Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga’s untamed anger is likely to torpedo the East African Community into further conflict.
On October 18, 2021, Kadaga, Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the East African Community Affairs wrote to the EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki demanding an apology for lying and responding to her communication.
Kadaga’s anger and arrogance are likely to rub Kenya and especially Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC Chairman, the wrong way further antagonizing the delicate trade relations.
Kadaga argues that the EAC Secretary General is “an employee of the Partner States” that has no mandate to take decisions on their behalf or even take a position.
In fact, Kadaga warns the Secretary General not to even respond to her letters but instead share her communications with her colleagues for collective decisions to be made.
This spat between Kadaga and the EAC Secretary General follows an ongoing regional quarrel on recruitment of staff to the EAC Secretariat.
A dispute over the distribution of jobs in the organs of the East African Community recently manifested itself when Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan queried the process after the Secretary General ignored rules of equal share of opportunities.
The EAC Secretariat, early this year, advertised at least 60 vacant positions whose filling has unveiled bad blood and unhealthy competition among the six partner states.
Dr.Peter Mathuki is thought to have favoured Kenyans in the recruitment. An extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for last week on Wednesday, which was expected to finalize the staff recruitment process, had to be moved to a later date, at the prompting of Uganda’s EAC Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, who had reportedly travelled.
Later on Friday last week, Ms Kadaga wrote to the Secretary-General demanding that the interviews set for October 18 for various advertised jobs at the EAC organs and institutions be deferred.
Burundi also wrote excusing herself from the recruitment process.
But quite intriguing is for Rt Hon Kadaga to begin her journey at EAC at a very aggressive and confrontation angle.
Kadaga’s latest letter depicts the office of the EAC Secretary General as less significant, which puts her on a head-on collision with not only the Secretary General but also Kenya whose President Uhuru Kenyatta is the current chairman of the EAC Summit.
“I have received your letter Ref SGN / 4/ 11 and respond as follows, it is fallacious for you to claim that you received my letter at 16:00 hours. I wrote the letter at about 1:30PM and the Permanent Secretary contacted both you and the Human Resource manager immediately. The letter was from a Partner State therefore you had no locus standi to respond. The letter should have been transmitted to the Partner States of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of South Sudan. The Secretary General is an employee of the Partner States and cannot take decisions on their behalf or even take a position,” Kadaga wrote to Dr Mathuki on October 18.
Kadaga’s assertion was that the Secretary General was a mere listening post and should only implement the Council of Ministers’ decisions without questioning them or offering advice.
In a show of authority Kadaga demanded that Dr Mathuki also apologizes for his behavior. She wrote; “I further demand a written apology to the Republic of Uganda for the illegitimate response to my letter since you are not a Partner State and cannot usurp the powers of the member states. I need not remind you that one of the reasons for the previous collapse of the old East African Community was disproportionate sharing of the benefits of the Community among the Partner States.”
Although Kadaga may be correct on the interpretation of the Treaty in regard to the mandate of the organs of the EAC, what she ignores to acknowledge is that much of the business within EAC is being transacted through lobby and mutual understanding. That’s why the Treaty provides for consensus building.
Otherwise, antagonizing Kenya, which is the current chair of EAC by getting confrontation with the EAC Secretary General hurts Uganda more, which is gradually losing regional markets like Rwanda and South Sudan.
In addition, Kadaga appears to forget President Museveni’s position of being non-confrontational while engaging other partner states to secure their markets.
However, it appears Rt Hon Kadaga has mentally failed to accept her new role—that she ceased being a Speaker of Parliament with absolute power and has since become a cabinet minister who has to first report to a Prime Minister, then Vice President and ultimately the Head of State. In essence, she has been displaced from number three to about number six in hierarchy.
In September, while waving visa requirements for South Sudan she demanded that Juba does the same for Uganda within 30 days or else Uganda would revise the move.
Such ultimatums cannot fast-track integration of East Africa into a stronger political union considering that the region is still fragile.
Already, Rwanda has come out to challenge Kadaga’s authoritarianism. Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs told The New Times, a Rwandan publication that moving to halt the Council of Ministers’ decision was wrong.
“Recruitment is a Council (of Ministers) decision. When the Council decision is started, the process is managed by the Secretariat and each partner state can give at least two people on a panel to interview the best candidates then forward to the Council to take the final decision. The Council can take any decision; it can be technical or political depending on the nature of the prevailing situation,” Nshuti said.
“The problem now is that people are complaining during the recruitment process initiated by Council. This is wrong. The right thing is, allow the process to go on and intervene at Council level after Council has got feedback. In Council, we can meet and intervene because any partner state can say it doesn’t agree on any decision. But, here, one has to provide ample proof for his or her point [of disproval of a Council decision].”
When found convincing, Nshuti said, a position can be reviewed, but the whole process cannot be reviewed.
“No country can block a decision of the Council, but a country can wait for the Council of Ministers to share facts on any interview they think went wrong. Even the heads of state cannot intervene in Council matters.”
While closing a cabinet retreat on October 14, President Yoweri Museveni appealed to his officials to always consult him when pursing regional markets.
Mr Museveni actually meant that he was the one that held the key to regional integration, and therefore he had to be consulted on all matters in regard to that subject.
This was the first time that President Museveni was appealing to his ministers to extend to him such courtesy—consulting him on regional integration.
Of course, for Mr Museveni to make such an appeal it meant all was not well in the kitchen. It meant Rt Kadaga, the new Minister of East African Community Affairs, was conducting some business minus talking to her boss.
Kadaga “the bulldozer”
Kadaga was used to holding absolute power as an untouchable Speaker of Parliament. Kadaga was always in battle against the judiciary and executive. She accused the two arms of government of interfering with the business of parliament, which she vowed to protect. She always defied the executive’s proposals whenever she wanted.
At one point she embarrassed her deputy speaker Rt Hon Jacob Oulanyah in parliament and in front of cameras. Oulanyah sought permission from Kadaga almost three or four times to speak, but Kadaga turned down all his requests.
At first, she adjourned the house and beckoned her deputy to follow her to her chambers so they can talk one-on-one. Later when the house resumed, Oulanyah sought permission again to speak, but again, he was not allowed and that’s how he left the house.
Kadaga is always seething for a fight and aims to embarrass people in public. That is how she fought and forced former parliament’s public relations officer Chris Obore to resign.
Kadaga had turned parliament into a one woman’s show. Kadaga even openly defied President Museveni’ request that she stands down for Rt Hon Oulanyah to take her seat so they could deploy her somewhere else. She declined the offer of Vice President and proceeded to contest as an independent candidate during the 2021 speakership race even though she is number three in the ruling National Resistance Movement political party.
Therefore, she is not expected to achieve much in her new role unless she humbles herself and behaves as an errand girl for the president. If not she is bound to widen the cracks within EAC.
Genesis of conflict at EAC
Problems started in the East African Legislative Assembly largely over the hiring of a clerk and a deputy.
The East African Legislative Assembly has not had substantive clerks. The current holders of the position have six-month non-renewable contracts pending appointments.
The advertisement sought a candidate who once served as a deputy clerk, consequently favouring a Ugandan applicant who was formerly a deputy clerk.
But the panel, comprising clerks of the national assemblies from each partner state, perhaps avoiding past staff of the Community, settled for a candidate from Tanzania. This did not go down well with the Ugandan MPs, who then moved to file a minority motion to express their displeasure.
The Ugandan lawmakers argue that Alex Lumumba Obatre scored the highest marks against competitor Saidi Othman Yakubu from Tanzania.
The ongoing process of the recruitment of staff for the EAC in general is meant to fill positions that have remained vacant for some years, something the Council of Ministers is looking to correct.
Ugandan legislator Dennis Namara staged walkouts protesting injustice exercised during the recruitment process resulting into Assembly Speaker Martin Ngoga suspending sittings on Tuesday through to Thursday due to lack of quorum.
The MPs accused Speaker Ngoga of bias. The diplomatic bad blood between Uganda and Rwanda also seemed to play out, with Mr Ngoga (a Rwandan) at some point offering to step aside and allow someone else to lead the proceedings.
Namara also tabled a motion before the House saying that there was noncompliance of the quarter system. In a motion tabled in the Assembly, Mr Namara, chair of the General Purpose (Budget) Committee, insisted that the process of recruiting a House clerk and deputy, advertised in July, failed to adhere to the EAC’s quota system, which espouses equity in staffing.
“We want the EAC to suspend the entire staff recruitment exercise for violating the principles and regulations and objectives of integration, the Treaty, the Staff Rules and Regulations and operational manual for implementation of the quota system,” said Mr Namara.
“We call for a forensic audit into the quota system and restrictions applied to citizens for partner states in the job advertisements, receiving of applications, profiling, short-listing and interviewing of candidates in the ongoing recruitment exercise,” he added.
Then Kadaga intervened and demanded that interviews for the applicants set for October 18 for various advertised jobs at the EAC organs and institutions be postponed until the Secretariat submits the available quota points for each partner state as at the time or date of advertising the jobs.
“As you are aware, EAC partner States agreed that a partner state must have points in order for its citizens to be considered eligible candidates and that at the beginning of each recruitment exercise the EAC Secretariat shall inform each partner state about her balance of weighted points (refer to Article 4.6 of the Operational Manual for Implementation of the Quota System). In respect to the above, this is to inform you that the Republic of Uganda requests postponement of the interviews… until the Secretariat submits the available quota points for each partner state as at the time/date of advertising the jobs,” the later dated October 15, 2021 reads.
On October 12, the Tanzanian legislators set the stage for a crisis after they walked out of the chambers, paralyzing debate, then the following two days the Ugandans and South Sudanese also stayed away.
So high are the stakes that the Juba MPs ousted their chair, Thomas Dut Gatkek, and replaced him with Dr Anne Itto Leonardo. In a letter dated October 14, addressed to the Undersecretary of the South Sudan EAC Affairs ministry, Andrea Malueth, the MPs said they had arrived at the decision during a meeting in Arusha on Wednesday.
“We and the Ugandan chapter are concerned about the unfairness of the recruitment process. The quota system has not been used, so we want the recruitment process to stop so that it can start correctly,” Dr Itto told The EastAfrican.
The EAC has failed to recruit staff for close to 10 years due to differences among partner states. Last month, two Ugandan nationals moved to the East African Court of Justice seeking to halt the current recruitment.
In 2006, the Council issued the EAC Staff Rules and Regulations. Under this process, the Secretary-General advertises, shortlists no more than three candidates from each partner state for each position; chairs an interview panel made up of representatives from each partner state, EAC organ and institution.
But this process was faulted after allegations of nepotism, favouritism and corruption at the EAC secretariat. Citizens of East Africa, a lobby, petitioned the Council, seeking to block a July 2020 recruitment, citing irregularities.
The petitioners accused the Secretariat officials of soliciting bribes from applicants, communicating wrong dates to some short-listed candidates, shredding applications, leaking interview questions, and altering marks to favour others, among other issues.