Anyone who underestimates the political astuteness of Uganda’s president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, makes a critical mistake.
We have just seen the old man of Uganda’s politics, now in power for 29 years and counting, outmaneuver and put his erstwhile nemesis, David Bahati, exactly where he wants him – close, very close.
Museveni has just made the Honorable David Bahati, Member of Parliament for Ndorwa West, he of the infamous Bahati Nazi Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has caused the president so many sleepless nights over the last 5 years, Minister of State for Planning.
The title itself, or that Bahati will have nothing to do – no one in Museveni’s cabinet, other than his wife, has anything significant to do without the president’s express nod – is of no consequence. It is the thinking behind Bahati’s elevation that matters.
While he dabbled in evangelical zealotry and walked around Gung-ho waving a Nazi sex bill President Museveni has never made a secret of disliking, Hon. David Bahati was also racking up huge debts whose servicing left him virtually unable to feed himself past pay-day. Recently, Bahati’s financial woes culminated in ignominy when it was revealed in the press that he was being sued by a Savings Cooperative for 106m/= ($37,800).
Despite his pretense to personal purity and godliness, the whole world now knew that Bahati was nothing other than a profligate, hypocritical, two-bit, vulnerable politician with the financial mind of an ignoramus – just like all the rest of them. Most critically, Bahati was against the wall and sinking fast under a mountain of debt owed to all sorts of lenders, including loan sharks.
Which is how Museveni, who had no doubt been waiting for the chance to pick off his pontificating nemesis, finally found his opportunity.
Elevating Bahati to a minister, albeit one without a clear job description, should earn Bahati a higher salary and open doors to for him to use his office to conduct personally lucrative deals, thereby alleviating his indebtedness. Perhaps he might even become rich if he plays the cards that come with his ministerial office right.
But most critically, and this is the real reason for Museveni picking Bahati, being in cabinet means that one has to agree to collective cabinet responsibility. In Uganda, the president is the decision-maker in cabinet, with ministers just mere poodles to do as he wishes. Effectively the president is the cabinet. Yoweri Museveni thus has Bahati exactly where he wants him – unable to speak out against the president’s wishes the way he has done with his anti-gay bill. This is a case of bringing one’s friends close, and one’s enemies even closer.
Financial penury has finally driven David Bahati into Yoweri Museveni’s lair.
You are not going to see David Bahati running around, shooting his mouth off like a loose cannon on a rolling deck on anything the president doesn’t approve of as long as he remains Museveni’s minister.
As was the result when Speaker of the House, Rebecca Kadaga, picked up her political racquet to try and outhit Museveni, the President has cruelly exposed the incoming Minister of State for Planning.
Quiet please, players are ready. First set 6-1 to Mr. President. Second set Mr. Bahati to serve.