There is a new boss in State House and that is none other than Dr. Kenneth Omona, who was fished from the NRM Secretariat to become Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to H.E the President. Dr. Omona’s appointment coincided with a cabinet reshuffle that saw his predecessor, Ms. Molly Kamukama, take up a post as Minister of State for Economic Monitoring.
The PPS heads the private office and household of H.E the President as the overall coordinator, supervisor, and manager of the related staff and functional units. All heads of related units, as well as private secretaries, report to the PPS. The role is, therefore, needless to say, high profile and influential. A PPS coordinates the president’s engagements and activities, keeps records and sets appointments. It is a very sensitive role that requires astuteness and a high level of intelligence to keep the presidency running efficiently.
The public was excited about Omona’s appointment, with congratulations coming in from all over. That’s understandable, considering that Omona is a down-to-earth and social man of the people. He belongs among the bright and loyal young turks of NRM who are taking charge of the system. His most previous posting was as deputy treasurer at the NRM Secretariat. Before that, he was a Member of Parliament representing Kaberamaido County.
While still in Parliament, he proved to be a disciplined and loyal legislator who would have easily won reelection or got himself a slot in the cabinet. But as fate would have it, NRM was undergoing a transition where a trusted young team needed to take the reins of the party and build it as a functional mass party. That Omona and colleagues, Ms. Kasule Lumumba (secretary general), Mr. Richard Todwong (deputy secretary general) and Ms. Rose Namayanja (treasurer) gave up their interests in Parliament to serve the party was a sign of true cadreship. They managed to lead the party to achieve victory in the 2016 general elections
But Omona is now a civil servant, and expected to serve every Ugandan as the link with their president. This role he must deliver on professionally despite being a “man of the people”. Fans in the corridors of power and on social media should not attempt to influence him but should just support him to do his job perfectly. PPS’s face a lot of pressure from numerous interests looking to meet the president or seeking some kind of favour. It can get to the occupants’ head and when expectations of “friends” are not met, intelligence reports start to fly.
All that the new PPS has to do is respect the system and implement the directives of the head-of-state. He will be safe! The president selects his aides meticulously, expecting them to work with rigor and integrity, often time under pressure. It is a demanding job that requires one to be where the president is most of the time, and we are talking about a workaholic president.
Omona’s predecessor, Ms. Molly Kamukama, has done a good job since 2016 when she replaced Ms. Mary Amajo who was also from Teso. I saw some people posit that Omona is the first man to serve as PPS under the NRM government. That is not true! Previous male PPSs are Benon Biraaro (Major General) and Lt. Col. Sserwanga Lwanga (R.I.P). Gender doesn’t matter but what counts is the personality of the office holder.
One of the former PPSs who are remembered for doing a sterling job is Mzee Henry Kyemba who performed that role under Obote I and Idi Amin. Imagine the knockabout tendencies of Amin and having be his “manager”; it was a delicate and delicate job but Kyemba proved very competent. He was later to serve as Minister, both in the Amin era and in the NRM government.
Ms. Amelia Kyambadde who has held the position for the longest and quit to join politics in 2010 also became minister once she got to Parliament. The position affords one an insider understanding of the works of President Museveni and government, which makes serving in other capacities easy. Work and issues come in from all sectors of government and the state and beyond; it is like being a prime minister (in State House).
Omona will perform well if he takes lessons from the experiences of his predecessors, avoids coming under pressure from selfish interests and strictly acts on the directives of the president. He should put his foot down and say “no!” to intrigue and acts intended to manipulate the big man. At the end of his tenure, he will emerge more powerful, competitive and experienced enough to serve in any capacity.
I wish Dr. Omona the best in his new role!
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management