30 October 2012

Uganda: Kabwegyere Reshuffle Good for Our Politics


Professor Tarsis Kabwegyere was yesterday sworn in, among other ministers, as minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister.

If a group of women in Parliament had not protested his initial docket, Kabwegyere would have been sworn in as minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development instead.

But the women activists argued that he is not suitable because he is insensitive to gender issues, and previously frustrated the Domestic Relations bill. They eventually struck a deal with the President to reallocate Kabwegyere to another portfolio.

move is a fairly new and definitely positive development in our politics. Often, Ugandans' main complaint against ministerial appointments has been that their "own" have been left out. Their "own" means fellow Muslims, Catholics, northerners, easterners, westerners, Baganda, etc.

These parochial considerations don't tell us anything about a minister's values or competence. But looking at the appointee's ideological orientation, as the women did in Kabwegyere's case, opens for us a window into this person's character and suitability for the task at hand.

It is, therefore, impressive that rather than the women simply demanding a fellow woman in that position, they resisted the appointee on a matter of principle. We must also congratulate the President for listening to the women.

The problem with parochialism is that the President could appoint a woman to the ministry of Gender and yet find yourself with a female minister who is more chauvinistic than some men. He could pick a Muslim or Christian whose godliness is severely wanting.

But if we emphasised ideology and suitability, then we would not allow a person known to have been a poacher, or one who has previously advocated degazetting of game reserves for farming activities, to become a minister for wildlife!

Besides, politicians must know that what they do or say could come back to haunt them. Imagine a Uganda where politicians will be judged on the basis of the positions they take rather than their ethnicity, religion or the groceries they buy! It is possible!

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