The Baganda say “ebibuuka bitalaganye bitomeragana”. Literally meaning that birds that randomly fly since they don’t agree on the immediate directions for each to take, they collide sooner than later. There isn’t more practical situation where this analogy is significantly applicable than the prevailing situation where Norbert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and president of the oldest political party in Uganda The Democratic Party (DP), finds himself. For Starters, in July this year, in what Norbert Mao later, claimed to have been a one year dialogue between him and Ugandan president Tibuhaburwa Museveni, a cooperation agreement was signed between the two principals purportedly binding their two respective political parties to cooperate on various fronts.
The agreement that caused a lot of debate both online and offline was signed when the two principals met at State House Entebbe flanked by their secretaries generals; Richard Todwong and Gerald Siranda of NRM and DP respectively.
In the 42-clause agreement, the two parties not only agreed to share political power but also to foster constitutionalism and the respect of human rights. According to the agreement, DP agreed to cooperate with NRM in supporting the overall governance agenda and supporting parliamentary votes on matters of confidence and supply for the full term (2021-2026) of this parliament.
DP has got only nine members of parliament out of a parliament of 529 MPs of whom over 300 belong to the NRM. Mao, according to the agreement, was to be appointed to the position of minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs which was vacant for over a year. Another DP leader would also be appointed to a junior ministerial position.
Indeed the following day, Museveni released an instrument of appointment where Mao was appointed to the same position in a mini reshuffle that saw Peter Ogwang become the state minister for Education and Sports replacing Hamson Obua who took over as government chief whip, a position that was vacant after Thomas Tayebwa was elected as deputy speaker of parliament.
In the same reshuffle, Akello Beatrice Okori replaced Ogwang as the minister of Economic Monitoring in the office of the president. The agreement also clearly stated that the two DP ministers would hold office until the end of the current term or when the agreement ceases to exist.
According to the agreement, Mao as minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs would be the lead minister for coordinating the national dialogue and the whole of government response on constitutional reforms with the mandate to coordinate budget proposals in the Justice Law and Order Sector.
“The ministerial portfolios and other public sector appointments offered to the Democratic Party shall reflect areas where DP expertise provides a valuable contribution to the NRM government,” the agreement reads.
DP ministers, the agreement stipulated, were bound by the cabinet rules in the exercise of their responsibilities and in particular, agreed to be bound by the provisions on conduct, public duty and personal interests.
“Ministers from the Democratic Party agree to be bound by collective responsibility in relation to their ministerial portfolios. When speaking within portfolio responsibilities, they will speak for the government representing the government’s position in relation to those responsibilities,” the agreement reads.
DP also committed to supporting the NRM government on procedural motions in parliament and in committees provided there is consultation among the parties through their whips.
“The Democratic Party undertakes to keep full voting numbers present whenever the House is sitting where the Democratic Party has committed to support the National Resistance Movement government and on matters of confidence and supply. The Democratic Party also undertakes to keep full voting numbers in committee, unless otherwise agreed,” the agreement reads.
It is not yet known how Mao is going to ensure compliance from the MPs as they have all distanced themselves from the agreement, saying they were not consulted before their leader met with Museveni.
Other than the ministerial appointment, the NRM committed to supporting the nomination of a DP member of parliament to be the chair of a standing committee and another deputy chair of an additional committee.
The NRM also agreed to support the election of the DP candidate to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). Indeed to soothe resistance from the majority DP members who are opposed to Mao- Museveni agreement, Siranda was overwhelmingly elected as an opposition DP EALA member of parliament. DP was also to propose up to four individuals for appointment to departments, statutory bodies and government agencies, the portfolio of which would be discussed and agreed upon in advance by both parties.
The agreement also states that Mao would be meeting with President Museveni every three months or as required to monitor progress against the areas of cooperation that are set out in the agreement.
Museveni “Throws a Spanner In The Works”
Hardly 3 months with Mao taking a posture of a baby ensconced on its mothers lap while sucking on the teat, telling all and sundry that he was in government to champion constitutional reforms for national dialogue and to ensure that there is peaceful change of power from one president to another in the country’s 60 years of independence history, to the surprise of many, while answering questions from a Kenyan journalist working for KTN TV, without mincing words, Museveni, vehemently denied that Mao was in government for the matter of championing “dialogue and peaceful transition”. Museveni said Mao was in government because, he Museveni wanted opposition to cooperate and stop “opposing government policies and plans” .