Three senior ministers: Sam Kutesa, Foreign Affairs, John Nasasira, Chief Whip and Mwesigwa Rukutana, Labour have taken leave of office to allow investigations against them over abuse of office and causing financial loss, run smoothly. The trio was indicted by the Inspector General of Government in relation to the Chogm 2007 expenditure. And on Thursday, the said ministers appeared before the anti-corruption court but were set free on bail after spending hours in court. Relatedly, Mr Kutesa was also accused by parliament for allegedly taking a 17millon Euros bribe from an oil company. The MPs bade for his blood but the powerful Foreign Affairs minister put up a fight saying the documents were a forgery.
Whether forged or not, why is the storm so wild this time? The politics is involved. And yes, big money is at the center. Let us first look at it this way. I have been told by my sources that Kutesa is at the center because a foreign power suspected to be Rwanda is involved.
Apparently, sources say, senior journalist Andrew Mwenda was the first to land on these documents tabled before parliament because they were given to him by Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. This theory holds that Kagame is not in good books with Kutesa. The reasons are difficult to fathom but it’s said the Kutesa had beaten Rwanda in international politics, marketing Uganda’s image while Kigali’s reputation kept a downward trend especially with the assassination attempts to Rwandan dissidents.
Kagame was unhappy with Kutesa particularly because some of the Rwandan dissidents escaped from Rwanda through Kampala to other Capitals. Uganda kept denying that they were facilitating the dissidents to go through Kampala. Rwanda’s suspicion against Uganda intensified when her dissidents were even got with Ugandan passports.
Rwanda reasoned that Uganda must have been facilitating the dissidents. Uganda argued that most of the dissidents had lived in Uganda, therefore; know the terrain better, so they could use that to transit through the country.
I hear Kagame was not impressed and suspected the Kutesa might be mean with the truth. Relations between these two countries have been shaky. To make matters worse, Uganda continues to attract important international conferences much to the chagrin of Rwanda.
Suspicion is that Kigali opted to weaken Uganda’s international influence by attacking the mastermind—Kutesa. The documents [forged or not] were reportedly obtained and handed over to Mwenda, a known ally and PR consultant for Kagame.
Some say he was given the papers to do a story in his Independent Magazine to rattle Kutesa and the regime. For yet unknown reasons, Mwenda delivered the papers to both President Museveni and Kutesa.
An investigation was ordered by Museveni. The team comprised Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, Commissioner of Police John Ndgugutse and Andrew Mwenda himself. They travelled to Malta, London and Zurich. It’s not clear why Mwenda, a journalist, joined the Police in its investigations. While out, Gen. Kayihura reportedly recorded some bank officials on a pen recorder. The officials said they would not validate any documents. The recording was delivered to Museveni. That was last year.
Why is the matter now popping up? Apparently, it was sparked off by a fight between two oil giants: Heritage and Tullow.
Having withdrawn from Uganda and sold their oil wells to Tullow, Heritage reportedly wants a comeback. The firm, according to sources, started a campaign to expose Tullow as having bought its way into Uganda’s Oil by paying hefty sums of money to senior government officials. Indeed, money had exchanged hands. But the intention of Heritage was to put Tullow in bad light. They named government officials both politicians and bureaucrats who have reportedly harvested large sums of money from Tullow through kick-backs. Then they also extended a monetary inducement to some MPs to kick up a storm. However, Tullow picks the plan and responds by also supplying some MPs with evidence that Heritage wanted to avoid paying the Capital gains tax. They also helped MPs understand that the agreement to have arbitration between Uganda and Heritage in London was a ploy by Heritage to reap off the country.
Mind you, this war erupts when the oil licenses for Tullow were expiring. Heritage is reportedly financing the motion that no licences should be renewed until the necessary laws are in place. This motion would serve Heritage interests because then, they can come back and reapply. But Tullow is sponsoring the motion that the existing agreements should continue and that the arbitration between Heritage and Uganda should not be done in London. This is to knock out Heritage from the competition.
As this fight rages, President Museveni reportedly opted to open up the oil fields to various players. Museveni, according to sources, nurses the view that in order for him to stay in power without trouble when oil harvesting starts, there was need to give oil deals to firms from different key international players. His instruction to the then Energy minister Hillary Onek was the a Chinese firm CNOOC, Italian firm Eni, Heritage and Tullow which are all British and other French and Indian firms must each be given a share.
This in turn would insulate Museveni against international political pressure to cause governance reforms as these countries would vote for stability that allows them to siphon Uganda’s oil than for internal democratic reforms.
But a clash among the firms sparked off commercial maneuvers that saw several government officials sucked in to harvest the readily available bribes. Security officials got involved as well. Now the MPs have become the ready guns available to the oil giants to settle their scores. Most of the MPs have limited knowledge of what goes on in the oil sector except the usual cry from the civil society that the oil deals are made transparent.
But for political convenience [ to be seen by their electorate and settling elections differences] and for the financial inducements, the MPs are acting serious on this subject ignorant of the fact that the war they were fighting was not there war or the Ugandans because the oil will go cheaply anyway.
This has degenerated into a domestic political elbowing among several power centers in the ruling NRM party.
The focus now is on who is powerful than the other. Matters have not been helped by the simmering succession battle pitying the flamboyant and often arrogant Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi against other contenders like the First Lady Janet Muhoozi and Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, President’s first choice for his successor.
Kutesa has no interest in succeeding Museveni but he is known to be close to both Janet and Muhoozi, the latter being his son-in law. Kutesa is a rich man and could be decisive on who succeeds Museveni.
This is not going well for Mbabazi. So, the two get a conflict because if indeed Janet or Muhoozi wants to become President, Kutesa would not support Mbabazi.
Other reports show that Mbabazi believes he can succeed MUseveni because the President’s plan is to introduce Muhoozi to the succession process gradually. In the meantime, there is need for a stop gap President who would not stand in the way of Muhoozi. This is the opportunity Mbabazi sees as his although others don’t trust in him.
Initially, Museveni was banking of the now disgraced Prof. Gilbert Bukenya but the man’s shrewdness and political mobilization became a problem. To make matters worse, Bukenya began to show interest in having connections with the military which is exclusively Museveni’s constituency. This made Bukenya in the eyes of Museveni as an ambitious man who could not be trusted. The idea was to have a Muganda before Muhoozi steps in thus the choice of the seemingly dull Edward Sekandi.
The calculation is that since the military runs NRM politics, Sekandi has no upper hand there, therefore; it’s assumed that when he is made a one-term President, the military would dictate until Muhoozi finally becomes President.
But because he is readily available to do Museveni’s bidding, Mbabazi believes he is the right successor. His shortcoming though is that he has no votes outside his family members and a few intelligence boys he uses. But Mbabazi has gone on a mission to damage all other contenders.
Because he suspects Kutesa, Nasasira and Rukutana to be Janet’s right hand men, he is reportedly attempting to soil their image before the public.
Unfortunately, while the trio is rich, Mbabazi could have chosen a wrong rallying point against the trio. To accuse them of corruption and portraying himself as clean, Mbabazi could have underestimated the fact the public sees the entire NRM set up as a collection of thieves. In fact the public demand now is that Mbabazi should be in the dock.
This fight has generated a hostile internal political climate within NRM. Many fingers point to Mbabazi as the orchestrator of strife in the party. Now that Kutesa, Nasasira and Rukutana hitherto seen as close allies to the President have set a precedent of stepping aside to allow investigations against them, will Mbabazi tomorrow violate this given that he is married to controversy as well?
While the Kutesa precedent is good for crusaders of good governance, it’s a big challenge to the NRM and Museveni. Anybody appointed by the President will have to step aside if allegations are brought against them. With intrigue that borders to pettiness rampant in NRM, we are bound to see more dramatic scenarios, the kind of political scenarios that usually end regimes.
For now, from being seen as corrupt; Kutesa, Nasasira and Rukutana have become true crusaders and supporters of the fight against corruption in Uganda. No other minister will claim to have loved transparency and good governance than the trio who have voluntarily yielded to pressure and taken leave. They will now have the audacity to ask anyone else to step aside. But the headache remains with MUseveni: if you’re perceived close allies have taken leave, why would you not ask the VP or Prime Minister to do the same?
Will party cohesion remain intact? Folks, we could finally a regime change without a bullet being shot provided that the current infighting does not lead to assassinations and counter assassinations. Anything is possible. And then the real oil curse will have taken residence in Uganda.