Opposition Being in Cabinet is Normal Worldwide

New Cabinet

A few weeks ago ,the president released a list of ministers who will serve in the different ministries of his new government that will run in this term that ends in 2021.Though there was a lot of pressure on him to release the list after even having the state of the nation address without them, he later released the list that took many by storm because of the new faces that appeared in the cabinet including members of the opposition parties(Betty Amongi (UPC), Beti Kamya (UFA) and Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi (DP)).First of all I would like to briefly educate my fellow Ugandans about the procedures of choosing ministers and how the cabinet functions,

Cabinet ministers, like all ministers, are appointed and may be dismissed by the monarch at pleasure (that is, they may be dismissed without notice or reason given, although normally they are given a courteous option to resign), on the advice of the Prime Minister. The allocation and transfer of responsibilities between ministers and departments is also generally at the Prime Minister’s discretion. The Cabinet has always been led by the Prime Minister, whose unpaid office as such was traditionally described as merely  (first among equals), but today the Prime Minister is clearly the preeminent head of government business, with the effective power to dismiss Cabinet ministers and to control the Cabinet’s agenda. The extent to which the Government is collegial presumably varies with political conditions and individual personalities.

In many parliamentary democracies, including those that use the Westminster system, Cabinet ministers are usually (or mandatory) appointed from among sitting members of the legislature and either remain members of the legislature while serving in the cabinet (e.g. in the United Kingdom), or have to give up their seat in parliament, which is especially the case in countries with a strict separation between the executive and legislative branches of government (e.g. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium etc.). The latter is usually also the case in countries with a presidential system: Cabinet members cannot be sitting legislators, and legislators who are offered appointments must resign if they wish to accept.

Legally, under both types of systems, the Westminster system and the presidential system, the Cabinet “advises” the Head of State: the difference is that, in a parliamentary system, the monarch, viceroy or ceremonial president will almost always follow this advice, whereas in a presidential system, a president who is also head of government and political leader may depart from the Cabinet’s advice if he does not agree with it.

In parliamentary democracies which do not have the Westminster system, very often the Cabinet does not “advise” the Head of State as he (or she) plays only a ceremonial role. Instead, it is usually the Head of Government who holds all means of power in his hands (e.g. in Germany, Sweden, Spain, etc.) and the Cabinet reports to him (or her).

In some countries (e.g. the US) attorneys general also sit in the cabinet, while in many others this is strictly prohibited as the attorneys general are considered to be part of the judicial branch of government. The day-to-day role of most cabinet members is to serve as the chief of one segment of the executive branch of the national government (or regional government in federal systems) and its respective bureaucracy to whom all other subordinate public servants and employees in that ministry or department have to report.

Under the doctrine of separation of powers, a cabinet under a presidential system of government is part of the executive branch. In addition to administering their respective segments of the executive branch, cabinet members are responsible for advising the head of government on areas within their purview.

They are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the head of government and are therefore strongly subordinate to the president as they can be replaced at any time. Normally, since they are appointed by the president, they are members of the same political party, but the executive is free to select anyone, including opposition party members, subject to the advice and consent of the State technical people.

To focus more on how and why the opposition members are chosen on the cabinet of president Museveni is that he likes a better and united Uganda that works for everyone. The president has at many times asked many of the opposition leaders to join him in the struggle but many have been misusing the chance and they are the very people complaining about these other opposition members who have accepted office. To cite a few examples, I would like to start with India, The constitution allows the PM to appoint any MP as a minister. (Including one who belongs to the opposition party) but if the PM appoints someone from an opposition party as a minister, he/she would become a part of the government. And if you’re a part of the government, how can you be a part of the opposition at the same time? This creates an extremely complicated situation. So, technically speaking it is possible, but then the minister would be from an opposition party, but not in the opposition and that is ok with some ministers like Betty Kamya and Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi who are in the opposition party but not in the parliamentary opposition.


Secondly, It certainly happens, though it is still reasonably uncommon. I’ve found four occurrences during the Obama presidency, and just a handful more during the previous four presidencies combined where opposition members have operated in the ruling party as ministers and here below are some of them in America that we all believe in that has got a fine and fair democracy.

  • Obama: Defense (Robert Gates and Chuck Hagel), Transportation (Ray LaHood), Veteran Affairs (Robert McDonald). Obama also nominated Judd Gregg for Commerce, but he withdrew.
  • Dubya: Transportation (Norman Mineta).
  • Clinton: Defense (William Cohen).
  • Bush: Education (Lauro Cavazos)
  • Reagan: Education (William Bennett, Lauro Cavazos), UN (Jeanne Kirkpatrick, though she switched to Republican).

Leaving America alone, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru appointed members of opposition in his cabinet of ministers in the very first government of independent India and these included the following:

  • Dr. B.R.Ambedkar: Belonged to the SCF. Appointed as the minister of law.
  • Syama Prasad Mookerjee: Belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha. Appointed as the minister of industry and supplies.
  • Baldev Singh and many others were in the very first independent government of India at that time of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.

I therefore think its unwise for my fellow Ugandans in the opposition to shout and debate opposition ministers in the government that is leading Uganda till 2021 and surprising I have to quote Hon. Betty kamya’s words in the recent Ministers retreat in Kyankwanzi “President Museveni is a very incredible person. Now that I know him better, I’ll tell my friends about him.”, Those are the leaders we want who struggle for a common goal and if her appointment wasn’t constitutional then the whole issue could end up in court but its good some members sitting on the legal committee from the opposition (Hon. Abdul Katuntu) have accepted its right having opposition in the cabinet but only had doubt in the sitting arrangement but soon I will present that in my writing. All I ask from the ministers appointed from the opposition is a good working relationship and delivering services to Ugandans and we shall be good to go and fulfill our vision 2040.

By Micheal Woira




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