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ISO investigates leaked cabinet ‘reshuffle' list

Sarah Kagingo talking to President Yoweri Museveni

How the purported cabinet reshuffle list emerged


The purpoted cabinet reshuffle list posted on social media on Thursday is being investigated by the Internal Security Organisation, a government spokesman has said.

Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, reiterated at the weekend that the list was fake, adding that security was keen to trace how it emerged in the first place.

Opondo told The Observer on Saturday that besides ISO, the government asked the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to investigate the origin of the list. But he sounded downbeat about the prospects of catching the originators.

“We have not been able to trace the origin because it is a little more difficult to track WhatsApp. They have told us that it is technically difficult because WhatsApp is internationally registered,” Opondo said.

Opondo alluded to fears that the list could have been circulated to dampen the morale of NRM MPs currently attending a seven-day retreat at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi.


The list, which appeared on various social media platforms on Thursday afternoon, stirred anxiety among ministers and ignited new debate about the anticipated ministerial shakeup.

At Parliament, politicians paced the corridors inquiring from journalists whether their names featured on the new cabinet list. Unlike previous leaks, Thursday’s list got some rare credence; it featured on the ruling NRM’s official social media platforms and its website www.nrm.ug.

The post, titled “NRM government re-brands” went on to list the new members of “the cabinet.” According to this fake list, Dr Crispus Kiyonga would become third deputy prime minister and minister for East African Community Affairs, Ruth Nankabirwa would become defence minister, while Jessica Alupo would leave education and become minister for the Presidency.

Although the government and party have roundly dismissed the list as a concoction, indications are that there was quite some fire beneath this particular smoke.

In interviews at the weekend, insider sources said the leak stemmed from State House. The list, sources say, was circulated by competing forces within government, jostling for dominance following Amama Mbabazi’s ouster as prime minister and NRM secretary general.

“The list was deliberately leaked; you need to understand that there are many forces that are trying to gain dominance in government after Amama,” an establishment source said on Saturday.

Another source said a senior Muganda minister worked with a senior State House staff to release the list largely to force Museveni to rethink his new cabinet choices.

“By character, [Museveni] doesn’t want to be pre-empted, it was, therefore, in the interest of those that had lost out on what they expected to leak it and force the big man back to the drawing table,” a source said.

Sources within State House and NRM say the leaker was primarily a low-level employee who landed on the list during their course of duty. The staffer, according to an insider source, shared the list with an employee in the presidential press unit before it finally ended up on various social media platforms.

The list was first circulated by at least three WhatsApp groups; Bawejere, B12 and Muhoozi generation, whose membership mainly comprises of people who are close to government.

Among the Bawejere group, the list was allegedly posted by Toy Othieno, who also posted the same list on the official NRM platforms. For the Muhoozi generation group, it was first posted by Edgar Tabaro, a member of the NRM legal team.

When some members of the groups queried the authenticity of the list, Othieno reportedly assured them that it was genuine. He allegedly also referred them to the 4 o’clock news bulletin on Capital FM.

“As a matter of fact, there are some truths in that list and considering the typos, etc, it is evident that somebody who typed it was copying from somewhere,” an NRM official said.

More than an hour after the list did the rounds, the government public relations machinery moved to do some damage control. Some government spokespersons instantly accused the presidential assistant on Communication, Sarah Kagingo, of being behind the distribution of the fake list on social media.

“Just ignore that list, it is fake because if the president has to release a new cabinet, [the document] comes on the official State House letterhead and must have the president’s signature. This one has none,” Opondo said on Thursday.

Kagingo, too, used her social media platforms to dismiss the list, citing the bad English that was used.

“Ignore the following message doing the rounds on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Note the English used ‘Chief weap instead of Chief Whip, OCT instead of ICT” Kagingo posted.

Later that evening, information and national guidance minister Rosemary Namayanja Nsereko posted on her social media accounts an unsigned State House press statement that dismissed the list.

“State House would like to inform the people of Uganda that it is not true that there has been a cabinet reshuffle,” Namayanja posted on her Facebook page at 9:35pm on Thursday.

“The rumours that were making rounds in and around Kampala’s social media networks this evening that there had been a cabinet reshuffle, are just a hoax by detractors,” the statement further read.


Kagingo, in a text-message reply to our inquiry, denied any role in the circulation of the list. An NRM official who declined to be named said on Saturday that Kagingo’s name was being unfairly dragged into the matter.

“The people in charge of NRM’s social media platforms [where the list circulated from] are the same people she has all along been fighting with over the control of Museveni’s and State House social media platforms. I don’t see her connection with them,” the official said.

The posts on the NRM website and Facebook page have since been pulled down.


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