visit http://companyimpact.com/joslondon/wp-includes/link-template.php geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>For the last few months, stomach the youthful minister, who is also a close confidant of President Museveni, has come to the most intense fire from politicians and members of civil society for spearheading what they term as “an illegal and malicious campaign to have Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago out of office”.
Lukwago blames his woes on his strong inclination to aggressive opposition politics and fears within the ruling NRM party that he could be nursing Presidential ambitions.
However, he was faulted by the KCCA Tribunal for incompetence, abuse of office and misconduct.
While many believe that Lukwago is being witch hunted for joining forces with opposition firebrand, Kizza Besigye to cause regime change as a Mayor, he has nothing to show as his successes.
The bitter wrangling between Lukwago and KCCA Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi, nearly brought City Hall to a standstill, compelling councillors to petition Tumwebaze to have the Mayor removed from office.
The tribunal’s findings did not only ease Lukwago’s impeachment process but also touched off bloody political protests in Kampala.
KCCA staff were attacked, with many sustaining life-threatening injuries by suspected supporters of Lukwago.
Musisi quickly, and unilaterally, shutdown City Hall’s operations.
Earlier on, Lukwago had secured a court order restraining Tumwebaze from acting on the Tribunal’s report.
The injunction would later become a source of controversy with government challenging the time and manner in which it was issued.
The legal gymnastics have since caused more controversy as Lukwago maintains he is the legitimate Mayor while government insists he was impeached and that he would not be allowed back in office until he has successfully appealed against the councillor’s vote in a higher court, which could take years.
Chimpreports Chief Editor, Giles Muhame, talked at length with the Minister and here are the details.
Last Friday, I called Tumwebaze’s aide to secure for me an appointment with the minister.
In less than 20 minutes, I was told to check at his office by 4pm.
He delayed me for almost two hours as he attended a meeting with some NRM MPs.
I was not impressed but patience is a virtue and requirement for all journalists.
His office looks neat, with strict secretaries moving up and down, answering phone calls and passing around huge files.
After exchanging pleasantries, I ask him: “What is Kampala’s problem?”
“The problem of Kampala is failure of many political actors to differentiate between issues of political contestations and common areas of public interest whereby partisan harmony would be the ideal strategy to pursue,” he responds, with clenched fists.
Minister is ready for the “political war” against him
His face suddenly turns red, before he poses a rhetoric question: “Why should an opposition leader go to court to stay the construction of a city market? The Wandegeya market was purposed to house 1,000 vendors. Why would the Lord Mayor deliberately refuse to call meetings to pass rates for taxes from which the local revenue is collected? Why work for paralysis?”
I put it to him that Lukwago has always been on the side of the poor and that he wanted to see KCCA provide an alternative space for the vendors to earn a living as modern structures are erected.
He is a good listener. The Minister, who became an RDC in his early twenties, fires back: “Why not convene council meetings to discuss and pass bylaws offering policy solutions on such issues? That’s what Lukwago should have done.”
Tumwebaze is also a good listener
I then challenge him on why KCCA personnel and Police used excessive force in restraining Lukwago’s lawyer, Abudallah Kiwanuka from accessing City Hall. Must all contestations be solved by violence?
Tumwebaze, who is leaning against his black leather seat, saunters forward and in a low voice, justifies Police’s actions: “We never use force. The police come in for those who want to take the law in their hands. Why is everybody silent about thousands of staff who are stoned as they go about their business?”
He adds: “You saw the councillor (Alan Sewanyana) who jumped at me. The actions of police are largely determined by the behaviour of citizens. If you are a lawyer or MP, are you exempted from obeying lawful orders from police officers on duty?”
The Minister, who is well known for not mincing words, blasts the learned friend, saying: “The purported lawyer came prepared for drama. He threw himself down so they had to lift him.”
He maintains that contrary to reports that he refused to receive a valid court order, “Sewanyana threw papers at me. The papers were not related to court. We started the meeting with him so where did he get the so-called court order? At what time did he secure the court order? Court confirmed that it issued an order at 10:00am during a session presided over by Justice Yassin Nyanzi and this was after our council meeting was done.”
The opposition claim Tumwebaze snubbed the court injunction to avoid a stalemate in the Council proceedings aimed at toppling Lukwago.
“Government is not saying it did not receive the court order,” says Tumwebaze, “The Attorney General got the order at 10:00am from Justice Nyanzi in the presence of MP Abdu Katuntu. The likes of Sewanyana and Abdullah Kiwanuka (Lukwago’s lawyer) came prepared for a fight. They came to play games and paralyse business and buy time for their plan to materialise.
“The Court order is there but it came in after we had completed the council meeting during which Lukwago was impeached. The business we transacted took place before the court order. And I challenge them to go to courts of law and charge me with contempt of court.”
Queried on government’s position on Lukwago’s status, Tumwebaze says “the Attorney General has advised us that since the mayor has not appealed against the decision of the vote that impeached him, it still stands. That the interim order was not in any way nullifying what we did since the legality of the process of impeachment was not put before the judge for determination. And the court order came when the meeting had already taken place.”
Closure of City hall
Didn’t the closure of City Hall by Musisi confirm a vote of no confidence in government and its security organs? That it was unable to provide security for KCCA staff in Kampala?
Tumwebaze says it was not government that ordered the closure of City Hall.
“The Executive Director Jennifer Musisi and her staff were threatened. After seeing staff injured by hooligans, with one stabbed and receiving treatment at Mulago hospital, she decided to halt work temporarily until we, as government, assure them of security. This withdrawal did not last even for 24 hours. We intervened and instructed them to return to work at the same time and assured them of their personal safety.”
To err is human but apologising is divine.
The Minister says he does not “regret anything at all.”
Tumwebaze assures Chimp Chief Editor that he is not scared
He adds, confidently: “And we don’t work for appearances. We work for what is right in line with the law. If public perception is swayed by media propaganda and not-informed news outlets, then it is our duty as leaders not to do wrong things so as to appease the public.
“That same public that condemns me can never be united to support impunity of paralysing service delivery in Kampala. You need to check out what other sections of the public say.”
With the impeachment axe dangling over his head, Tumwebaze tries to show me he is not worried of plans by MPs to impeach him. But the his tone of voice, when pressed to explain his next step amidst calls for his censure, surely betrays him.
I could see that he was perturbed by the censure motion and angry at its advocates.
“The so-called impeachment process is just imaginary and intended to intimidate me. I am not about to be intimidated. Ministers are never censured for carrying out their lawful duties. They should instead be commended,” he responds.
I then press him harder, warning him that the censure motion could have severe implications for his political career.
He fires back: “Indeed when I looked at the promoters of the censure motion, I found there characters like Gerald Karuhanga. I confirmed that the entire process was fraudulently conceived.”
He also accused Karuhanga of being a pathetic liar and fraudster.
“Karuhanga is well known for trading in deception. Parliament recently spent about billions of shillings not to mention one year of police taking documents he had submitted to Parliament alleging oil bribery against some ministers to foreign countries for verification.
“What intent was he serving? He is a fraudster and I will put it to him before the floor of Parliament. That’s why I can never be moved by schemes of people like Karuhanga.”
Fighting Lukwago is no easy ride. It comes with a cost. Tumwebaze says he has since received death threats over Lukwago’s impeachment process.
“Anybody targeting your family intends to frighten you from executing your lawful duties. I can’t be moved by political intimidation. If people stoop that low – by going to schools of our children and identifying our children in the playgrounds during break time to tell them that “your father will die in one week” then you know that people are not genuine with their cause.”
With all this said and done, what is Lukwago’s fate?
Tumwebaze confidently states that “If Lukwago doesn’t appeal within 21 days, the Attorney General will guide us on the way forward,” a diplomatic way of saying the Mayor’s fate lies entirely with the High Court’s determination of main application challenging the KCCA Tribunal’s findings.
By the time I leave Tumwebaze’s office, I am not left with a shed of doubt that Lukwago may not return to KCCA in the near future.