BEHIND THE SCENES AT HEALTH MINISTRY EVENT WHERE ACENG RECEIVED ROBINAH NABANJA
By Mulengera Reporters
Charles Magembe Kabanda, biological brother to new State Minister for Health (General Duties) Robinah Nabanja, says Kakumiro residents are unanimous that because he has made their daughter Minister, President Museveni deserves to rule until he dies. Amiable Magembe is one of the many Nabanja close relatives and acquaintances Mulengera News interacted with Monday afternoon inside the Health Ministry Board Room where we converged to wait for Senior Minister Jane Aceng to arrive and preside over Nabanja’s installation ceremony. Aceng was coming from Entebbe State House for the day’s cabinet meeting but got delayed by traffic jam that turned out to be unexpectedly heavy.
Magembe had led a huge delegation from Kakumiro that came to witness and cheer Nabanja, a Museveni blue eyed girl, as she assumed office at the Wandegeya-based Ministry. Among them were Kakumiro Catholic priests and nuns as well as Nabanja’s elderly mum and daughter Faridah, a lawyer employed by Parliamentary Commission where the mother has been an influential member. In this article we reflect on small sleezy moments that livened up the euphoric mood that characterized the event.
THE SMALL DETAILS
Leading the Health Ministry political and technocratic leaders was Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng who was remarkably joined by Joyce Moriku Kaducu (PHC), PS Diana Atwine and the influential Directors and Commissioners serving under them. Appreciating the journalists for their patience (arriving as early as 3pm for an event that began after 5pm), Atwine began by unconditionally apologizing for the delay. She then signaled her boss Aceng to take charge of the proceedings. Aceng too corroborated the need to apologize to the scribes and appreciating them for the patience they exhibited. To emphasize the extent to which she was sincerely sorry and apologetic, Aceng even stood as she delivered her apology. “It’s from the bottom of my heart and if it’s an apology that has been accepted, I then can resume my seat,” Aceng pleaded as the scribes chorused “it’s okay honorable Minister.”
Unable to hide her excitement at having a fellow woman coming to replace Sarah Opendi, Aceng (renowned for her team playing skills) cheerfully described Nabanja as someone coming to compliment the team of ladies that are currently leading the health sector. You have Atwine serving as the PS and Aceng serving as senior minister deputized by two others-both of them women. Yet that isn’t all. The sector also has many ladies serving in top echelons at UCI, Mulago Hospital, CPHL etc. Speaking later on after Aceng, Moriku referenced on this pleading with Nabanja (who they cordially referred to as mugole) to work very hard to ensure “as mothers entrusted to lead this sector, we don’t let down the H.E.”
There had been social media reports speculating about the absence of Sarah Opendi who Nabanja is replacing. The social media reports, that turned out fake, indicated Opendi was unhappy being transferred and her absence in London was actually in protest to being replaced by Nabanja. As if she too had already become aware of the fake news, Aceng immediately dispelled the same explaining her junior colleague was away on official duties and would ceremonially hand over as soon as she returns. “And because we are transparent at the Ministry of Health, we shall call you the press to witness that event,” she explained. In her usual eloquence, Aceng summarized for Nabanja what her duties are as State Minister in charge of general duties including routinely supervising hospitals and engagement in community outreach and sensitization programs. “The good thing our mugole is an excellent mobilizer of great credentials belonging to the mighty NRM party.”
Aceng (who had passionately hugged Nabanja’s mother and other Kakumiro delegation members) further testified about Nabanja’s prowess, by saying; “I know you are ready to begin work now and that is why going with us to Parliament tomorrow to defend the sector budget is going to be your first assignment for which I’m sure you are more than prepared.” Nabanja answered in the affirmative saying; “I’m more than ready.” Aceng added that Nabanja being a great mobilizer, joining a team of other ladies (herself and Moriku) who are both political and technical, a lot is expected to change in the way they have been going about their mandate. “For instance, the message of disease prevention is going to be strengthened to engage our people like never before and it’s a front our mugole is going to be leading,” she said. Nabanja, who sat closely next to her, obliged saying; “I’m more than ready.” Aceng said prevention will be key “because 75% of our disease burden is preventable” and this excited Nabanja even more.
Moriku complimented the mugole on this by interjecting to say “Senior Minister let me inform you also that our mugole has already been doing a lot of hospitals work in her own private capacity and has been ever insisting that I go to Kakumiro to join the Speaker to open health centers but I have been sending the Commissioner.” Nabanja, who talked ceaselessly and repeatedly interjected, confirmed this being true and called out the name of the MoH Commissioner who Moriku has been delegating. As if to show her deep connection to the health sector, Nabanja proudly introduced her younger biological sister who works as a nurse at Nakaseke hospital. She said nobody should worry about her capabilities simply because she is professionally not a medical person. “I have been chairing the audit committee of the Parliamentary Commission and we have done much better than my predecessors yet I’m not an auditor. I have left after turning it into one of the best performing committees of the Commission,” she bragged. Aceng urged her not to worry because “even Honorable Opendi hasn’t been professionally a medical person yet she has done very well.”
Taking advantage of Moriku, who came minutes into the function, Aceng cracked a joke saying she arrived ahead of her because she knows some panyaz (shortcuts) which enabled her drive through Mulago hospital and thereby circumventing the jam. Aceng also schooled Nabanja about the 23 Presidential directives Museveni issued to his ministers at the beginning of this term of government. She simplified those relating to the health sector to include expanding health physical infrastructure to deepen service delivery, addressing the human resource gaps and empowering the community to own their health.
Aceng teasingly appreciated Nabanja for coming with her mother stressing that “it’s something very good yet none of us has ever done here in this ministry.” She said its some great lesson they had learnt from Nabanja. “It’s good you are all here and as family members I must call on you to be understanding and very supportive to our mugole here because work here can be a lot some times. If she doesn’t return home [Nabanja’s home is in Makerere Kavule] early just understand,” Aceng counselled as Nabanja’s mother and daughter nodded in approval. Showing how excited she was, Aceng even spoke some Luganda assuring scribes “I’m gradually learning through a whatsapp tutor and very soon I will begin giving you the Luganda version as well.”
Leveraging on her vast expertise and understanding of the sector she leads, Aceng dispelled media reports that the sector budget was to experience severe cuts in the FY2020/21 whose budgeting process is already underway via Parliament. She said to the contrary, the Museveni government deserves commendations for prioritizing health sector funding amidst resource constraints. “Of course, we can never have enough but the government has been very supportive to health being one of the large sectors. We are among the biggest 5 sectors when it comes to sharing the budget.” She explained that with just the first budget call circular out, it was too early for anyone to imagine the sector budget has been cut. She said the first budget call circular, to be followed by the 2nd and 3rd one, indicates only what the government intends or is suggesting to allocate to the health sector not including cash coming from external sources such as donors (e.g. Gavi, GF) and loans which can only come to the sector through prioritization and efforts of the same government.
She clarified that unlike the previous FYs, 2020/21 won’t have loan components like money for constructing infrastructure for Mulago, Kayunga and Yumbe hospitals because these are projects that have since been completed. She clarified that omitting expenditures on the three infrastructure projects will naturally reflect the sector budget as one that has been diminished whereas not. “Yes, we are still way below the Abuja declaration that requires 15% budget allocation for health but we are grateful with the generous efforts of government to fund the health sector,” Aceng explained.
After brief remarks by Moriku (in whose favor Aceng breached protocol saying my colleague too should say something to our mugole), Aceng signaled Nabanja to “make her maiden speech.” As expected, it was a dramatic but short speech in which Nabanja introduced members of her large entourage and justified why each one of them was on board. Riding on the yellow gomesi her elderly mum donned, Nabanja comically said “you can see she is an extremely yellow girl giving birth to myself the yellow baby.” She said she prevailed on her husband (he remained at Makerere Kavule preparing for the small family party) to bow out of the delegation “So that my mum takes precedence and that’s what happened even in Entebbe. I felt reenergized having her around because she has been everything since losing my father while in P7.”
She said she was humbled to join a team of such hardworking strong ladies and wasn’t worried facing the Parliamentary Health Committee to defend the budget “because these are colleagues I have worked with before.” She said she wasn’t here to fight anyone but to “strengthen efforts of my colleagues I have found here to build strong and cohesive teams to deliver services for our people.” Her simplicity attracted everybody in the room to relate with her casually. The Commissioners and Directors, a caliber of civil servants that are always laid back, freely stepped forward to take photos and selfies with her. She encouraged them saying “come let’s have some ministerial hug.” She was thereafter taken to the office to enable her begin work the next day which is today Tuesday 14th January 2020. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us 0705579994 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).