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By Mulengera Reporters

All indicators show that Gen Salim Saleh is the biggest winner in the latest reshuffle of Permanent Secretaries, accounting officers and occupants of other very important offices of government. Some of the thick-skinned technocrats who had always been a problem to him were either dropped or transferred to less prestigious dockets. One such victims is Keith Muhakanizi who had been PSST for donkey years even when he wasn’t on very good terms with Gen Saleh who is renowned for being a leading king maker in Museveni’s Uganda.

A story is told of one weekend when Saleh, who considered Muhakanizi complicated and inflexible, drove to Entebbe State House to share his funding frustrations with the PSST who he considered too rigid to accommodate the priorities of the ruling NRM that would be considered relevant in enabling government respond to political economy questions of the day. On reaching Entebbe, Saleh fumed and threatened to coil and keep his distance from execution of government programs including OWC if Gen Museveni didn’t do something to trim Muhakanizi’s rigidity whenever called upon to fund emergency interventions. The two brothers agreed that Muhakanizi, who had been summoned to State House that same weekend without being made aware he would be meeting face to face with his foe, should be relieved of his duties. Gen Saleh had alarmed Gen Museveni that the PSST was vehemently opposed to a certain shift in government policy whose funding was accordingly going to be hard and complicated. Gen Museveni couldn’t believe it prompting Gen Saleh to say “just wait for him to arrive for this meeting and hear it yourself.” 

Either someone friendly alerted him or by some instinct, on joining the two brothers for the meeting in State House, Muhakanizi had changed his mind and shifted goal posts. And when Gen Museveni sought his view, the strong technocrat from Lyantonde articulated a view that was totally the opposite of what Gen Saleh had painted to be his view.  That is how the decision to relieve Muhakanizi, whose firing letter was already being drafted for the H.E’s signature, was dropped. Gen Saleh, who was certain the H.E. was going to become furious and have the man fired depending on what he was sure he was going to say in that meeting, left State House emotionally very broken overwhelmed with the realization that he was going to have to up with Muhakanizi as PSST longer than he was prepared to. Since that time, the relationship between the two powerful citizens remained frosty.

Finally the opportunity to overcome Muhakanizi, who Gen Saleh considered rigid and complicated, came only last night when Gen Museveni released the list containing his reshuffle for PSs which indicated Muhakanizi had been relocated to OPM as PS replacing Christine Kintu Guwatudde.  Ironically, he was replaced by Mubs lecturer Ramadan Goobi, who is a close friend and leading influencer of Saleh’s views and outlook to issues of economic transformation including the Parish Model. Goobi had at some point been considered even for the position of Finance Minister but Gen Museveni, who resents being second guessed by media leaks, changed his mind and unexpectedly retained Matia Kasaija after Daily Monitor reported the Mubs don was headed for big things. 

Away from Goobi replacing Muhakanizi, there are other indicators this was Saleh’s time to shine because his other strong ally and long term protégé Geraldine Ssali Busulwa (ex-NSSF MD) is the new PS for the Ministry of Trade which had been vacant since the death of Amb Julius Onen. At the instigation of Saleh, Ssali, who was unfairly herded out of the NSSF job, had previously been considered and vetted for a cabinet role, which Gen Museveni still abandoned to avoid being second guessed by media reports.

When it became clear the system was fed up with Robert Kabushenga as CEO Vision Group, powerbrokers and key Museveni palace advisors close to Saleh vigorously stepped forward marketing Ssali as a potential good CEO for the state-owned media company. They had the blessing of Gen Saleh still but the same only failed after a powerful first family lobby insisted on Don Wanyama who eventually took the job. Perhaps because of old age and past disappointments, Gen Saleh is these days demoralized and generally a laid back person who doesn’t want to push hard once he realizes those pushing an alternative to his proposal are equally powerfully placed.

Yet there is much more to the Geraldine Ssali posting beyond just being a blue eyed girl for the General from Namunkekera. She is incorruptible, strong-willed, well-learned, widely travelled, despises mediocrity and material things. She is also a team player who believes in results and setting high standards; having gone to school in the UK. She is a Muganda from Kalungu district in Buddu and untainted leaders of her pedigree is the type Gen Museveni currently needs to have in his government as he embarks on his five year journey (2021-2026) during which priority will be on neutralizing Bobi Wine Kyagulanyi Sentamu, currently a leading opposition figure, whose stronghold remains the same Buganda region from where Geraldine Ssali hails. Some are desiring that after being PS for 5 years, Ssali emulates the likes of Jane Ruth Aceng and considers running for a Parliamentary seat back home in Kalungu in order to amplify her suitability for cabinet appointment should Gen Museveni, or whoever he will have endorsed, remains President of Uganda in the post-2026 period.

The other Saleh adherents who were stayed put as PSs include Benjamin Kumumanya who was retained as PS for the local government ministry. He closely works with Gen Saleh on issues of economic transformation of the countryside and belongs to the same study group which Saleh oversees comprising of the likes of Goobi, Makerere’s Prof Eria Hisale of economics and others. In contrast, the likes of MAAIF PS Pius Wakabi, who Saleh considered inefficient and slow-witted, didn’t escape the knife. Yet that isn’t all. The inclusion of soldiers like Gen Joseph Musanyufu (new PS for Internal Affairs) and ex-Kyankwanzi NALI Director Gen David Kasura Kyomukama had a lot to do with the appointment authority’s desire to live up to Gen Saleh’s expectations.

Beti Kamya Namisango is another Saleh blue eyed girl who ate big in the Thursday reshuffle. The much-tormented Kamya, who had previously been appointed senior Presidential Advisor upon being dropped from the 2016-2021 cabinet where Gen Saleh had ensured her inclusion, has since been made IGG substantively replacing Irene Mulyagonja. Being IGG is a very powerful position because, besides the deals and unofficial money-making opportunities, the position entitles whoever gets appointed to bagging Shs36m per month after tax and an annual pension of Shs160m.

She is also entitled to a lot of recognition and takes precedence over many big-name public officials because being IGG, she is treated as head of institution as would be the case for the Speaker of Parliament or even Chief Justice. Renowned for her eloquence and appetite for pomp, Kamya will also be entitled to a convoy, hefty housing and medical allowances.

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