President Museveni has appointed former Prime Minister John Patrick Mr Amama Mbabazi as a Special Envoy to South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Sources privy to Mr Mbabazi’s new assignment told Daily Monitor that Mr Museveni last month directed his Principal Private Secretary, Dr Kenneth Omona, to work with the President’s Office and Public Service Commission (PSC) to formalise Mr Mbabazi’s appointment.
On September 29, Dr Omona wrote on behalf of the President, instructing the permanent secretary in the Office of the President, Hajj Yunus Kakande, to handle the matter with PSC which is supposed to issue Mr Mbabazi’s instruments.
In the same letter, Hajj Kakande, who did not respond to calls and text messages yesterday, was instructed to liaise with PSC to finalise the appointment and work out the nitty-gritties, including ensuring that Mr Mbabazi gets a monthly salary that is “personal to holder”.
A senior official at PSC yesterday explained that the reference to personal-to-holder proviso, meant that Mr Mbabazi’s pay would be determined on his experience, qualifications, and all characteristics that are taken into account when a person is being evaluated for a promotion.
Senior presidential press secretary Lindah Nabusayi yesterday requested Daily Monitor to give her time to crosscheck the facts surrounding Mr Mbabazi’s mission to Juba and Addis Ababa.
After consultations, Ms Nabusayi later responded, saying: “Can’t confirm or deny. In case of anything, we shall let you know.” She didn’t provide any additional details on Mr Mbabazi’s appointment.
While the former ‘super minister’ didn’t respond to calls and text messages, sources close to him told Daily Monitor last evening that for personal reasons, he preferred to keep the appointment “hush-hush” but accepted the assignment.
READ: I am working with Museveni – Mbabazi
Why South Sudan, Ethiopia?
There are mutual and longstanding ties between Uganda and South Sudan. However, it’s the long-standing security interests, influx of refugees from South Sudan, insecurity, threats to future market integration and bilateral trade that constitute President Museveni’s concern. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace agreement deepened relations between the two countries.
South Sudan is bordered to the east by Ethiopia, to the north by Sudan, to the west by the Central African Republic, to the southwest by Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south by Uganda and to the southeast by Kenya.
Unlike South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia don’t share borders, but share aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous Africa.
In 2011, Uganda and Ethiopia signed bilateral agreements to cooperate in regional security operations. The deal also sought to strengthen economic ties while allowing for the free movement of people between the two countries.
The President was in Ethiopia on Monday this week and spoke against the politics of identity. He was at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, where he addressed African leaders who graced the inauguration of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for a new five-year term.
The former director of Internal Security Organisation, Brig Ronnie Balya, is Uganda’s ambassador to South Sudan and Ms Rebecca Amuge Otengo is in charge of Ethiopia and Djibouti. This position also makes her Uganda’s permanent representative to the African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Explaining how Mr Mbabazi’s appointment is going to fit into the diplomatic mix, sources told Daily Monitor that Balya and Otengo won’t be antagonised since they report to Foreign Affairs minister and the new special envoy reports to the President.
Museveni-Mr Mbabazi fall out
President Museveni and Mr Mbabazi fell out following what insiders said was a power struggle.
They said President Museveni was not happy after Mr Mbabazi trained his eyes on the presidency.
During the National Resistance Movement (NRM) National Executive Committee meeting at Namboole in 2015, Mr Mbabazi was removed as the party’s secretary general and replaced with Justin Kasule Lumumba.
President Museveni sacked Mr Mbabazi as prime minister on September 18, 2014 after a long silent power struggle between them. Later President Museveni said he sacked Mr Mbabazi because he had gotten involved in “divisive politics”.
Asked whether he did not find it difficult to sack a close confidant of so many years, the President said dropping Mr Mbabazi had nothing personal, adding: “You don’t bring emotions to public affairs.”
In the run up to the 2016 elections, Opposition political parties and other groups fronted Mr Mbabazi to be the joint Opposition presidential candidate.
Majority of Opposition members who had formed The Democratic Alliance (TDA) endorsed Mr Mbabazi as the suitable presidential candidate for 2016 polls.
However, dissenting Opposition voices contested the choice of Mr Mbabazi for a joint presidential candidate and backed Dr Kizza Besigye in that election.
Mr Mbabazi contested against President Museveni as an independent in 2016 and got 1.3 percent of the votes.
Mr Mbabazi rejoins NRM
In the run up to the January 2021 General Election, Mr Mbabazi announced that he had rejoined President Museveni and that he was returning to the mainstream NRM for an active role in the party’s affairs. Mr Mbabazi made the revelation while meeting 138 NRM councillors in January.
Mr Mbabazi, who is one of the NRM party founders, is however, on record saying he didn’t leave the NRM party despite his disagreements with the President.
What is a special envoy’s job?
Other sources explained that the appointment of a special envoy is part of public diplomacy that seeks to broaden diplomatic horizons by gathering diplomatic capabilities.
Amama’s job will be carried out to enhance the image of the nation in leading issues. He will do this on behalf of the President.
The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) says the term “Special Envoy” or “Special Representative” implies someone chosen to work as a surrogate for the President on a particular issue that requires sustained, high-level attention.
In such a situation, AFSA states that the issue or mission doesn’t sit well with the existing government diplomatic structures, or is a matter of such high priority and sensitivity that it benefits from separate, intense focus.
The person in that position works best with a direct line to the President and high-level connections that assist that person in carrying out his or her role effectively.
What others say
Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, Leader of Opposition .
I have not spoken to John Patrick Amama Mbabazi since the 2016 elections in which he was my candidate! I, therefore, have no idea as to his fresh and renewed convictions in the system we wanted to undo and start anew!
Mwambutsa Ndebesa, Political Analysts and Mak don.
Well, Museveni would be happy to keep Mbabazi at close range so that he and his supporters do not cause a rift within the historical camp, keep him near but in. All this for tactical and political reasons but not for sustainable power sharing. Two, Mbabazi wants to keep national visibility around engaging with Museveni on issues of principle, values and governance styles
Beatrice Anywar, State Minister for Environment
H.E is the father of the Nation. He’s so accommodative and always reaching out to those who don’t agree with him. They have been working together with Rt. Hon Amama for a long time. They need each other for a peaceful Uganda. Hon Amama was a very powerful and efficient PM during his time. As a founding NRM Party member, he’s welcome back home.
Erias Lukwago, Kampala Lord Mayor.
It’s a pity that Amama has decided to capitulate and swallow his own vomit. Looking at the current structure and configuration of the M7 regime/government Amama has no space. He is just going to be inoculated and treated like the big army of advisors who rarely discuss anything with him.
Sarah Achieng Opendi, Former State Minister
If you can’t defeat them you join them. I guess you have heard that saying. It takes two to tango, the President would not have decided to work with him if Amama was not willing to work with him. Thank the former Prime Minister for his decision to work with his former boss. In politics there should not be enmity.
Eddie Kwizera, Bukimbiri MP.
The President realised later that Amama was a confident, never released secret, much of the information about Amama was not correct and he was no longer interested in taking up political offices. Unlike the rest of bush fellows he never criticised him in person.