In-coming Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, has dismissed talk of a rift between President Yoweri Museveni and Amama Mbabazi, who was dropped from cabinet on Friday. In a mini-cabinet reshuffle on Friday morning, President Museveni appointed Dr Rugunda Prime Minister with immediate effect.
In a mini-cabinet reshuffle on Friday morning, President Museveni appointed Dr Rugunda Prime Minister with immediate effect. Rugunda, who has been health minister, is to take over from Mbabazi who has been serving as premier since June 2011. In a letter dated September 18, 2014, Museveni informed the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga that he had appointed Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and forwarded his name for parliamentary approval. In the same letter, the president thanked Mbabazi for serving in government.
The decision by the president to drop Mbabazi comes at a time an apparent power struggle between the two NRM allies threatens to tear the ruling party apart. Mbabazi has always been suspected of nursing ambitions to take on his boss in the 2016 elections, something the outgoing prime minister has dismissed as untrue.
At ruling party legislators' retreat in Kyankwanzi in February this year several Members of Parliament accused Mbabazi of undermining his party chairman and moved to sign a resolution endorsing Museveni as the only party candidate. Mbabazi, the secretary general of the NRM, was among the last MPs to sign the petition.
Some observers point to this rift as the reason the Kinkizi West MP was dropped from cabinet. Former External Security Organisation director David Pulkol says what happened was predictable. He told Uganda Radio Network on Friday that the surprise is that Museveni took this long to drop Mbabazi from his cabinet after discovering that he wants to oust him. Pulkol, a former MP and minister, says that what Museveni wants now is a team that will enable him win the elections in 2016 and he long discovered that Mbabazi wasn't on that team.
Col Samson Mande, a former army officer now living in exile in Sweden, was quoted in the media congratulating Museveni for taking the bold step of getting rid of the father of corruption and destroyer of the NRM/A revolution. Mande added that, although he took long to take the decision, it is better late than never.
In early 2012 reports indicated that Mbabazi was becoming increasingly popular with in the NRM. At the Kyankwanzi retreat in in February, Museveni brought out evidence that showed that Mbabazi was campaigning for Presidency but Mbabazi denied the claims. Thereafter, the minister without portfolio Richard Twodong was made acting NRM Secretary General as some of the reports said that Mbabazi was using party resources to popularise himself.
But newly-appointed Prime Minister says that there is no rift between the President and Mbabazi who he refers to as his childhood friend. Rugunda on Sunday evening told the media at his home in Kabale Municipality that the sacking of Mbabazi has nothing to do with any difference between the two top NRM leaders.
Rugunda says that he is close to both leaders and that if at all there is any difference, he would be among the first people to know.
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Dr Rugunda said during his time in office efforts will be directed towards the reopening of party offices of the National Resistance Movement in districts which had closed down as well as ensuring that the salaries of the administrative staff are paid.
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Before becoming Prime Minister, Mbabazi held several cabinet portfolios including Defence, Security, and Regional Cooperation. He also served as external security organisation director from 1986 to 1994. He will go down as the shortest serving prime minister under Museveni, having occupied the office for three years and four months. His immediate predecessor, Professor Apollo Nsibambi was premier for 12 years until May 24, 2011, while Kintu Musoke, the man Nsibambi replaced on April 5, 1999, was in the position for four years and five months. The other occupants of the office are George Cosmas Adyebo for three years and 10 months from January 22, 1991 to November 8, 1994, and Dr Samson Kisekka, Museveni's first premier who served for five years from January 1986 to January 1991. He was later appointed vice president from 1991 until 1994.