Uganda Table of Contents

By the end of 1989, Uganda was in the middle of a transition period in which the structure of government was being defined. President Museveni served as head of state, head of the military, and chair of the highest legislative body, the NRC. Below the NRC was a hierarchy of district, county, subcounty, parish, and village RCs, each with decision-making authority in that area. RC members at each level were elected by RC members at the next lower level. Uganda had also developed a complex hierarchy of courts under British rule, supplemented by Islamic and customary institutions for resolving disputes.

The Executive

Under the 1986 proclamation, the president became head of the executive branch (head of state) with the power to appoint a cabinet of ministers with NRC approval. He was also empowered, again with the approval of the NRC, to appoint a prime minister to conduct the business of government. Provisions of the 1967 constitution continuing in force authorized the president to organize the ministries of the public service. Ministers took responsibility for the implementation of government policy. A permanent secretary took responsibility for the organization and operation of each ministry. In addition, the president appointed an inspector general of police, an auditor general, and a director of public prosecutions. The president, or a person he authorized, made treaties and agreements between Uganda and other countries and international organizations. Among the chapters of the 1967 constitution that were suspended was the provision specifying a five-year term for the president, but the 1986 proclamation did not clearly spell out a new term. Presumably, the president served until dismissed by the NRC (the NRC made this appointment) or until the end of the interim period of the NRM government. The power of the NRC, acting in concert with the NRAC, to dismiss the president was made explicit in the February 1989 amendments to the original proclamation.

The NRM consistently followed the principle of broad-based government from its days of guerrilla warfare through its first four years in power. NRM leaders viewed this principle as an NRM reform intended to reverse political disorder by inviting opponents of the government to share power, instead of following the previous practice of monopolizing power in the hands of the victors. The NRM's commitment to broad-based government was most clearly demonstrated in its first cabinet appointments. By reaching outside its own ranks for appointments at the highest levels, the NRM acknowledged the importance of this principle for national reconciliation. Because the leadership of the NRM consisted predominantly of new and untested political figures who originated primarily from the southern part of the country, these appointments reassured many Ugandans that the NRM did not intend to monopolize high government positions. Dr. Samson Kisekka, a senior associate of former President Yusuf Lule who had joined the NRM when Museveni and Lule merged their movements, became prime minister. An older Muganda politician and medical doctor, Kisekka held more conservative views than Museveni and thus reassured many Baganda that the NRM would not make too many radical changes.

The number of members of the DP in Museveni's first cabinet surprised many observers because the DP had participated in the Okello government, which the NRA had overthrown. The DP had been formed in 1954 and had briefly formed the national government just before independence. The DP had also become the official opposition when the UPC claimed victory following the 1980 elections, although most observers believed the DP had actually won the elections. DP leaders did not serve in government until the party president, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, became minister of internal affairs following the July 1985 coup d'état that removed the UPC government. Under the first NRM government, not only did Ssemogerere continue at internal affairs, but the significant portfolios of finance; agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries; commerce; and justice were given to DP politicians as well. The leader of the Conservative Party, Joshua MayangaNkangi , who had been the last prime minister of Buganda (in 1966) and whose party stood for the return of the Buganda monarchy, was appointed minister of education. The president took the defense portfolio and appointed an NRM official as minister of foreign affairs, but in general, NRM leaders were given responsibility for less important ministries or became deputy ministers in more critical ministries.

Additional cabinet members were recruited through negotiations with other guerrilla groups, after the president stated that he was willing to promote peace by merging rivals into his government through negotiation, instead of fighting with them. Museveni's first cabinet contained several such leaders who had switched sides shortly before the NRA took power. Dr. Andrew Kayiira and Dr. David Lwanga, leaders of other guerrilla groups who had opposed Obote, were appointed to the energy and environmental protection ministries, respectively. In July 1986, Moses Ali, leader of a faction of the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) made up of soldiers originally from Amin's army, became minister of tourism and wildlife. Ali had been Amin's minister of finance, so this was a significant expansion of the principle of broad-based government. By narrowing the government's definition of "political criminals" it intended to prosecute, the appointment was a further step toward national reconciliation. The principle of broad-based government also led Museveni to expand the size of his cabinet. Between 1986 and 1990, the number of ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers grew from thirty-three to seventy-two, including three deputy prime ministers added to the cabinet in April 1989. By this time, a greater proportion of appointments to key ministries came from NRM and NRA ranks.

The commitment to broad-based government in the cabinet had two important consequences for policy making. First, bringing opponents of the NRM into the highest levels of government diluted the policy approach provided in the Ten-Point Program. Second, introducing different perspectives into the cabinet led to sudden and unexpected reversals in policy. The most dramatic example of both points was the change in the government's position regarding the conditions of structural adjustment required by the International Monetary Fund ( IMF) in return for foreign loans. At first, Museveni and his advisers who had engaged in the guerrilla struggle rejected the IMF as a source of funds because they believed it would force Uganda to become more dependent on foreign capitalist institutions, while the Ten-Point Program called for the creation of an independent economy. Nevertheless, the government's first budget in May 1986 resembled orthodox IMF strategy, particularly by sharply devaluing the Uganda shilling ( USh) and restricting spending. In response, opponents of structural adjustment were able to persuade the cabinet to approve an antiIMF budget only three months later. This version revalued the shilling and greatly expanded spending beyond the revenue base. Then in May 1987, the government, faced with dizzying inflation, reversed itself again and signed an agreement with the IMF. Once again the shilling was greatly devalued and government spending was cut.

The National Resistance Council
Local Administration
Judicial System

More about the Government of Uganda.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress