Battle to save PM Mbabazi turns ethnic
When General Elly Tumwine said in Parliament during the fiery oil bribery debate recently, that “there is no smoke without fire”, many people were surprised that this senior army officer, known to be fiercely loyal to the establishment, could court controversy on this matter.
But what is even more surprising now is that despite remarks by President Museveni that the documents on which Parliament based its call for the resignation of his ministers were forged, Tumwine insists the accused should step aside for an investigation.
“The President should listen to Ugandans and give these people leave letters as a sign of respect to the agenda of the government on zero tolerance to corruption,” Tumwine told The Observer last week.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, and Internal Affairs minister, Hilary Onek, are alleged to have taken bribes to influence the award of contracts to oil companies.
A special session of Parliament considered the allegations made by Youth MP (Western), Gerald Karuhanga, and passed a resolution creating an ad hoc probe committee, while asking the accused to step aside.
However, during a retreat of NRM MPs at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi recently, President Museveni persuaded the legislators to rescind the resolution on resignation, insisting that the documents Karuhanga presented were forged.
Indeed, the ministers have refused to step aside, apart from Sam Kutesa, who did so in relation to a separate investigation regarding the 2007 Commonwealth meeting (CHOGM) expenditure. Not convinced, Gen Tumwine, a former army commander, who has lately taken to fighting corruption, insists that the President should hand the accused ministers leave letters.
“I can’t believe all this [the bribery allegations] has come without a source,” he said.
During the NRM Parliament caucus meeting at State House Entebbe last Monday, the President insisted that Mbabazi would not step aside. He even threatened to call a referendum on the matter, according to a source that attended.
The President had earlier told MPs during the NRM retreat that some individuals are probably using the oil allegations to fight Mbabazi on political grounds.
However, Tumwine says there is no ill motive against Mbabazi, although, like many people, he wonders why it’s always Mbabazi’s name that comes up in such questionable transactions.
“Why smoke on him all the time? The Rugundas [Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, minister of ICT] are there, but we have never heard any scandal about them. Why them [the three accused ministers]?” Tumwine asked.
Despite enjoying a squeaky clean reputation for a long time, Mbabazi’s name has recently been dragged in controversial transactions, including the sale of his land at Temangalo, near Kampala, to NSSF a few years ago, under circumstances that later became a subject of parliamentary investigation.
Mbabazi was also cited in questionable CHOGM expenditures. In all these cases, however, the President has come out to defend his man. General Tumwine, who is reputed for firing the first bullet that launched the guerrilla war that brought the NRM to power in 1986 after five years of fighting, says politicians should emulate the army.
“If in the army, our generals can go to the dock, why not these individuals?” he said, pointing out the late former army commander, James Kazini and former intelligence chief, Brig Henry Tumukunde, both of whom were jailed at one time.
“These individuals should have the conscience and follow the international principles,” Tumwine said.
But in a media briefing at Parliament last week, Mbabazi said whoever is telling him to step aside should think again.
“If anyone was thinking about resigning, they should check again. I am firm in my position,” Mbabazi said.
As the oil bribery saga gets nastier, sources close to Mbabazi have told us they believe some Bahima in government are fighting him to kill off his chances of succeeding President Museveni. The President is a Muhima, while Mbabazi is a Mukiga.
“These people are the ones behind this group calling him to step aside,” said the source.
Mbabazi, who is evidently the President’s trusted man, is believed to be the best placed individual to take over from Museveni in case he decided to quit.
Commenting on a separate issue, the 70,000 bicycles meant for LC-1 chairpersons that were never delivered even after the government spent close to Shs 4 billion, Tumwine said the individuals involved should be in prison.
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