Friday, 18 November 2011

Why Catholic Bishops want Mbabazi, Onek to step aside

The Catholic Episcopal Conference has come out to demand that ministers named in the alleged oil bribery should step aside. The ministers implied in clergy’s statement are Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs minister Hillary Onek.
The two ministers have defied a parliamentary resolution that asked them to take leave from parliament until investigations into the allegations against them are concluded.  However, the story behind the clergy’s demand for transparency from government in regard to oil management is as interesting and dramatic as Ugandan politics can be.
The object of the clergy’s statement read by the Chairman of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop John Baptist Odama is one man called Amama Mbabazi. And it boils down to the Mbabazi war against former VP Gilbert Bukenya.
This is how the statement was arrived at. After Bukenya got bail and left Luzira prison last month, he called President Museveni to inform him that he was going to compete for his Busiro North seat which he had lost through a court verdict.
But Bukenya was bold. He told Museveni that he was going to campaign as an Independent candidate because Mbabazi was doing all he could to fight him out of the party. Museveni was shocked by his former number two’s position to leave the party.
And knowing that the Luzira experience had earned Bukenya sympathy which would translate into victory, Museveni asked Bukenya to see him. Apparently, Museveni did not want Bukenya in parliament on an Independent ticket as that was tinker with the NRM dynamics in parliament. Bukenya would have no political obligation to agree with the government position in parliament even if he would still profess sympathy for the ruling party and Museveni, the individual.
But how tricky it would be, Mr Museveni demanded to have face to face talks with Bukenya. However, Bukenya had a better political move. He asked Museveni that he would be accompanied to the meeting by a few of his people. Museveni consented.
So, when Bukenya and his people arrived at State House, Museveni was shocked to see that the delegation included: Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga,  Lugazi Diocese Bishop Mathias Ssekamaanya and the Katikiro Eng. John Baptist Walusimbi. It was a senior Catholic Church entourage and a Buganda top delegation good enough to deliver a strong political message to Museveni.
After the exchange of pleasantries, Museveni asked Bukenya not to stand as an independent. But Bukenya’s entourage delivered a political message to Museveni: that Bukenya had suffered a lot yet he was not the only if not the most corrupt high ranking government official. While they supported the fight against corruption, they were unhappy that politics other than corruption fight informed Bukenya’s prosecution.
The clergy told Museveni not humiliate Bukenya the way Mbabazi was doing through the Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku. They were upset by the President’s inability to reign in Baku not to humiliate Bukenya.
A condition was given: If Bukenya was to stand on NRM ticket, the IGG was to withdraw charges of abuse of office against the former VP. A fly that was on the wall, says the President summoned Baku to the same meeting with immediate effect. And before the prelates, Baku was ordered to withdraw the charges against his former VP.
Apparently, when Baku fidgeted trying to justify is position, Museveni reportedly asked him: “Do you want to overthrow my government?”  The man from West Nile got into a panic mode. He was told he would not leave the meeting until his letter withdrawing the case was received by court. Baku rings his officials to notify court of his office’s decision to discontinue prosecution against Bukenya.
With prelates’ mission achieved, Museveni demanded his political share. He reportedly lectured the clergy about the dangers of Col. Kizza Besigye’s walk-to-work protests. In fact he asked for their support to discourage the protest. As pay back, Bishop Lwanga was the first to come out openly condemning walk-to-work protests. He has maintained that stance since.
But the prelates still want Mbabazi to pay for his insidious war against the Catholic Church hence the call for transparency in oil management and the Episcopal statement demanding all ministers named in oil bribery to step aside. That real thing is that the Catholic Church has put Mbabazi on notice. As bystanders, we can only watch.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Why IGG’s case against three ministers will collapse

The trial of three senior ministers accused of abuse of office and causing financial loss by the IGG is mere political witch-hunt or a joke bound to collapse in court.
The IGG’s evidence in court is a copy of unsigned minutes of an alleged meeting in Munyonyo which was reportedly chaired by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa and attended by John Nasasira, Rukutana Mwesigwa, Ambassador Julius Onen, Chris Kassami, the Secretary to the Treasury, Sudhri Ruparelia, the city tycoon and Eng. Sam Bagonza among others.
According to the IGG’s court file, which I have seen, the main evidence is the unsigned purported minutes. He also intends to line up the following as his witnesses: Chris Kassami, Julius Onen, Samson Bagonza, Christopher Gashirabake, a State Attorney from the ministry of Justice, Fred Kagoda, an Engineer from Works ministry, Alex Kakooza, the Under Secreatry at Works and one John Bosco Suuza.
The ministers are charged on two counts: Irregularly convening a consultative Cabinet Sub Committee meeting and irregularly committing government to fund the cost of construction driveways, parking areas and a marina at Speke Resort Munyonyo at Shs14billion.
But the charges are weak because the ministers did not illegally convene a meeting on December 17, 2005 as the IGG alleges. Instead, a Cabinet Subcommittee on Chogm had on September 27, 2005 mandated the Foreign Affairs minister to lead a tour of the facilities.
Minute 15/2005 of the Cabinet Sub Committee reads: “…agreed that formal letters of interest be communicated to the proprietors of venues and a team led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, composed of the following make a physical assessment of facilities; Security, Tourism, Trade and Industry, Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Attorney General’s Office, Media and Works, Transport and Communications.”
It was on this Cabinet recommendation that Kutesa led a team of ministers to tour Munyonyo. This is the same meeting the IGG calls illegal. Sources say the ministers will argue in court that they never did anything illegal by visiting Munyonyo and identifying what they thought was needed to make the place fit to host CHogm retreat.
Apparently, during the visit, the discussions were informal. They team retreated for refreshments and left the venue without formal discussions. It’s these informal discussions that Eng. Bangonza jotted down in his notebook.
And after becoming the first Chogm victim after the construction of the road in Munyonyo was found to be inflated, Bagonza reportedly revisited his notebook and wrote what he called minutes of the meeting. Sources say after being humiliated, Bangonza felt the three ministers did not help him escape jail. He, therefore, teamed with Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi [he has succession battles to fight] to use the so called minutes to implicate the three ministers.  Mbabazi directed the IGG to swing into action.  However, even Bagonza’s own minutes do not say anywhere that the ministers committed government to spend hs14billion in Munyonyo.
“The chairman thereafter requested members to discuss all available options for Government’ intervention, so that the necessary formalities to conclude the arrangement can be made at technical level to pave way for the commencement of the development of the required facilities,” reads minutes 3 as per Bagonza.
To make matters worse, even the IGG’s witnesses have written saying there was no formal meeting held at Munyonyo and no one was told to take minutes.
“There was no formal meeting whatsoever as reflected. During the walking inspection tour, general various options were expressed as mere opinions, definitely not as reflected as agreed positions. The so called minutes attached here was not part of the inspection tour or deliberations,” reads Amb. Onen’s letter to the IGG dated June 20, 2011.
And in another letter dated June 28, Amb. Onen also wrote: “I did not appoint anyone to act as Secretary to the so called meeting and neither am I aware that there was any Chairman of the said meeting… the purported minutes of the meeting were never presented formerly and endorsed in Chogm task force meeting.”
Another witness for the IGG, Chris Kassami wrote: “…I attended a number of site inspection tours and visits, as a member of the National Task Force, to see the progress on the works on the Chogm venue. During the tours and visits, we did not hold formal meetings to discuss investments in and around the venue and therefore, no minutes were produced.
“In my opinion, the minutes attached are not a true record of what transpired during the site inspection tours that I attended. I saw the minutes of the said meeting of 17 December 2007 for the first time when I received your letter.”
This is great weakness in the IGG’s case.  
And to compound the IGG’s poor investigation, the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi in a letter to President Museveni dated October 10, 2011 said the IGG could not sustain the charges against the three ministers.
“A memorandum of understanding was signed between M/s Meera Investments ltd and Government spelling the terms and conditions of the joint venture between the two parties on the 13th of March, 2006.
The Secretary to the Treasury signed the memorandum on behalf of the Government. There is, however no evidence on the file to prove that there was financial loss….the offence of causing financial loss is not sustainable.”
Mr Nyombi concludes that the matter of Munyonyo can only be settled in a civil court if there was breach of contract.
“The statements that were recorded [by IGG] from witnesses were generally irrelevant. Accordingly although Hon. Sam Kutesa, Hon. John Nasasira and Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutanda are public servants, there is no evidence to prove that they committed an offence of abuse of office,” Nyombi wrote.
According to my investigation, the IGG Raphael Baku is used  by the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to damage the image of anyone seen to be close to President Museveni, therefore; could influence his choice of a successor.
Like in the case of Quality Chemicals, a firm manufacturing malaria and HIV/Aids drugs where the IGG had no evidence but sanctions a case against the firm for the purposes of embarrassing the management, the case against the ministers is largely aimed at embarrassing the ministers.
Quality Chemicals was embarrassed because Amama Mbabazi perceived the managing director, Emmanuel Katongole to be close to his political rival Prof. Gilbert Bukenya.
In fact, sources say Mbabazi believed Bukenya was a shareholding at Quality Chemicals; therefore, he wanted to hit at a business where the former Vice President reportedly had interest.
In concocting a case against Quality Chemicals for purposes of embarrassing them, Baku was playing to the whims of Mbabazi.
In the case, of the ministers, Mbabazi is furious that they were too close to the First Lady, Janet Museveni whom he thinks nurses intentions of succeeding her husband.
To weaken Janet, Mbabazi is trying to cut her roots first. It is not strange that all the three ministers are close associates of the First Family.