Monday, June 6, 2011

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi - President Museveni's Reform and Redemption Card


The appointment of Hon. Amama Mbabazi as prime minister seems to have caught political commentators, media and political elite class off guard. Apart from being implicated in two major corruption scandals in President Museveni’s last term of office – CHOGM and Temangalo , Hon. Amama has presided over the most fragile and inharmonious period of the NRM party. As Secretary General of NRM, among other things he is mandated with facilitation of diffusion of the NRM ideology to the grass roots but his tenure has had the NRM party covered in a cloud of botched and fraudulent primaries, different power blocks all trying to appeal to President Museveni the party chairman. This has done little or nothing to reinforce their party structures at both national and grassroots level.

However, with Hon. Amama’s appointment as Prime Minister, President Museveni has played his reform card that is aimed at leading the NRM party to redemption. Hon. Amama as prime minister is the executive head of the cabinet, leader of government business in parliament and is tasked with supervision of many ministerial portfolios. Furthermore, he oversees planning and implementation of development projects and programs in special focus areas e.g. NUSAF, PRDP, Karamonja, Rwenzori, Teso etc. These are very sensitive programs that are funded and supported by donors and other development partners. These programs are hugely funded by international donors and demand high levels of accountability, technocratic input and other key performance indicators. Hon. Mbabazi will be tasked with ensuring that these projects achieve the desired goals as per agreed key performance indicators. He is credited for being an astute manager, and if he is able to enshrine the cardinal fundamentals of management and service delivery in these ministries, he will have set the NRM party and government away from politics of inefficiency, patronage and corruption, unto on a journey of service delivery, accountability and resource optimization. On this journey, President Museveni and NRM can once again market themselves and their ideology based on these successes as was the norm in the glory 1990s when they built a strong support based on economic reforms, peace, stability and broad based political appeal.

Rt. Hon. Amama as prime minister will have to relinquish his powerful and influential position of NRM’s Secretary General. In the past, he has been accused of using his powerful position to harass and disenfranchise his opponents. With him no longer at the party helm, he may not be able to call many shots in his favour. He is a man loved and loathed in equal dimension within the party. So, for him to stand a chance as President Museveni’s successor, he needs the unwavering support of his party to ascend to the party’s top position and as presidential flag bearer. So he’ll have to make sure government programs are efficiently implemented and ministries are achieving the desired service delivery objectives. This is the only way he’ll form a strong foundation for his succession journey both within the NRM party and country at large. NRM party members will want to front a candidate with a strong national appeal based on credibility, service delivery and government efficiency. Corruption and poor performance of government in provision of national infrastructure and implementation of development programs have sowed the seeds of dissatisfaction even within NRM party faithful. For this President Museveni has put his intended successor on probation. It is the ultimate test. Hon Amama will only appeal to the NRM faithful and the general population at large only and only if he affords to efficiently manage and supervise implementation of government projects and service-driven performance of ministries.

The CHOGM and Temangalo scandals without a doubt dented Rt. Hon Amama’s persona as a clean man. Media, Civil Society Organizations and opposition parties have been up in arms calling for those implicated in these scandals to step aside for comprehensive investigation and prosecution. Donors and development partners further lobbied for those implicated not to be appointed in the new cabinet. President Museveni didn’t heed to this nationwide anger and outcry at the CHOGM and Temangalo scandals, but appointed his most trusted lieutenant Hon. Amama to lead government business in parliament and oversee implementation of development programs. It is clear President Museveni has offered Hon Amama, his successor-designate a chance to redeem himself and the party too. It is make or break for NRM, President Museveni and Hon. Amama Mbabazi.