbabazi on the TDA proceedings.
Mr Muwema, however, insisted that this did not mean a fallout between Mr Mbabazi and TDA. He said TDA was receptive to proposals which their team would submit. “We shall in the next few days, possibly next week, submit our ideas and proposals to TDA in writing,” Mr Muwema said.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament and also TDA spokesman, Mr Wafula Oguttu, had told Saturday Monitor in an earlier interview that TDA was open to ideas and views and said if it found Mr Mbabazi’s proposals helpful, they would consider them.
However, Bishop Zac Niringiye, the coordinator of TDA, claimed Mr Mbabazi did not object to any provision of the protocol. He insisted Mr Mbabazi only sought clarification and asked for more information.
“He certainly will put them in writing and we shall discuss those ideas,” said Bishop Niringiye.
Meanwhile, Saturday Monitor has also learnt that Mr Mbabazi and three time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, who was this week elected the Forum for Democratic Change flag bearer, have discussed next year’s election and “agreed to work together as partners for change and not competitors.”
Dr Besigye was not available to comment on his engagements with Mr Mbabazi, but had told the media immediately after the Thursday meeting that he would support Mr Mbabazi or any other person TDA zeros down on “because that is what democratic engagement demands. It is like asking if I would support Mugisha Muntu if he had won, of course I would!” he said.