Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Minister Amelia Anne Kyambadde has described enforcers’ interpretation of some of President Yoweri Museveni’s recent directives announced on May 04 as devoid of ‘common sense’, prompting analysts to warn that she could be going too far.
“There is no point in opening a garage, when you don’t have spare parts; so, now how are you going to operate the garage? Sometimes, it’s just a bit of common sense,” said Minister Kyambadde in her clarification of President Museveni’s recent directives.
“Since garages were opened, spare parts shops are also to open to supply the garages with the necessary equipment. However, standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be adhered to in managing all the above operations.”
Some Ugandans have been circulating an 18-second video clip from a footage belonging to NTV Uganda to sell the idea that the Minister had actually punched holes in Museveni’s directives and dismissed them as having been made without common sense.
The Mawokota North MP has previously taken on President Museveni in a televised address, challenged Mary Busingye Karooro Okurut, the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, and taken on security agencies for harassing traders.
On March 26, she accused police and sister enforcement officers of misinterpreting Museveni’s directives to harass traders after chaotic scenes that saw fruit vendors whipped and shops closed in downtown Kampala.
“Why are you beating citizens? This goes to especially LDUs. If you find them standing doing nothing, please explain. Maybe if they turn rowdy; you know some Ugandans. Enforcement doesn’t mean you should beat citizens. Police are not supposed to close alcohol depots or shops. Bars are the ones that should close because that is where people converge. We have no problem with people buying alcohol and taking it with them to their homes,” Kyambadde had said at a presser held at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala.
“There has been a misinterpretation of this directive. I have been told that restaurants, arcades, salons, shops, supermarkets are being closed. That’s wrong. They should continue to operate as long as they are not in food markets.”
From making a case for cleaners to be classified as essential workers, to begging Museveni to offer amnesty to owners of bodabodas impounded for flouting curfew rules and telling the President to order Minister Karooro and Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to start testing food donations so the lives of Ugandans are not endangered, Kyambadde has won herself both friends and enemies.
However, one man matters most in this whole thing, and that is Museveni, the appointing authority. Reports from cabinet indicate that Amelia’s one-one-one ‘confrontations’ with the President on live TV were greeted with scorn, with colleagues reportedly accusing Kyambadde of going too far while others labelled her proud for trying to embarrass the head of state before hundreds of thousands that watch the televised Coronavirus addresses. They advised her to reserve such ‘sensitive’ matters for the right platforms, which are cabinet meetings. Some reports indicate that ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba had called the exchange between Karooro and Kyambadde, and one between Museveni and Kyambadde as “quarrelling in public.” She also reportedly described the Karooro-Kyambadde embarrassment as childish.
While Museveni has reportedly ignored Kyambadde’s alleged misconduct when the matter has come up for debate in cabinet, some observers argue that the President could already be fed up with Amelia but is waiting to strike at the right time, which they say will be in the next cabinet reshuffle expected either before or after the next elections.
But others argue that Museveni is aware of Kyambadde’s character and was not surprised by her public confrontation having worked closely with her (Amelia was Musevni’s Principal Private Secretary – PPS).
However, whether Museveni is bothered or not, those close to him in government and the ruling party are not ready to see a Minister ‘embarrass’ the Commander in Chief on camera. It also remains unclear whether, in their condemnation of Kyambadde and by attempting to restrain her from crossing her boundary, they are working for Museveni or trying on their own, to win his favour. For now, the latest twist on the ‘directives without common sense’ will add to the list of Kyambadde’s ‘veiled attacks’ and could be revisited when needed for a key decision regarding her political career in the near future.
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