For God and my country or For my stomach, my
family, relatives and friends: The paradox of Museveni’s 2 billion Car amidst a
dead health sector, increasing poverty , youth unemployment and struggling
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni holds the unique distinction of being perhaps the
world’s most heavily advised leader, boasting an entourage of 82
presidential advisors across a spectrum of subjects, some of which seem
remarkably specific, such as advice on Rukungiri district or Kigezi
dioceses, and even household affairs.
In addition to these advisors,
Museveni’s staff roster includes 27 senior presidential assistants, 40
private secretaries, and a domestic staff of 996 at his residence
alone—comprising 59 waitresses, 14 room attendants, 80 gardeners, 129
drivers, 50 cleaners, 35 cooks, and 12 chefs, among others.
extensive payroll incurs a staggering annual cost of approximately Shs
50 billion. Moreover, Museveni’s office of the president employs an
additional 761 individuals. Such spending comes under scrutiny,
particularly in light of Uganda’s current financial landscape,
characterized by debilitating debt and international sanctions, notably
from the World Bank due to the recent passage of the Anti-Homosexuality
Kira Municipality Member of Parliament
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, who also serves as the Forum for Democratic
Change (FDC) whip in parliament, asserts that Museveni must reduce the
country’s expenditures on his personal staff and advisors to mitigate
the financial crisis. In a detailed 116-page document summarizing the
State House and Office of the President’s ministerial policy statements,
Ssemujju paints a grim picture of Uganda’s economy.
to the Bank of Uganda’s State of the Economy Report from April 2023, the
nation’s total debt (external and domestic) as of March this year
stands at Shs 85.2 trillion, significantly exceeding its annual budget
of Shs 52.7 trillion. The ministry of Finance reports that the total
debt amounts to Shs 80.7 trillion (approximately US$21.7 billion),
comprising Shs 47.7 trillion (US$12.8 billion) in external debt and Shs
33 trillion (US$8.8 billion) in domestic debt.
Furthermore, Ssemujju highlights the
urgency of servicing this debt, with interest payments for the current
financial year reaching Shs 6.1 trillion on loans from local banks and
another one trillion shillings for external loans. This does not even
account for the principal repayments of Shs 2.7 trillion for external
debt. He contends that Uganda’s financial stability is critically
dependent on concessional loans from institutions like the World Bank
and warns against resorting to commercial banks, which levy exorbitant
concludes that given the precarious state of Uganda’s finances, it is
both irresponsible and inaccurate to claim that the country could
weather the storm without external financial assistance. Thus, he calls
for immediate and significant reductions in the fiscal allocation for
President Museveni’s personal staff and advisors.
“Our total debt (external and domestic)
as of March this year is Shs 85.2 trillion according to the Bank of
Uganda State of the Economy April 2023 Report and our total budget is
Shs 52.7 trillion. Ministry of Finance puts the total debt at Shs 80.7
trillion (US$21.7 billion) of which Shs 47.7 trillion (US$12.8 billion)
is external and Shs 33 trillion (US$8.8 billion) is domestic.
The interest on money borrowed from
local commercial banks that is due this financial year is Shs 6.1
trillion. Interest on money borrowed from external sources is Shs 1
trillion. It is not only interest that we are paying. This financial
year payment of the principal on external debt is Shs 2.7 trillion. For
domestic debt, we don’t have money, but we will borrow Shs 8.3 trillion
from the same lenders to pay the old debt before we pick fresh ones...
therefore, irresponsible and inaccurate to say that Uganda will survive
without World Bank funding. Losing concessional loans, means resorting
to commercial banks and moneylenders who charge high interest rates,”
In light of the 2023/4 fiscal year
projections, the Uganda Revenue Authority is expected to amass Shs 29.6
trillion in revenue. Alarmingly, this figure covers only 60 percent of
the budget earmarked for loan repayments.
“It’s startling to observe that our
nation allocates Shs 7 trillion for wages and Shs 13 trillion for
miscellaneous expenditures against program implementation costs of Shs
14 trillion,” stated Ssemujju.
“To put it bluntly, this is akin to
planning a wedding with a budget of Shs 14 trillion and paying the
organizing committee Shs 20 trillion. This is the economics under
President Museveni’s administration.”
to the World Bank’s decision to suspend loans to Uganda, President
Museveni contended that the nation could sustain itself without external
financial aid, urging the country to “live within its means.”
Consequently, Prime Minister Robinah
Nabbanja announced that she had been directed by the president to revise
the 2023/4 budget to compensate for the fiscal gap created by the World
Bank’s withdrawal. However, Ssemujju argues that the initial focus for
any budgetary adjustments should be the State House and the Office of
He maintains that before considering
other avenues, scrutinizing the spending on the president’s extensive
personal staff and advisors would be a prudent first step in addressing
Uganda’s precarious economic situation.
“The president’s convoy now exceeds 60
vehicles, while his son, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, maintains a fleet of
nearly a dozen vehicles, complete with amenities akin to those of his
father’s convoy. Janet Museveni, the president’s wife, also has her own
convoy with similar facilities. This isn’t the representation of leaders
governing an economically challenged country reliant on unpayable
loans; rather, it resembles the grandiosity of kings, queens, and
royalty,” observed Ssemujju.
“This extravagance was further
accentuated at their recent wedding anniversary, where their guests of
honor were Nigerian chiefs, known for their own opulence. Clearly,
President Museveni and his family aspire to rival such monarchial
Ssemujju’s scrutinizing analysis of
policy statements reveals that the Office of the President employs a
substantial workforce of 761 staff, including 82 presidential advisors,
142 resident district commissioners (RDCs), 98 deputy RDCs, and 27
senior presidential assistants. Moreover, Ssemujju questions not only
the large size of this staff but also the apparent lack of clear
guidelines for their recruitment, qualifications, and remuneration.
According to these policy statements,
salaries among presidential advisors vary wildly. For instance,
President Museveni’s brother, Caleb Akandwanaho, also known as Salim
Saleh, earns Shs 17 million, while Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda receives Shs 20
million. For this fiscal year, Uganda is slated to expend Shs 25.3
billion on salaries and wages and an additional Shs 5.4 billion on staff
training within the President’s Office alone.
Special presidential assistants, such as
singer Catharine Kusasira, are also beneficiaries, earning up to Shs
2.5 million per month. The government further incurs costs on vehicles,
drivers, escorts, fuel, rent, and other recurrent expenditures for the
RDCs and some presidential advisors. The Office of the President
operates an astonishing fleet of 400 vehicles, each ranging in cost from
Shs 50 million to Shs 200 million.
In light of these facts, Ssemujju
advocates for a thorough re-evaluation of this spending, especially
given the country’s precarious financial standing and increasing
national debt. Aside from the 400 vehicles maintained by the Office of
the President, State House, the president’s official residence, boasts
an additional fleet of 266 vehicles. Notably, 71 of these are dedicated
solely to President Museveni’s convoy for domestic travel.
State House policy statement provides a cost range for these
vehicles—between Shs 150 billion and Shs 500 million—the actual costs of
the president’s personal vehicles remain undisclosed.
“In a matter of a few years, the
vehicular assets of State House have seen a significant increase.
According to the Ministerial Policy Statement for the Presidency for the
fiscal year 2018/19, the tally stood at 195 vehicles. By 2021/22, this
number had escalated to 266. Furthermore, vehicles designated for the
presidential convoy grew from 33 in 2018/19 to 68 in 2021/22,” noted
“Moreover, annual expenses on vehicle
maintenance were Shs 7.2 billion in 2018, while fuel costs—subsumed
under inland travel expenses—total Shs 80 billion each year.”
Among the 996 employees at State House,
Uganda allocates an annual Shs 47.7 billion for salaries and allowances,
all part of the Shs 410 billion budget for State House this fiscal
year. In an interview with The Observer, Ssemujju argued that
before Museveni considers salary cuts for public servants, he should
first scrutinize the exorbitant spending at his own residence and
“Before we even talk about wider fiscal
reform, the wastefulness begins with the president. Salim Saleh, for
instance, is essentially a distributor of money; why should he be on a
salary? State House employs more wait staff, cooks, and gardeners than
the largest hotel in Uganda. Moreover, we continue to remunerate former
prime ministers like Kintu Musoke and Ruhakana Rugunda as presidential
advisors. This is simply indefensible,” Ssemujju said.
When questioned about parliament’s own lavish spending, Ssemujju concurred that reform was essential.
“With 529 MPs, our parliament is
excessively large; a more reasonable size would be around 200 members. I
had previously suggested that government officials should purchase
their own vehicles, but the proposal was overtaken by the minister of
Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, and never revisited. Rest assured, once
we begin to reform the presidency, it will set the precedent for
institutional change across the board,” Ssemujju concluded.
STATE HOUSE RESPONDS
Faruk Kirunda, deputy presidential press
secretary, argued that Ssemujju, who serves both as a member of
parliament and an investor, should acknowledge the stability brought to
Uganda by the NRM government, which has facilitated his significant
“Let’s be clear: Ssemujju should reflect
on his journey before entering parliament and recognize how the current
administration has transformed Uganda,” Kirunda stated, without
elaborating on the nature of Ssemujju’s investments. Kirunda further
questioned Ssemujju’s understanding of the intricacies of governance.
“Is Honorable Ssemujju fully aware of
the president’s roles and responsibilities? Does he understand the
operational dynamics of State House and its distinct functions compared
to the mainstream government? Is he informed about the oversight
performed by State House staff who support the president, as well as the
broader civil service whose work they verify?”
Kirunda emphasized that Ssemujju, given
his parliamentary experience, should be familiar with the constitutional
role of resident district commissioners (RDCs).
“Has Ssemujju ever proposed a private
member’s bill to abolish this office? Does he comprehend the
Constitutional mandate of RDCs, or does he not have faith in the very
constitution that enabled his election?”
The deputy press secretary also challenged Ssemujju’s understanding of the advisory role within the presidency.
“Who led Ssemujju to believe that
presidential advisors report directly to the president? In reality, they
report to the minister for the Presidency, who is their immediate
Kirunda closed by cautioning Ssemujju to educate himself on governmental operations before making such claims.
“Honorable Ssemujju, whom I hold in high
regard, should take time to understand these structures before
commenting. If he struggles with internal party issues within the FDC,
it’s doubtful he would grasp these governmental complexities,” Kirunda
concluded, hinting at Ssemujju’s recent conflicts within the FDC over
allegations of financial impropriety in the 2021 general elections.