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US Sanctions and the Mbabazi equation: Ministers panic, run to Museveni

By Henry Mulindwa


There is unease in Cabinet, following information that over 60
per cent of the current National Resistance Movement (NRM)
ministers cannot be granted US visas because of corruption.


Insider sources, some of who spoke to The Second Opinion on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter,
said that the sanctioned ministers have acquired illicit wealth
including huge sums of money which they have cautiously
stashed away, mostly in some Arab World Caliphates where
money laundering restrictions are lax.


“President Museveni is being implored to tactfully lure his
ministers into asking for travels abroad and it is through this
method that he will get to know the extent of the damage his
cabinet is causing him,” the source said.


The insider’s assertions resonate with what Deputy Speaker
Jacob Oulanyah recently said about the issue of denying visas to
Ugandan officials seeking to travel to the US.


Oulanyah, who was meeting the Belgian Ambassador to
Uganda Rudi Veestraeten, enumerated to the envoy how Chief
Justice Bart Katureebe and Judiciary Permanent Secretary Pius
Bigirimana had been humiliated by the US, and urged the
European Union (EU) not to follow suit.


“The last six months have been more of a symbolically building
walls, especially in Europe and America, building those barriers.
Our Chief Justice got difficulties getting a visa to go to the US
(about two or three weeks ago)…” Oulanyah was quoted by the
media as telling Ambassador Veestraeten.

Meanwhile, according to the insider source, the cohort of
corrupt ministers was busted during the tenure of former
British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose government
reportedly carried out covert investigations about several
Ugandan officials and their investments.


The insider source further said that as a result of the sanctions,
most of the ministers who are on the US list are reportedly
cajoling President Museveni into supporting them and yet,
according to the party’s youth wing, they are a liability.


“We are aware that about 60% ministers can’t get Visas [US].
They are now trying to mislead the president that things are
okay. Museveni should be on the alert and shouldn’t allow
them to cover up. If he wants to prove this, let him secretly ask
for the list of Ugandans who can’t go to the US. He will be
shocked. They [ministers] think that Museveni can protect
them. He shouldn’t help them,” the source revealed, adding
that 90% current ministers are involved in corruption.


“Almost 90% of the ministers are not doing their work and 90%
are corrupt. They have not helped the President to do what he
promised Ugandans. He needs to sack most of them. In all
ministries, people are just making deals,” the source further
said.


In fact, the sources said that as a result, there are calls for the
President to ‘sweet-talk’ former Prime Minister John Patrick
Amama Mbabazi to return to government or to accept an
assignment to travel to the US and try to clear the country’s
image. It is not clear why the party loyalists want Mbabazi back
but it is said that during his days in government, Mbabazi had
close working ties with the US and China.

“Mbabazi was the only person who was helping Museveni. He’s
still NRM. You can’t down play him. We are saying, Museveni
needs to borrow some advice from him so that NRM can
continue. Mafia thought they silenced him, but he has the key
for this country,” Mike Okwi, the NRM Poor Youth Movement
Coordinator-Eastern region, said.


Okwi added: “If Museveni wishes Uganda well, he should work
with Mbabazi. Ever since he left government, the country is in
tatters. If possible, he [Museveni] should bring Mbabazi back
and they work together.”


Okwi, who says their movement led by Adam Luzindana is ‘back
to the trenches’, adds however that whereas the current Prime
Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda is equally good, his challenge is
in understanding and dealing with the ‘mafia’ unlike Mbabazi.


It should be recalled that in preparation for the 2016 for
the2016 elections, the NRM Poor Youth Movement was a
vehicle which Mbabazi had assembled as he sought to
challenge Museveni for presidency in 2016. It was dismantled
through cash advances, provision of jobs and to some extent
coercion.


And now observers say that Okwi’s opinion is in sync with what
NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba said while on
a recent visit Mbabazi’s home district of Kanungu, where she
said the ruling party still needed Mbabazi, and even offered to
‘mediate’ between Museveni and his former PM, a close
confidant of over 40 years.

Meanwhile, the ‘NRM Poor Youth’ have said that there is need
for President Museveni to order for an inquest into all
government departments.
“Over 90% of the civil servants are corrupt and would not
survive that investigation on corruption that trickles from the
center to the local governments,” another source said, adding
that they had petitioned the President to implore Lt.Col. Edith
Nakalema, the head of State House Anti-Corruption Unit, to
take up the matter.


“The President has fought many battles but corruption is
failing. If he was to order for investigations, most technocrats
will go. Corruption is with us. We need to start with State
House and the Ministry of Public Service. The most corrupt
Ugandans are NRM party card holders and for us as Poor Youth
Movement, we are ready to expose them. It’s a risky job we
have embarked on. We know if we don’t deal with corruption,
we shall not survive Bobi Wine,” Okwi who is the Poor Youth
coordinator for Teso and Karamoja region said.


Further, according to the NRM Poor Youth, Bobi Wine poses a
threat to the establishment.


“You can’t underestimate Bobi and his team because it is not
only opposition youth allied to him, but also many NRM youth
who are fed up with the corruption levels. The Bobi storm is
shaking Uganda because youth are desperate,” Okwi said, and
noted that if the President acts on corruption, the Bobi threat
will be thwarted.


“Our fight is within NRM and we can’t move out of NRM. We
want NRM to continue even after Museveni. Let the President

act on the corrupt. If Mukula or any other official has been
slapped with US sanctions, let them not lie to Museveni. They
should say the truth. We still have big interests with the US.
Whoever says US is irrelevant is just dreaming,” Okwi said.
It is important to note that the media has in the past few weeks
been awash with reports of sanctions issued against former IGP
Kale Kayihura, and ensuing reports that indicated PS Bigirimana
and other top NRM Secretariat officials were denied US visas
under suspicious circumstances.


Earlier, the US government had cited Ugandan Foreign Affairs
Minister Sam Kutesa in an illicit financial transaction (bribery
and money laundering) worth US$2.9 million (of which
US$500,000 reportedly was given to Kutesa) that involved
former Hong Kong Minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping and a couple of
other African officials including Chad President Idriss Derby and
a Senegalese diplomat, Cheikh Gadio.


It is not clear if Kutesa, who at the time was the United Nations
General Assembly (UNGA) President based in New York also
faces sanctions by the US, but his ‘co-accused’ Patrick Ho Chi-
ping has since been convicted by court in America and awaits
sentencing in March next year.


US sanctions and ‘the Mbabazi equation’

As the sanctions script unfolds, insider sources said former PM
Amama Mbabazi can help balance the US-Uganda sanctions’
equation, given his alleged charm with US officials.
According to the sources, Mbabazi and Museveni can still forge
a working relation that can reverse the current trend, where
several cabinet ministers cannot travel to broker government
business with the world’s biggest economy and military power.
“In Mbabazi family, there was a big debate as to whether the
former SG should stand in 2016 or not. Apparently, Mbabazi
himself hadn’t thought of standing in 2016 but wanted 2021
when he thought Museveni would hand the mantle to him. His
calculation was that Museveni was not eligible for reelection
after clocking the mandatory 75-year age limit cap. He
therefore wanted to continue working with as he positioned
himself for the 2021 onslaught,” the source opined.
The source further suggested that Mbabazi’s wife Jackie was
itching to ‘also step on the red carpet’.
“She (Jackie), together with her sister Hope Mwesigye
encouraged Mbabazi to stand in 2016 only for them to spoil the
man’s calculation because he was waiting for Museveni to
reach the constitutional age limit bar,” the source added.
Sought for comment on the sanctions’ matter, NRM publicist
Rogers Mulindwa said the party still needs Mbabazi and that his
return would be of significance to the NRM.

“Our party values every single soul and we still appreciate the
contributions Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi made for the party
(NRM). Yes, at one stage, he differed from the common
position of the party when he chose to contest as an
Independent against the official NRM candidate but he has
never returned the party ticket and we therefore, still consider
him a family member. It is our dream that he walks back and I
am sure the National Chairman (Museveni) would receive him
back with clean hands. The time is now,” Mulindwa said in a
mail response.

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