Uganda’s “Retirements in public interest” of Officials Recalls Idi Amin Era

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Yoweri Museveni. Photo: Facebook.

 

 

Harold Acemah

On July 15, President Yoweri Museveni, a.k.a. Sabalwanyi, announced appointments of 35 Permanent Secretaries for the government of Uganda. Some are career civil servants of long standing, but many of them are new faces who are political appointees, regime loyalists, NRM cadres and relatives of big men, as appears to be the order of the day.

 According to a front page story published in Daily Monitor of July 16 titled, “Museveni names new permanent secretaries” the President of Uganda announced major changes in permanent secretaries; promoted some officers, retained others and “retired seven senior government officials in public interest.”

The seven permanent secretaries who were retired in public interest are: Ms. Kintu Guwatudde (Office of the Prime Minister), Mr. Kivumbi Lutaya (PPS to former Vice President Edward Sekandi), Mr. Pius Wakabi, Mr. Benon Mutambi (Internal Affairs), Mr. David Ebong (Science and Technology), Ms. Jane Kibirige (Clerk to Parliament) and finally, a friend and colleague, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya who is a distinguished career diplomat with vast experience.

 For the information of the youth of Uganda, who are the majority of our country’s population, use of the terminology “retired in public interest” is nothing new; like many things in vogue today, it’s borrowed from the regime of Gen. Idi Amin Dada who grabbed power by the barrel of the gun on January 25, 1971, the same date Museveni’s National Resistance Army/National Resistance Movement (NRA/NRM) grabbed power exactly 15 years later in 1986. It’s a classic case of birds of the same feather.

During the Amin regime (1971-1979), civil servants never missed the 1pm and 5pm Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) Radio News because more often than not it was in these two news bulletins that a “spokesman of the military council” announced names of public officers who had been “retired in public interest with immediate effect” which literally meant that the officer could not hand over to his or her successor. At best, one had time to pick one’s personal belongings from the office before vanishing in thin air.

On a positive note, I welcome the appointments of many women as permanent secretaries, including Ms. Lucy Nakyobe as Head of Public Service and her deputy Ms. Deborah Katuramu who is a family friend; Ms. Beti Kamya as Inspector General of Government (IGG) and Ms. Mariam Wangadya as Chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commission. I wish them every success.

On the negative side, only two permanent secretaries were appointed from the entire Greater North of Uganda, none from West Nile and the grave matter of seven senior officials who were “sacked or retired in public interest.”

 In Defense of Ambassador Mugoya

It was a pleasure and a privilege for me to train and mentor Ambassador Patrick Mugoya and his predecessor Ambassador James Mugume in the 1980s and 1990s when I was Head of the Foreign Ministry’s “International Organizations Department” renamed “Multilateral Organizations & Treaties Department.” Other senior officers I trained and mentored are Ambassador David Etuket and Ambassador Isaac Sebulime. Their outstanding records are available in the public domain for all to see.

Against this background, I was at great pains to learn that after rendering 42 years of diligent, excellent, fruitful and selfless service to the government and people of Uganda, Ambassador Mugoya, who comes from a decent and respectable family in Eastern Uganda, was retired “in public interest.” It’s frankly offensive, outrageous, an insult, a slap in the face and unacceptable. Which “public” one wonders? Whose interest did Mugoya not serve? How ungrateful of the NRM regime?

To the best of my knowledge, Ambassador Mugoya discharged his duties and responsibilities effectively, efficiently, honorably, professionally and with integrity. I stand to be corrected. Patrick deserves a lot better.

On the contrary, if there is a person who should be dismissed with disgrace and retired in public interest it’s a woman who is currently occupying the office of permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health whom a friend calls, “Princess Diana.” Her appointment is not based on merit, but on dubious and extraneous factors. In my opinion, she is unfit, undesirable and unsuitable to be permanent secretary of any Ministry in the Republic of Uganda.

As Scripture teaches, there is a time for everything under the sun. I tell you, one day the truth will set Uganda free. May the Lord have mercy!

Arua, Uganda

July 21, 2021

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