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State House to spend Shs 1.56bn on the deal

Mercury Public Affairs LLC, an American public relations consultancy firm, has been hired by State House to transform the image of President Museveni and promote Uganda’s global trade interests.

The firm is to be paid a total of $600,000 (approximately Shs 1.56 billion) for the duration of one year. News of the contract was first broken by BuzzFeed, a respected online news aggregator and blog in the United States.

BuzzFeed based its report on federal disclosure filings made by Mercury Public Affairs LLC to the US Department of Justice on July 30, 2014 at 5:50pm. According to the filings, the agreement took effect on July 19 and expires on July 18, 2015.

Kirill Goncharenko, the president of Mercury Public Affairs  LLC, signed on behalf of the firm while Lucy Nakyobe Mbonye, the State House comptroller, signed on behalf of State House. The deal was finalised weeks before President Museveni travelled to Washington DC to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit last week. It is unclear if the PR contract was necessitated by the negative international publicity arising from President Museveni’s signing into law of the now nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act in February this year.

The law was annulled by the Constitutional court on August 1 for having been passed without quorum in parliament. On Monday, President Museveni urged NRM legislators pushing for its enactment to tread carefully.

The agreement

According to the 10-page agreement seen by The Observer, some of Mercury’s tasks will include “managing media relations”. Among other assignments, the firm will “monitor coverage of President Museveni as well as the country as a whole.”

Mercury Public Affairs LLC will also provide consulting and communications services, promote trade and investment opportunities in Uganda while developing special initiatives such as the “Uganda Enterprise Empowerment Initiative” (UEEI).

Other services to be rendered by Mercury Public Affairs LLC shall include:

Managing media relations and monitoring all media globally with an emphasis on USA. This includes print, digital for coverage of the president and the republic of Uganda.

Disseminate information about Uganda using all available avenues, documents and report these publications, documentaries and stories to the press unit of the president/office of the press secretary to ensure regular and updated briefings to the presidency.

“Where possible some of these reports will be circulated widely in the local media using the State House portal,” the agreement partly reads.

State House was expected to make a down payment of $150,000 (Shs 390m) upon the signing of the agreement. Thereafter State House is supposed to make a monthly payment of $50,000 (Shs 130 million).

Mercury Public Affairs  LLC

Headquartered in New York, Mercury Public Affairs LLC ( is part of the Omnicom Group Inc., a leading global advertising and marketing communications services company. It describes itself as a high-stakes public strategy firm. The firm says it uses expertise and reach to gain competitive advantage for clients.

“Our expertise comes from extensive must-win campaign experience and operating successfully at the highest rung of business, government, politics and media.
“Our reach is the ability to use strategic intelligence to mobilise the message and persuade the toughest audiences,” the firm says.

The firm further says it has advised and executed successful election and public affairs campaigns on five continents.

“We are successful because we don’t guess. Through market research, we ensure local knowledge and cultural understanding. Then we combine those insights with strategic practices — such as positioning, branding, social media, digital communication and grassroots mobilization — to achieve wins for our clients.”

One of the partners of the company is Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and campaign adviser to Mitt Romney, who was defeated by Barack Obama in the last US election. Mercury Public Affairs LLC is not the first international public relations firm to be contracted to shore up the image of the Ugandan government or that of President Museveni.

The Observer reported in 2005 that government had paid Hill & Knowlton, a London-based firm, Shs 1.6 billion to polish the image of the Ugandan government, which had been stained by a poor human rights record and a restrictive political environment.

The PR firm had itself been criticised in the past for working with governments such as Indonesia and Turkey, whose human rights records were suspect. Later in 2012, the government paid an Irish firm, Glenevin Operational Risk and Security Consultancy, Shs 2.3bn to clean up its image, which had been dented by the opposition walk-to-work protests.

Asked to comment on the development yesterday, Nakyobe said: “I cannot comment about anything.”

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Read full agreement here


+11 #1 Kiggundu 2014-08-13 08:59
For which ever reason, Ugandans will always have to pay for their blindness... its a sad story but M7 always wins.... Refer to the anti homo circus...
+6 #2 Wagamba 2014-08-13 09:10
Was PPDA guidelines followed? was parliament approval obtained? or its classified?
-12 #3 Leon 2014-08-13 09:33
Museveni 2021!
+29 #4 Lakwena 2014-08-13 10:06
The Chinese say that “you can’t curve anything (image) out of a rotten wood”. In other words, for a PR firm to try and spruce up the dented image of president M7 and a country like Uganda, which is consumed by pandemic corruption; is a false relation (FR).

First of all, was the hire of the PR firm subjected to PPA&D bidding process? Even if it was; it is wasteful, self-serving and a vile prostitute’s image and cosmetic quick fixing gimmick, for 2016 election hoodwink.

To say the least, Uganda is being pimped like a prostitute!

In 2005, in preparation for the 2006 election, State House hired a UK based PR firm: Hills & Knowlton at 350,000 Pounds to quick fix Uganda’s damaged human rights image. And nothing has changed, but even became worse.

Because by 2012, e.g. on 28th April 2012 at Mulago Round-about; Dr. Besigye was almost murdered in broad-day
+21 #5 Grenoble 2014-08-13 10:11
What a waste?
+18 #6 Yumber 2014-08-13 10:11
Is this a president of an independent country? Not sure that he is not senile. A big liability.
+22 #7 Lakwena 2014-08-13 10:11
Because by 2012, e.g. on 28th April 2012 at Mulago Round-about; Dr. Besigye was almost murdered in broad-day-light, by Afande Gilbert Arinaitwe and a hooded, hummer wielding X-Bimanna.

Before the scandalous 2007 CHOGM, the government hired a PR firm, headed by one Blackttaker, sic Whittaker; to spruce up the State House Rot.

But nothing has changed; corruption and cruelty went thru the sky. E.g. in 2009, 37 Baganda youths, were massacred (murdered) on the streets of Kampala during the infamous Kayunga Riot, and to date, non of culprit murderers were brought to book

Therefore some of these PR firms qualify for being criminal state agents. They are mafia based, rip-off, purse cutters, who are known for working with countries like Turkey and Indonesia; whose human rights records remain dubious.

Otherwise, the only genuine PR for a person or a country like Uganda is honesty in leadership and doing the right thing for the people of Uganda.
+15 #8 Long Walk to Freedom 2014-08-13 10:26
The dictator is a huge liability to Uganda/Africa… this is like Hitler paying a Public Relations company to try and redeem his image after committing all kinds of abominations imaginable… would it work? Your guess is as good as mine…

Is whitewashing the image of the dictator more important than saving the lives of Ugandans… this money can be used to help eradicate jiggers, on nodding disease, to ensure teachers are paid on time, to build roads, to provide clean drinking water, ensure hospitals are well equipped, … etc … etc
+18 #9 Kyakabale 2014-08-13 10:36
The best and cheapest way is President Museveni to get married to a fellow man. The international publicity will have been accomplished.

He will have killed two birds with one stone. He will get all the donor money he wants and will be known all over the world.

Idi Amin did it by chasing away Asians. Up to now when you go to America, the first question is "Where is Idi Amin?"
+14 #10 GKM 2014-08-13 11:16
This money could be better spent to rehabilitate Abim Hospital whose pictures appeared in the NTV news bulletin last night. Oh God I can't believe this hospital is in Uganda!
+4 #11 ivan green 2014-08-13 11:49
If its true Sevo sideline with faggots the he's such a slut. What a snitch could he be?

What's so special to stick in a pit? What a stink there's!

Am so frustrated with this, at all costs the bill ought to pass, if it fails then a referendum takes on.

+7 #12 Kent Mawa 2014-08-13 12:06
Why do we need these people when we already have "media relations experts" like Tamale Mirundi and John Nagenda ?
+5 #13 Mpiina Paul 2014-08-13 12:45
If you had a piece of rice on your mouth, your friends denial of its existence does not change the status quo; removal does.
Uganda needs to clean up, not invite/pay someone to do our job.

If just half of the money so far spent on PR could fund anti corruption tendencies, we would need no PR firms.

However, this just tells you for who we are working; not our people, but the US

By the way excuse me; someone tell us please....are those firms existent anyway
+4 #14 Ogang-guji 2014-08-13 13:09
Dear Ugandanas. If you feel so bad about the way you are currently being rules, loose your feer of them and face the bullets.

They will kill many, but not all, before they too are finished. Enough is enough.
-3 #15 James 2014-08-13 13:52
This is a waste of tax money, but a good thing for the Museveni regime.

At least we get to hear less of Mirundi and the underwear thief. If they speak at all, it will not be as nonsensical as has previously been.
+2 #16 Saba 2014-08-13 13:56
Quoting ivan green:
If its true Sevo sideline with faggots the he's such a slut. What a snitch could he be?

What's so special to stick in a pit? What a stink there's!

Am so frustrated with this, at all costs the bill ought to pass, if it fails then a referendum takes on.


You are finding that out now...M7 would do anything to keep his big foot in power even siding with gays and lesbians.

we all know the gay and lesbians thing was his playing field to remind the west than he is still relevant when his sell by date was 10 years ago
+5 #17 kabayekka 2014-08-13 14:34
One must wait for M7's downfall to get a very nice story about this deal. Indeed this company will tell all.
+4 #18 Vincent Kizza 2014-08-13 15:00
Dont be suprised is the real owner of the PR firm Muhoozi or Kataha!
+4 #19 webeshixty 2014-08-13 15:07
Quoting kabayekka:
One must wait for M7's downfall to get a very nice story about this deal. Indeed this company will tell all.

Which company will they hire next to thwart the grim reaper?

All this is diversionary tricks! The despot is on the way down, the generals are gripped with panic attacks how best to consolidate loot and avoid the consequences associated with the vacuum that can reduce them below the level of their victims! This not why they are shoving Muhoozi down our thick lips?
+3 #20 Mubiru 2014-08-13 15:16
You never know. The company might have some debts and unable to pay. So the chief "bailer" had to bail it out.

This is what the Bible says, and I stand to be corrected that :Those who have will have more and those who haven't will have even the little they possess taken away.

Otherwise instead of bailing out the filthy rich the President should first rescue the suffering Ugandans many of whom, "eat grass" like goats by, as an example, lying down in the Kampala city square which is taken as their "lunch".

Princesses are born beautiful and need no introduction due to their attractive appearances. If a princess happens to be the exception and born annoyingly ugly, she can't change nature and transform into a beautiful face.

She needs praise singers to announce to the public that person they see is a princess! Wasted public relations efforts because the lady will never be beautiful despite the publicity and however much you promote her as a daughter of a king.

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