Minister of Science Technology and Innovation Hon Elioda Tumwesigye is embroiled in yet another saga in his home district of Sheema, involving a fellow member of parliament, local clergy and Christians.
The minister is being accused this time, of maliciously sabotaging a local church construction project, whose success would have potentially benefited a fellow MP Hon Jacklet Atuhaire and hurt his own re-election chances in 2021.
Hon Atuhaire is the Sheema District Woman MP, while Elioda represents the newly created Sheema Municipality in parliament.
Both are members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), although Ms Atuhaire was elected on an independent ticket.
Hon Atuhaire accuses the minister of using his office and personal relations with the Minister of Finance Hon Matia Kasaija to block a Shs 51Million tax waiver on construction materials for Rwabutura Church of Uganda.
The Finance Minister under the current law is the only authority allowed to issue tax waivers.
Atuhaire tells ChimpReports, she and other church members had effusively secured the waiver from Kasaija, until Hon Elioda went behind their back and influenced the Finance Minister to change his mind.
Hon Elioda profusely rejects these accusations.
In a telephone conversation, Mrs Atuhaire told us she went with one Richard Bigirwa, (the chairperson of the construction committee of the church project) to the minister (Kasaija) and presented to him a letter from the bishop requesting the tax waiver.
“The minister said he was glad to help us and he wrote on the letter from the bishop, a directive to the undersecretary. We were so happy we even took pictures with him and we left,” she said.
At the time Atuhaire says she was busy traveling with the president on the Wealth Creation tour, and therefore asked Richard to follow up on the waiver.
But when Richard returned ministry, she says, he was tossed around and later told the letter was lost
“Later on when I met the minister at parliament, I asked him and he told me the letter could have been lost indeed and asked me to get another copy. So I got Richard to get the second letter and take it to the minister directly, which he did.”
“After two weeks passed with no response from the ministry, I told Richard to go back, but when got there, they gave him a cold shoulder.
“So, I went with him. I was told the minister was busy. I went to his office, knocked and opened the door and the minister looked at me and said, ‘Honourable, I am not going to discuss your issues, it has become too political. You need to go sort it out with the leaders in your constituency. I want nothing to do with it anymore.”
While Hon Kasaija didn’t directly mention Elioda, Atuhaire believes the latter was the one that told the Finance Minister to drop the waiver
“Of course it was him,” she said. “I know it was him. He wanted this project to fail because it would hurt his support. He would have loved to get credit from the tax waiver.”
Last week, Minister Elioda penned a 2000-word denial of involvement in the church matters.
Therein, he labelled Hon Atuhaire being “hawkish” and Richard as being “naive, angry, arrogant, chauvinist, hateful, vengeful and an exhibitionist”
“Those who know me well know that I can’t do such crap,” said Tumwesigye.
“I don’t have time for negative energy, I am not a malicious or envious person and I can never stifle a developmental project in our area even if it was brought or implemented by my political opponent.”
Amid the growing tension, last week Minister Elioda brought a truckload of cement as a donation to the Rwabutura church.
The cement was however, rejected by the church leadership and Christians, who according to Atuhaire, questioned his motive.
“The people of Rwabutura first of all asked him why he didn’t follow up on the waiver with the Finance Ministry if he really wanted to help. He had no answer. The following day he carried 100bags of cement to them. The people rejected it. They said we asked you for one thing, but you are doing something else.”
Reports from the area however, indicated that after being talked down the Bishop, the Christians agreed to keep the cement and use it after the minister has issued a proper apology.
Hon Atuhaire and Elioda have reportedly not been at the best of terms for years.
Atuhaire believes the Minister is unhappy about her closeness to President Museveni.
Recently, he accused her of telling the President not to attend a fundraising event for construction of an ICT Block at the Ankole Western University (AWU), at which the minister was the chief fundraiser.
“Because I was moving around with the president, he (Elioda) started telling my constituents that I stopped the president from attending a fundraising. Who am I stop the president? How can possibly tell the president not to support a project in my area?” she wondered.
In his missive, Elioda said Atuhaire and Richard wanted the fundraiser in Kampala to fail, but that it succeeded and exceeded expectations.
Minister Kasaija was invited to be chief guest instead of the president.
Our efforts to reach the Finance Minister to comment on the saga were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Hon Elioda in his missive demanded an “unequivocal public apology from my brother Richard posted on various social media platforms within the shortest time possible.”
“I believe we can turn a challenge into an opportunity for the people of Rwabutura and beyond. If he refuses and remains intransigent, I will have no alternative but to say Enough is Enough,” he said.