In a little-noticed media interview, a senior minister, ruling party historical and top army general very recently denounced Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, essentially accusing her and others in government of looting public monies.
Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine rather sensationally told CBS radio last Friday that parliament is also in cahoots with unnamed persons who are now plotting to steal Nommo gallery under the guise of fighting impunity.
The bush war veteran’s unusually bare-knuckled reaction came as he scoffed at recent directives by Kadaga for him to pay Shs 1.6 billion in rent arrears, and to immediately vacate the premises.
“That parliamentary recommendation is impossible because Nommo gallery is not for government, I repeat; Nommo gallery is for visual artists. President Milton Obote donated one of the houses that were part of State House at Nakasero and from then Nommo gallery is for artists, not government,” Tumwine said.
Last week, Kadaga said the country can no longer be held at ransom by veterans of the 1981-86 bush war through which this government shot its way to power.
“I think it’s a serious indictment of this House that we have been budgeting for Nommo gallery when it has been appropriated by one individual. If we don’t stop this impunity, one day someone will come and take over parliament and say this is my house, I fought in the bush war…,” Kadaga said.
But on Friday, Tumwine told CBS that neither the speaker nor parliament is properly informed about the matter.
“The speaker doesn’t know what she is talking about; I will fight for the truth even if it means dying for it. I’m not like Kadaga who just wants to talk. I’m not leaving that gallery. If they built it, let them come and evict me. Parliament is not doing their work properly; they are part of a group that wants to steal the gallery; this I know though I have kept quiet,” Tumwine said.
He said the report of parliament’s committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on which parliament based its resolution in 2013 to make a similar recommendation, never had his input and he has never been invited to explain himself.
“When we came out of the bush, I brought back artists and what I did was to clear the compound and I brought in a director. Government has never put in a single shilling in renovating that place. They don’t know what is taking place there; so, how do you then write to us that bring rent? How can we pay rent for our own house? Those people in government want to steal our gallery; that’s what I can see,” the minister said, not without some irony.
Tumwine reserved the harshest criticism for Kadaga.
“What has the speaker done in five years? When you talk about corruption they don’t want it, they sit in the chair and they say what they don’t know. I have never stolen any single money from government. I liberated my country and the fruits of this is to use things in the right way, not to steal government money like they are doing. I’m not scared of them at all,” Tumwine said.
Chris Obore, the director of communication and public affairs at parliament on Monday said Kadaga heads an institution that does oversight on government.
“The speaker is a veteran lawyer who understands the position of law. Instead of disrespecting the speaker and parliament, to which he belongs; it’s advisable that Gen Tumwine seeks audience with the speaker to make his case. Gen Tumwine as a veteran leader has a duty to be a role model for others. Such role-modelling includes building our governance systems by respecting institutions. I trust that he will seek audience with the speaker rather than engage in media exchanges,” Obore said.
Nommo gallery sits in the leafy and posh city outskirt of Nakasero along Victoria avenue. It came into being in 1964 under the 1959 Act of Parliament as a component of the Uganda National Cultural Centre to feature exhibitions of works of art.
According to the parliamentary committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development chaired by Alex Ndeezi [PWDs], Creations Limited, a company owned by Tumwine, has been occupying the gallery since 1998 without paying rent yet every year government budgets for its maintenance.