(Adds analyst comment, details)
By Jack Kimball
KAMPALA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni fired his finance minister and moved the energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday that brought onboard his wife and kept key loyalists.
Uganda is gearing up for presidential elections in 2011. Museveni is expected to stand again and the former cattle herder turned student activist and rebel leader is seeking to bolster support within his ruling party.
Museveni replaced Finance Minister Ezra Suruma with Sydda Bbumba and appointed his wife, Janet, as state minister for the Karamoja region, the Ugandan government said in an email showing the reshuffled cabinet which was received on Tuesday.
Suruma, who became a senior adviser on economic affairs, had been under pressure over a multi-million-dollar land scandal involving Uganda’s largest indigenous investor.
One analyst said the reshuffle would not herald much change, with Museveni still very much in charge.
“I don’t think when you change the personalities it makes much difference. This is a system that depends on one-man rule,” said Paul Omach, a political scientist at Makerere University.
While the former guerrilla leader has been praised for the nation’s strong growth, the opposition accuses him of turning into just the kind of power hungry “Big Man” African leader he lambasted as a fresh-faced rebel in the 1980s.
Uganda’s economy has expanded steadily since Museveni took power more than 20 years ago and the discovery of oil in the west has boosted investor interest in the east African nation.
Oil exploration companies say they have found large quantities of crude on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo in Lake Albert, which could have more than a billion barrels of oil.
Museveni replaced Energy Minister Daudi Migereko with Hillary Onek, who moves from the ministry of agriculture.
Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, who has also been named in the land scandal, kept his powerful post.
Suruma’s replacement at the finance ministry, Bbumba, was a former energy minister and most recently minister for gender and social affairs.
Museveni’s brother, Salim Saleh, was dropped as state minister for microfinance and named a senior defence adviser.
The president also appointed Jeje Odongo, a former army chief, as state minister for defence at a time when Ugandan forces are battling Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (Editing by David Clarke)