‘Why is she special?’ MPs ask. ‘I won’t respond to rumours,’ Museveni replies
In a move that has raised more questions than it has answered, President Yoweri Museveni has pleaded with Parliament to reconvene and reconsider the approval of Idah Nantaba, the Kayunga Woman MP, for the post of minister of state for Lands.
Reliable sources told us that Museveni wrote two letters to Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker, trying to convince Parliament to change its position, saying he had counselled Nantaba and advised her to apologise to Parliament.
Museveni also wrote that even if this was not the case, natural justice demands that the accused be heard. Nantaba’s appointment was first rejected in August on the grounds that she did not have the minimum academic qualifications to occupy the post.
When she proved that she had the academic credentials, some MPs on the Appointments committee then questioned her moral character. Nantaba reacted angrily, claiming some people on the Appointments committee and senior army officers, who she had exposed as land grabbers in Kayunga, were fighting her. She also attacked Amama Mbabazi, the Prime Minister, accusing him of working to fail her appointment.
“The chief executive will explain to me why I am being tossed around,” Nantaba charged before journalists at Parliament.
In her reply to the President, reportedly sent last week, Kadaga said reconvening the Appointments committee would not be possible because members voted on the item. She reportedly advised that the remaining option was to take the matter to the whole House. The other route would be to convene a plenary session where all MPs would debate the matter.
Kadaga said that having chaired the Appointments committee meetings, she would excuse herself from chairing the plenary session. Reliable sources have told us this offer by Kadaga pleased the president who, presumably, saw Kadaga as not having done enough to protect the president’s interests. Sources told us that the letters to Kadaga came a couple of weeks after the president had met the Speaker and talked her into reconsidering Nantaba’s appointment.
In mid-September, sources told us, Museveni had raised similar issues with Betty Amongi and Justine Lumumba, the NRM Chief Whip, when he met the duo at State House, Entebbe. Amongi, the chairperson of the Uganda Women‘s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), had gone to Entebbe to try and convince Museveni to officiate as chief guest at a ceremony where UWOPA will celebrate what it has dubbed “Women @ 50”, which is part of the golden jubilee celebrations.
She told him that the women, especially those who support NRM, had made the proposal, which she saw no problem with. Museveni accepted the request after which he put it to Amongi that she had been among the people vehemently opposed to the appointment of Nantaba.
“Now that I have sorted you out, I want you to help me with my issue of Nantaba,” Museveni reportedly told Amongi.
Amongi reportedly told Museveni about the rumour doing rounds in Parliament that he was treating Nantaba in a special way to the extent of availing her with soldiers from the Special Forces Group (SFG) to protect her. Amongi is understood to have informed Museveni that Nantaba is revelling in, and talking about, her ‘special’ treatment from the president, something that has not gone down well with ordinary MPs who do not enjoy such favours from the head of state.
It is not the first time that MPs reject a presidential appointee on what they describe as ‘moral’ grounds. In 2009, Parliament rejected Margaret Mbeiza, who had been nominated as state minister for Economic Monitoring under similar circumstances. They cited ‘moral’ grounds, and Mbeiza was reportedly far from modest about her status as a minister-designate.
Museveni now faces the same scenario with Nantaba. Amongi is understood to have put it to the president that after being persuaded by Nantaba, he went against a directive of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). The authority had resolved not to allow any ferry to ply between Nabuganyi and Kasana landing site in Kayunga district due to the rocks along the route.
But on a visit there in May, Museveni directed that the ferry, which had remained docked at the Nabuganyi landing site for more than three years, be taken to Kasana landing site three-and-a-half kilometres after ascertaining with special divers that the route was free from rocks contrary to what UNRA had said. Amongi, according to our sources, added that there is growing suspicion that Museveni had delayed to swear in the new cabinet appointees because he is waiting for Nantaba to be approved.
Our sources told us that Museveni did not respond to all the queries, but told the MP that those were just rumours and therefore he could not respond to them. He said he had given Nantaba SFG protection after some people threatened to kill her for being outspoken against land grabbing in Kayunga.
When The Observer contacted her over the weekend, Amongi neither confirmed nor denied that a meeting took place, where she and Museveni discussed Nantaba. She, however, confirmed that last month she extended an invitation to the president to officiate at the UWOPA function, through Lumumba.
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