Kigali: On the evening of May 24, 2013, news emerged that President Paul Kagame had dropped two well-known cabinet members, and brought in new faces. The President, in consultation with the head of Government, the Prime Minister, brought in Justice Johnston Busingye to replace long-serving Tharcisse Karugarama, as Justice Minister and Attorney Genaral.
Justice Busingye, who has been a major player in the post-genocide reconstruction of Rwanda’s justice system, had been the Principal Judge of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) based in Arusha, Tanzania. The Cabinet Affairs portfolio was filled with Ms Stella Ford Mugabo, who has been in charge of the Public Sector Capacity Building Secretariat (PSCBC). Ms Mugabo displaced Engineer Protais Musoni.
Since the announcements were made, along with other changes, the local news media and social networks have been abuzz with speculation as to why Karugarama and Musoni were dropped. Some have suggested that Karugarama is victim of the comments which were attributed to him by a recent story in the Guardian newspaper. In the case of Musoni, the speculators – mainly journalists in and outside Rwanda, suggested he was in for big things.
Much of what has been said remains as speculation because no tangible facts were put forward. A further probing of the two former ministers, who are considered senior RPF members, reveals more disturbing facts about why the appointing authority decided; enough was enough.
Protais Musoni: a case of diminishing returns
Protais Musoni has been in cabinet since 2002, in addition to another long list of previous senior appointments. Prior to that, Musoni had served one of the RPF’s top cadres. But as one insider aware of the insider-goings of government put it, Musoni had been over the past few years turned into a liability to the effective performance of the administrative structure. His performance was more of “diminishing returns”, as very little was coming from him.
But why would the once star-performer turn into the opposite? Sources privy to the details of Musoni’s public engagement tell us that the ex-minister was acting much older than his actual age (60year). The aging element, says the source, was compounded by Musoni’s continuous degeneration into an alcoholic.
The source tells us Musoni had lost moral authority after he was linked to land grabbing in the Eastern Province. The ex-minister himself was a major culprit in a particular case involving 400 acres. In a rare stance, Musoni apologized to his superiors for otherwise galloping appetite for property.
New Lady on the block: Ms Stella Ford Mugabo may not be known to many, but the appointing authority has huge hopes in her to coordinate the entire cabinet owing to her experience managing the often troublesome and complex private sector
Actually, according to our source, allowing Musoni to relinquish such a demanding cabinet role was ‘long overdue’. The ex-bureaucrat was having hard times keeping up to the demands of his office. Case in point, in late 2011, several journalists had been invited to his office. One of the journalists who attended the session tells us that Musoni would speak and at times go off topic or forget what he was explaining midway.
Such situations happened several times, during when his advisor at the time Kim Kamasa would intervene. The minister also kept removing his spectacles, and wiping his forehead and eyes, a sign the once-vibrant minister, was becoming weaker.
We decided to grant anonymity to our sources, to allow them speak freely. As some of the social media posts suggest, Musoni, like anybody should not be seen as indispensable. As a country that has to move faster than it should, to get to its ambitious agenda, the appointing authority needs a constant supply of fresh blood with new vigour. Ms Stella Ford Mugabo, who has been managing a complex capacity building office, comes in as one of the best on offer.
Karugarama: a “non-state actor”
The ex-justice minister, many will agree, took over the helm of the stewardship of Rwanda’s justice sector in August 2006 as a star entrant. Contrary to how some political appointments are made, Karugarama was considered as one of the sector’s godfathers. Many of the judicial changes have been attributed to him.
But like the old saying goes; it gets to a time when new ideas are actually not new. Karugarama has been “continuously declining in performance”, said one of our sources. The appointing authority needed to “reinvigorate” the sector, added the source.
One of the judicial officials at local level, who have to implement many of the legal reforms, from the central government, tells us it was becoming impossible for them to keep track of the many changes. As another judicial official put it, Karugarama ‘created insecurity in the laws’. The most affected section of the judiciary was the judges.
Officials with knowledge of the inner functioning of the justice ministry say the judges have repeatedly complained about the constant review of laws – mainly the penal code. The changes were contributing to a pilling up of unsolved case files. As a result, according to the same sources, corruption in the judiciary was becoming a big challenge to the fight against graft.
Karugarama was the minister of justice and attorney, essentially the country’s top law enforcement official, but has been behaving like a ‘non-state actor’, said another of our sources. Karugarama acts and speaks like an NGO with no role in what is being formulated by the very institution he manages, added the source.
The technocrat? Justice Johnston Busingye (standing) brings into the justice portfolio a background of somebody who has had to live with the “insecurity in the laws” created by his predecessor Karugarama
Officials at the ministry have told us that Karugarama displayed a major lack of ownership of many of the tasks he was given. Case in point; in parliament on June 18, 2012, when the Gacaca courts were being closed, Karugarama embarrassingly looked unprepared, had no speech and did not look like an official in charge.
With more than six years at the same department, the ex-justice minister had created what some employees described as “Karugarama’s network”. Many of the senior positions at the ministry had been filled by personally selected officials. Our sources cite most the senior state attorneys and senior directors, as having been pushed up the ladder to serve his interests.
In a particular case, the office of the Permanent Secretary; this serves as the ministry’s accounting authority, was no longer in charge of crucial dossiers at the institution. The current PS was virtually none existent as all his duties were performed by others who reporting directly to minister Karugarama.
Our sources have put to us that it was through these networks that Karugarama was “influence peddling” in all departments to satisfy his ends.
New faces? Not entirely…
But even with these weaknesses, the bottom-line remains that the ministry needed a new direction. Karugama, like Musoni, could have been a force for good, but had become a liability too expensive to maintain. Rwanda is moving too fast, any institution or individual who blocks the progress in any form should not be allowed to keep serving. Karugama, like Musoni, was not unchangeable.
Even as Justice Busingye and Ms Mugabo are elevated to new portfolios, they must be having weaknesses which the appointing authority may need to look into. Even as the President and PM may believe they have made the ultimate choices, it will not be long that we will begin to see if they can really make a difference.
The justice and cabinet affairs portfolios are some of the government’s key administrative centres which need highly skilled and motivated individuals. We can only hope, Busingye and Ms Mugabo meet the expectation.
Based on RPF’s principles, as has been suggested on social media, sometimes those dropped are accommodated. It can only be speculated that Karugarama and Musoni will eat from the same pot.
source: Rwanda News Agence