Why Does Uganda Need the World’s Third-Largest Cabinet?

The fact that government shrank between 1992 and 1995 and began to expand again after 1996 is not an accident. In 1996 is when President Yoweri Museveni entered electoral politics. It is the strategy that Museveni adopted for winning support that explains the growth in government (political patronage) generally and cabinet in particular. It is in focusing on this strategy that we can understand today’s Uganda. – Andrew Mwenda

Uganda's Cabinet Ministers

Image of Uganda's Cabinet from The Independent

This is a story about political patronage at its best, and a view into what a master President Museveni is at playing the game.

A recent article in The Independent by Andrew Mwenda presents one of the most wide-ranging and well-researched explanations I have come across for why Uganda’s political structure, both local and national, is set up the way it is.

The global average of Cabinet Ministers is 30. Uganda has 71. The only two countries in the world with a larger cabinet are North Korea and Kenya – definitely two models of good governance (ahem).

He explores different possible explanations for why the number is so high (tribal-based politics?  Religious divides?), and gives well-reasoned arguments why these don’t serve as good answers.

Then he looks at the timeline of the ballooning of many government and quasi-governmental posts.  Not surprisingly, it corresponds with the years when Uganda was switching over from a benevolent-military-dictatorship to a democracy.

“Thus between 1992 and 1995, Uganda’s cabinet fell from 78 to 40; the army from 100,000 to 40,000; the civil service from 278,000 to 146,000 and the public enterprises sector from 150 parastatals to 43. However, beginning with 1996 to the present (i.e. 2011), things began to change in the opposite direction; the civil service, the number of districts, the size of parliament, the number of presidential advisors, the size of cabinet and the number of semi autonomous government bodies begin to grow. It is therefore not only the cabinet that has grown but the size of government.

While the official army did not grow, the number of auxiliary forces grew from zero to 78,000; the number of districts from 33 to 114, the number of semi-autonomous government agencies from 11 to 178, the number of presidential advisors from six to 124, the number of security organisations from 12 to 36 by 2009 and the size of the civil service from 146,000 in 1995 to 320,000 in 2010.”

The article then goes on to explore how these Ministers and other African elites justify their lavish lifestyles in the face of the poverty of their constituencies.

The one shortfall of the article is that it doesn’t articulate the cost of this large cadre of Ministers to the country.  My guess is that it is staggering in the context of Uganda’s budget.  The article has a place for the “official” political patronage budget, but the numbers have either been stripped from the article or the numbers weren’t confirmed before the article went to press.

Read the rest of this fascinating article:  Uganda Has Third Largest Cabinet in the World

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

Enhanced by Zemanta

About Mark D. Jordahl

Mark Jordahl is a writer, trip leader and naturalist who has lived much of the last 7 years in Uganda and currently calls Colorado home.
This entry was posted in Articles, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.