In an eyebrow-raising speech in Masaka, President Museveni spoke not so glowingly about advice and advisors.
“I don’t need anybody’s advice,” Museveni said at Masaka Liberation Square on February 3 amid murmurs from his audience.
He was presiding at the district’s belated celebrations to mark 29 years since he seized power. The celebrations followed the commissioning of housing units at the UPDF’s armoured brigade headquarters at Kasijjagirwa, Masaka.
“I can advise myself… that is why I disbanded these Naads officials and replaced them with soldiers after they [Naads officials] failed to fight poverty. The Naads advisors failed to advise you farmers. That is why I don’t need advisors. Advisors! For what?” Museveni said.
One man who knows the frustrations of being a Museveni advisor is the former Kampala mayor Nasser Ntege Sebaggala. He told us on Monday that he resigned his job as senior presidential advisor (General duties) last month because the president severally ignored his advice.
“He failed to understand the need to increase funding for the agriculture sector because he prefers bringing in foreign investors to do large-scale farming but that can’t work here,” Sebaggala said.
“Then he deployed soldiers to take over Naads. Who said promotion of agriculture is about distribution of seeds? His soldiers will distribute the seeds but will not register meaningful returns because they don’t have the technical know-how.”
By the end of last year, at least on paper, the president had more than 100 advisors paid between Shs 2.6m and Shs 3m monthly in addition to perks such as a car, an armed guard, medical and housing allowances. In his speech, the president wasn’t categorical whether he was referring to this category of advisors.
Interviewed about the speech, Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre said, “I don’t know in what context he made the remarks; he could have spoken in general terms, maybe relating to a local problem in Masaka.”
“The context is more important, but you also have to look at the list of his advisors… the last time he was on Capital Gang [radio talk show], he said that the real fighters of NRM are the quiet ones. You may not know why he appoints someone as an advisor,” Opondo added.
Museveni’s remarks come on the coat-tails of growing criticism over the president’s ever growing list of advisors. Some of the advisors have no clearly defined roles while others’ roles overlap (see: Museveni’s 100 advisors revealed).
A State House source told The Observer that Museveni rarely meets his advisors – unless they are part of a docket-related delegation.
“If they don’t get a chance to contribute during such meetings, then they have no other opportunity of meeting him,” the source said.
According to Vincent Semakula Ssettuba, a senior presidential advisor on the greater Masaka region in charge of political issues and local governments, presidential advisors are required to file routine briefs to the president through his Principal Private Secretary (PPS).
The routine briefs are supposed to be quarterly, but some advisors also write situational reports that address urgent issues. But they do not always know if the president gets the reports.
Besides writing briefs, Ssemakula said, presidential advisors also represent senior government officials such as the vice president and cabinet ministers at functions. The advisors number and roles are always challenged by MPs who are a little unsettled by the ever growing list. Some MPs are pushing for a review of Museveni’s constitutional mandate to appoint advisors.
“It is just a tool of patronage, he uses it to keep hangers-on busy doing nothing but to be able to buy lunch, and avoid being adversely noisy,” said Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, a member of the Presidential Affairs committee of parliament.