Over The Cliff-hangers Of Juba; Pt 1

Alex Kinyi’s feet were charred in dust, locked under three-strap brown flats whose sole had borne the marks of a long journey walked.

The sun pelted hard onto his pronounced cheekbones balancing out his shade-black skin with the browning white shirt on his body. The tufts of his moustache covered his lips often choking his pronunciations.

He had been, until the day we met him, a government worker serving the youngest nation in the world. His English was polished and his logic tallied on many arguments.

“I schooled in Uganda, I’d never be this perfect” he retorted to my compliment on his good diction.

In South Sudan, where Alex came from, almost three quarters of the country could not read or write. 70 percent of those aged 6-17 had never set foot in a classroom and UNICEF reported that only one in ten who stepped into primary school would actually finish the course.

Alex was, by all means, lucky.

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Alex, 33, stares at me as I ask him a question during our interview at the reception centre

Four years before Alex was born, alleging marginalization, a grey-bearded soldier called John Garang would rally a force of soldiers in mutiny and start what would later be named the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. That force, would make sure that Alex was born into one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars of modern time.

Alex, by induction, became one of its fighters. It was here that he eased into an education in Uganda and would later return to the country for the last leap to independence.

But, months after the independence, the country’s conflict would force Alex to jump out of his house in Juba, leaving behind his father and wife to trek to a safe haven at Elegu’s reception centre, again, in Uganda.

 

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Elegu town is a small border town in the Northern region of Uganda. It sits, on the edge of South Sudan’s Nimule border and shares its people equally. Between Uganda and South Sudan, from that border, are two checkpoints – a stick one on the S.Sudan side and a poster one on the Ugandan side.

At the Ugandan side, officers dressed in black uniforms and shiny boots greet you as they halt your car, their eyes buried beneath black sunglasses. Searches are mounted on the car and its contents and often, questions asked.

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A Ugandan police officer walks past the border point as an SPLA soldier (back right,yellow seat) looks on

On the South Sudan side, a no-smile officer, in green army uniform robbed with   rounds of bullets steps up to your car muttering words in Arabic that point to ‘present your documents’. He’s browning slippers almost hard to skip notice.

Once he’s done perusing them, he withdraws the stick letting you into a short distance before meeting a rope roadblock – it too, manned by soldiers, just in different uniform. Their task, is the customs.

 

“You’re journalists?” an officer peering his gun mouth through the co-driver’s seat asked

My heart, uneasily, started to race at this moment.

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Watch the story we did on Alex, here

The Atmosphere Of Fear: Joan Kagezi

It was a little over 10 am in the Morning of Tuesday when I got to the crime scene. Pellets of rain poured down into an isolated Ford double-cabin pickup  whose environs had by now sealed been off with yellow police tape.

Detectives, both in uniform and plain cloth walked from the car into the police crime scene van with samples and routinely repeated the procedure over the hours. I flashed my media identification at an officer manning the scene and he walked me to where the other journalists had taken refuge from the rain.

The car was still intact save for glass particles that littered the ground on the driver’s seat and dropped onto the bonnet. Fruits, previously bought by Joan Kagezi, the murdered state prosecutor were splashed onto the ground below the car, a mixture of mangoes and passion fruits.

“They shot her before she had finished her order” the fruit vendor, now an eye-witness to the murder narrates to me. “She was my regular customer and had always stopped here to buy from me fruits daily” he continues. “However yesterday when she stopped over, I had just started packing fruits when I heard three loud bangs” he narrates as his voice grows faint. “At first I thought it was a car tyre but then I heard the children screaming mummy has been killed and that’s when I looked up and saw men speeding off on a motorcycle”.

A team of forensic experts search the scene where Joan Kagezi was shot. The double cabin, enclosed off in yellow police tape was where she was shot a little after 7 pm on Monday morning  Photo By: Joan Kagezi
A team of forensic experts search the scene where Joan Kagezi was shot. The double cabin, enclosed off in yellow police tape was where she was shot a little after 7 pm on Monday evening 
Photo By: Halima Athumani

Kagezi would never have guessed that her car was being tailed. She had diligently executed her work tasks and was getting ready for a major court appearance the following day. Part of her diary the following morning was to take a key state witness through the testimony on how the bombs that hit Uganda on 7/11 had been assembled. The witness, crucial to the case, had been a former al-shabab agent who had struck a deal with the state to confess and get the prosecution, to which Kagezi belonged, a strong case.

“It is unfortunate that judicial officers are now under threat but we shall not be cowed in the prosecution of terrorism” The DPP Chibita had told journalists earlier in the morning when he visited the scene.

But beyond the prosecution of the 7/11 terror suspects, Joan had taken on more cases that would have made her a subject of great interest for her killers. Days before her murder, Kagezi had driven to Jinja to advise the Inspector General of Police. Kagezi, in a grey suit walked into the room with her usual confidence. She had worked with the IGP Kale Kayihura for about four years now and had become his trusted ally in the fight against terrorism.

Kayihura himself had a month prior to the meeting, camped in Bugiri to begin a sensitive investigation into the murder of two muslim clerics killed in 4 days in December.

Sheikh Abdu Kadir Muwaya, a revered figure in Bugiri had been shot twice in the chest at his home by gun-wielding men on a motorcycle. Four days on, in almost similar fashion, two men, still on a motor cycle had pulled up onto Sheikh Mustapha Bahiga in the busy Bwebajja town as he got out of his car and shot him  four times. He died on his way to hospital.

Kagezi had been handed three suspects who volunteered chilling confessions before her as she listened. One of them, obtained on transcript from a confidential source reads as follows

“I personally shot Muwaya as he got out of his mosque after prayers to enter his house. I did it as I had been instructed by Sheikh Jamir Mukulu, the leader of ADF. Jamil always told us that the Shia muslim sect was evil and we needed to wipe it out. We had guns and bullets buried at a school so we took on the task and eliminated their leader Sheikh Muwaya” reads the transcript.

When Kayihura agreed to an interview at the scene, the only question I had lined up was “Who are these people and what do we know about them?”

Held back, with one arm in his pocket and another wrapping around his dark khaki police uniform, he answered back pensively.

“It is organized crime Raymond” he said. “We have been following this organized crime all the way in Busoga and the manner of shooting is the same but I don’t want to jump to conclusions” he added dismissively. “These guys are thugs, sometimes they are hired to kill and other times they are killing at their own volition” Kayihura says as he answers to why the killers target high profile people.

It is however from the profile of one of the arrested suspects in Busoga that the network of ‘organised crime’ can be traced. Ali Kabambwe, a short dark skinned man with trudges of wrinkles on his cheeks was a former rebel with the Allied Democratic Front. He rose through the ranks to become one of the highly trained rebels until 2007 when he surrendered to the army and sought for amnesty. Kabambwe was recently arrested over his involvement in the shooting of sheikhs. It was his testimony that led the police to uncover guns at an Islamic school which matched – as per the ballistics report – the bullets shot to kill Sheikh Mustapha Bahiga and Sheikh Abdu Kadir Muwaya.

But Kabambwe also warned the police that he was not alone and operated in a sophisticated network. It is this ‘network’ that has now become the subject of public fear.

Intelligence briefs that I have been allowed access to say the ADF has been trying to establish themselves as the regional terror outfit to get funding from the Al-shabab. Albeit not proven yet, the army has videos that show Jamil Mukulu addressing a gathering of his fighters and asking them to look up to ‘The heroes of Somalia’ that he says are establishing an Islamic government in the country.

Sources that I have interacted with in the army are still having ‘trouble’ in arresting an internationally wanted man – Jamil Mukulu but he regularly travels within and outside Uganda. He is said to spend a considerable amount of time in Eastern Uganda and at the borders.

But despite all this information, only the security agencies can answer;

  1. Why did two men shoot a prosecutor in the broad day light at a busy place like Kiwatule?
  2. Where did the men get the guns and ammunition to execute a bloody murder?
  3. Why with all the intelligence and confessions available to the security services have they not arrested every member of this gang?
  4. What is the shared relationship between the former ADF rebels and the Uganda Police that makes them immune and work with such impunity?

But as answers snail-speed themselves, a family of four children will never erase from their minds a scene so brutal and heart breaking. A man, tall, slender and brown skinned pulling up right close to their mother and shooting her three times; twice in the neck and once in the limb before fleeing.

Could this have been prevented? Only the Uganda Police and sister security agencies have answers.

As the nation reels in both pain and fear over the death of Joan Kagezi, her killers continue to walk within the same spaces that security has leads on and possible information that could stop them.

The Atmosphere Of Fear

Four black-uniformed officers step up to me as I get to the gate, one reaching his hand out to my bag, the others readying themselves to drill me through the rigorous checks every person that got into the High Court this morning underwent.

I greet them, with a hazy smile which is returned with even more rude stares, underneath the black helmet, the cop gestures at me to drop my keys into the bucket and walk through the metal detector, I oblige.

Today, unlike many days, the high court is laden with all forms of security detail. The daily cops in their Khaki uniforms have taken to the background to allow the Joint Anti-terrorism soldiers run the security. What is peculiar about today too is that the 11 terror suspects accused of master-minding the July 10th twin bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village Restaurant are in court for their first ruling on whether they were extradited legally.

Security around Kampala is always like this, when the threat level is high, terrorism police are deployed around town and dotted checkpoints are emphasised, once the threat is gone, we are back to normal; the checkpoints are sleazy, the emphasis on metal detectors sluggish, the cops are out there chasing crowds or if not, sleeping in the various roundabouts of the city as they gather intelligence on political opponents of the state.

The terror suspects’ case is one of the hotspots that have tested the consciousness of the security apparatus. When the bombs went off, the Ugandan security apparatus had been caught napping, no spot checks had been done on the two venues that would later host over 1000 revellers, as a result of the napping, 79 people would brutally be murdered by twin bombs set by the notoriously defiant terror group – the Al-shabab.  The attacks would set a new tide of rules from the Police on the hosting of events.

Each event host would now be required to have a metal detector at the event, written permission from the police and police protection, dog sniffing of the event venue and a detailed plan for the flow of traffic.

The rushed plan from the Police was perhaps a response to the flaws that had been exposed by the July 11th bombings. The bombs made in Somalia, transported through Kenya and docked in Mbale for over three months had been undetected by the Ugandan security, praised for among many things, having a strong intelligence network.

Counter-terrorism police officer manning security at the High Court . Photo By Halima Athumani
Counter-terrorism police officer manning security at the High Court . Photo By Halima Athumani

How did the attacks happen?

The blue print plan to bomb Uganda was orchestrated largely between Somalia and Kenya. The bombs manufactured and assembled in Somalia, were passed through Kenya, smuggled into Uganda and kept in Namasuba, according to the intelligence reports that were written following the attacks. It is in these files that the army’s intelligence wings discovered that the bombs were kept in Mbale at a ‘safe-house’ for two weeks. CMI, which also tracked phone conversations found on a suicide vest that didn’t explode, found out that the attackers travelled with unclear identification on a public bus (name withheld) to Uganda. The bomb however, was driven through the border, where heavy security is present, aboard a landcruiser with Tanzanian plates (T585 ADH).

The suspects accused of master minding the July 11th bombings listen in to court proceedings.  Photo By: Halima Athumani
The suspects accused of master minding the July 11th bombings listen in to court proceedings.
Photo By: Halima Athumani

By the time the bombs arrived, the attackers, through their networks had identified Lugogo grounds as a potential target and other places on the list included Namboole, Shoprite Lugogo and even Makerere University.

If indeed the Ugandan intelligence networks were active, would it ever have been possible for the attackers to exchange information, explosives and later leave the country without detection? These questions remain unanswered,.

Police, which at the time had a routine check of event grounds with sniffer dogs and uranium detectors was unable to detect explosives at an event that was to be attended by over 1000 people. The same sniffer dogs would however sniff out an unexploded device at a bar in Makindye just 24 hours later.

And indeed, the lapses in security, its deployment and co-ordination cost the country 79 people from an attack which could largely, from expert opinion, have been stopped.

6 days before the attack, the Chieftaincy For Military Intelligence had received a high level intelligence file from sister security agencies warning that an explosive device could have been assembled and sneaked into Uganda. The file, whose details I have not been able to see through the course of this investigation, is said to have been debated at high level security meetings and changes adopted in manning security in the city.

A source, close to the circles of power in the security apparatus, confirmed that indeed a threat had been communicated to them and ‘due steps’ had been taken. But the Ugandan security wasn’t worried about the population as much as they were about high level meetings and places where ammunition had been kept. It is only these places, it is believed, that were provided extra security.

I reached out to the Police spokesperson Fred Enanga on the allegation that police had – with knowledge about an impending attack- not provided enough security at the Lugogo grounds. He declined to comment.

It is never told on how the bombs made their way into a facility like Kyadondo grounds which should, on the night of attacks, have been heavily guarded by the Police and counter-terrorism.

When FBI and UN investigators landed in Kampala after the attacks, they would question how Al-shabab had exploited lapses in the Ugandan security apparatus to pull off the twin bombings. Joint Anti-terrorism, which was by now in advanced investigations, had recovered a cell phone device on an unexploded vest that had called numbers both in Kenya and Somalia in its past two weeks of use.

I have been given the benefit of seeing the device and together with it, the chat-list of numbers called both Kenyan and Somali. On some interactions, there are Ugandan telephone numbers. Every one called by the phone stands trial in Uganda, is dead or has been pardoned by the state to become a state witness.

As trial started for the suspects, many of whom the government extradited on unclear terms, the jury was out on who had attacked the Lugogo grounds but still major outlets that are thronged by revellers remain thin on security.

In Uganda, we have an estimate ratio of one policeman for 811 people, which is over 300 more people than the ideal 1;500 people as per the Police security requirement standards.

While the courts of law seek to answer the question of who attacked and bombed Uganda on 7/11, nobody is asking for answers on how and why the attackers seemed, from all evidence collected, to have a swift passage of the explosives.

Many Ugandans continue to live in the atmosphere of fear that one day, another bombing of the Lugogo kind might occur. While Ugandans worry, security continues to routinely pick up Somali and Eritrean nationals from the suburbs of Kisenyi and Old Kampala and question them for hours on end but only after the US embassy has publicly warned its citizens of an impending attack.

Uganda; The Den For Israeli Refugees

A three month investigation shows how – covertly – Uganda has been receiving Israeli refugees and taking arms in return to keeping them here or transiting them to their home country. Despite numerous government denials, tickets, photos and videos of Israeli refugees expose the grim nature in which the deportations are carried out and accepted by Uganda

When the accusation was first drawn that the Ugandan government was taking Israeli refugees in exchange for arms, government officials were quick to deny the allegations.
Foreign affairs ministry officials, on top of denying the allegation said the deportations from Israel would be in contravention of established International law practices that Uganda ascribes to. But the allegation held and probably might now be true.A few months after denying the allegation, Israeli government officials would shift their pronouncements from the non-existence of the deal to ‘the deal is not completely unfounded’.  Haaretz, a leading agency in Israel quoted the Israeli Interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, in September last year, saying the deal for the transfer of refuges from Israel to Uganda is not completely unfounded.

But while the Israeli government officials shifted goal posts on the matter, the government back in Kampala stayed firm, assuring the press from month to month that the government wasn’t taking any refugees from Israel.

While the government denied the allegations, they didn’t deny that Israel had approached them to act as a transit country for refugees. Infact, Foreign Affairs minister Okello Oryem in an interview with the EastAfrican newspaper would pronounce that indeed Uganda had been approached to host unwanted refugees of Eritrean and Sudanese origin

I set out to verify the allegation if indeed the Ugandan government had received refugees from Israel and whether arms were exchanged in the process.

The story of Israel’s approach to Uganda on the matter is traceable to the long held friendships of the Israel government with Uganda.  What perhaps was the start of the conversation on the matter was President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s visit to Israel in 2011.
The visit, was the second of its kind the president was making to Israel and travelled on private planes to get there. While in Israel, Museveni would talk to Benjamin Netanyahu on agricultural relations and in part military aid.

Present in that room that day was a man not new to Museveni’s eyes, Rafi Eitan. Having served in the Israeli airforce, Eitan had been elected Director of Israel’s top spy agency Mossad from where he left to become minister of Pension Affairs of Israel, it was from this post that he left Israel’s civil service to do private business in Agriculture. Those who know him, sing praise of his intelligence gathering and dissemination. Eitan retired to a private life in business and agriculture, his preference being starting a cattle ranch in Uganda, a trade Museveni leaves no stone unturned when explaining. Eitan would become a close associate of Museveni, often advising him on handling terror and in return, his business interests would come to fruition in Uganda.

A source who worked in statehouse at the time says every time he visited, he was highly guarded and given first priority, they describe him as a friendly old man that speaks less and is a stickler for order.

The details of that meeting may never become public but the outcome certainly became.  A gag order lifted by the Israeli court in August this year proved that Uganda had agreed to a deal to take in over 5,000 Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees in exchange for arms and agricultural support.

Uganda indeed had the atmosphere for the refugee settlement, the country was swarming with refugees to a tune of 220,555 according to data from the UNHCR, at the time, Museveni was in dire need of arms to deal with emerging threats of Al-shabab that Uganda had started fighting 2 years before then. Museveni also needed – rather too strongly – strong agricultural ties to sustain the national economy that was on skewers. Israel was willing to offer this and more. Arms, agricultural inputs, training for soldiers in Israel’s prestigious military and even Israel backing in missions against LRA and Al-Shabab.

So did the refugees come?   

That question cannot be better answered by anybody other than Nesredin Jemal Hasen, an Ethipion national stuck in Uganda. Jemal, fled fighting in his home country in Ethiopia and docked in Israel where he was given temporary asylum pending refugee status in 2009. He was assured by Israeli officials that upon processing of his documents, he would be granted refugee status however all that was about to change in 2014.

Jemal recalls receiving a phone call from a company named Inbal Insurance agency that informed him that he had booked a flight aboard Ethiopian airlines to fly out of Israel destined for Uganda on the 2nd of June. To the best of his knowledge, Jemal, an asylum then, did not have money to book a flight ticket but he was informed that the ticket had been cashed in by the insurance company and all that was required of him was to be at the airport on the said date to take his flight back home. Jemal pleaded to remain in Israel but that plea would bear no fruit. On the 2nd of June 2014, following orders he had been given, he went to the airport and was reffered to a man he fondly recalls introducing himself as ‘Amadeus’. Amadeus was the name that had booked the tickets for Jemal and would later hand Jemal $3500 to fly safely to Uganda, it was then that Jemal realised he had ‘formally’ accepted to be deported from Israel.

We traced the origins of the tickets and booking numbers on Jemal’s tickets and all of them led to an ‘agent 0403′ working at Inbal Insurance agency in Israel. Inbal, is a state owned insurance company that handles among many Israeli matters, insuring arms deals. Inbal had incurred a cost of  2 million shillings (USD 800) to book a ticket and flight for Jemal aboard Ethiopian airlines, seat number 17 D on the 2nd of June 2014. Jemal’s story checked. Addis Ababa airport had received a person in his names on the date he had given me and that person had proceeded on a private plane to Entebbe airport in Uganda. Jemal now lives in Kampala. He refused to disclose his location citing fear of reprisals after the story was published.

A booking ticket issued by the Israeli national Insurance company deporting a refugee from the country to Uganda
A booking ticket issued by the Israeli national Insurance company deporting a refugee from the country to Uganda
After meeting Jemal, I was convinced there was atleast, a semblance of truth in the allegation and so I went searching for more like him. In September this year, another of Jemal’s kind came my way, his name, Barahawi Fransa.Fransa, like Jemal, is an Ethiopian who had fled to Israel to ‘live a good life’. He explains – in amharic – that he had left Ethiopia after conditions of living got worse and untenable. He arrived in Israel in 2008 and has documents with him to prove that he was granted refugee status. However, in typical Jemal fashion, he was also called by ‘agent 0403′ and told that he had been booked a flight to Uganda destined to leave on the 12th of June 2014. An email – which URN has seen – followed the phone-call together with an air ticket and a booking reference alluding to ‘Amadeus’.  Fransa was flown out of Israel from Tel Aviv airport to Addis Ababa before ending up in Uganda.

The email address provided by the said ‘Amadeus’ on the tickets that were booked for both Jemal and Fransa when mailed returned an automated response saying there is no such user.
Dr Rami Gudovitch, a known activist on Israeli refugees describes the process of transferring refugees as ‘shopping’ and he says the matter could even be bigger. He says that the refugees are being arrested in the countries they are being sent to and Uganda is ‘certainly one of them’.

I sent the details of Fransa and Jemal to the Commissioner for refugees at the Office of the Prime Minister Apollo David Kazungu, to date, no response has been provided. Various requests for an interview on the matter have been turned down but he is quoted telling Associated Press that he ‘is not privy to any deal for the exchange of refugees between Israel and Uganda’.

To the arms deal

In 2009, Uganda needed arms the most, UPDF had just undertaken ‘Operation Lightening thunder’ to flash LRA rebels out of Ugandan territory and needed more supplies, at the time, documents from parliament’s defence committee seen by URN confirm that indeed a request by UPDF was put in for an extra 47 billion to fund operations in Garamba. Infact, a closer look at the spending patterns of UPDF from that year indicate that an extra 95 billion shillings was put in for the defence budget. When we traced the hansard for this discussion, the deputy Chief of Defence Forces then, Ivan Koreta had explained that the year had been a ‘hectic one for security’ and they ‘needed the money’.

The year following however, the ministry of defence budget was cut by over 55 billion shillings and in the same year, Israel reported to the United Nations Convention on Arms that they had sold weapons (eighteen 120mm mortars and 3 truck mounted weapon systems) , a sale that would have cost the UPDF four national budgets to put to bed. One 120mm mortar bought from Israel costs 1.3 trillion shillings according to the Japanese military expenditure list. Japan had bought the same guns a year before.  The major point is that Uganda government could not have afforded the weapons that Israel sold to them over the course of three years. The coincidental nature in which arms kept moving from Israel to Uganda following Museveni’s meeting with Netanyahu and former Mossad director Rafi Eitan would come into question. Eitan’s history with handling of refugees did not help the accusation either. During his tenure as Senior Affairs minister, Eitan had suggested that the Israeli government forcibly evict Jewish refugees that had settled in the country.

The covert nature of arms sales in Uganda made it impossible to track any paper work on this deal. Col. Felix Kulaigye, a spokesperson of UPDF at the time when asked about the arms purchase declined to comment saying it would be tantamount to breaching national security. Documents of accountability from the Ministry of defence on the arms purchase in the following financial year 2010/2011 do not reflect any deal to that amount, infact, the entire national budget would have to be taken to fund it.

An incident happening in November this year has however blown off the lid of what may have been detained them at Special Investigations Unit over ‘illegal arms importation’. The Israeli officials identified as Dotan Regev and Asaf Ben Israel were arrested at Entebbe Airport over ‘illegal importation of arms’ .

The two would be produced in court four days later from where they denied the charges and launched a counter claim stating that the Uganda government was the one importing the guns from the Israeli government and they are simply the go-between under their company Israeli weapons Industries (IWI). A string of documents following this claim has bought to light what may have been an arms deal. Rossette Byengoma, the Permanent secretary authored the first letter on January 29th this year stating that the UPDF was to be an end user of weapons being carried by the two Israeli officials. This in effect committed the UPDF to the deal.

The documents available suggest a government to government deal for the weapons however no track record of documents shows payment for the same by the UPDF.

Refugees like Jemal and Barahawi continue to question circumstances under which they ended up in Uganda but Ugandan government officials are neither willing to tell nor ready to divulge any details on the matter.

While loads of evidence suggest that over 150 refugees have undergone the same process Jemal and Barahawi underwent, the government in Kampala continues to vehemently deny these allegations.For the entire time of the investigation, I mailed the Israeli government spokesperson but my mails went unresponded to, the army in Uganda refused to comment on any arms dealings they have with Israel, the UNHCR, the international body charged with the protection of refugees says they have no information whatsoever of the existence of Israeli refugees in Uganda or any deportees for that matter.
Jemal and Barahawi have since met in Kampala and are planning on travelling to their home country in Ethiopia but lack passports and citizenship that was stripped off them after they fled their home country.

NWSC MD Appoinment; A Chronicle Of Rot

“Dr Muhairwe’s contract was a fixed contract and did not have a renewal clause. This meant that once it expired, his legal relationship with National Water and Sewerage Corporation would automatically be severed with no obligation imposed on the employer to renew”
This is an extract of the solicitor general’s opinion on whether Dr. Muhairwe William the former Managing Director of NWSC should be re-contracted after his stay at the corporation had run out. It appears as a strange starter but it cracked the first whip in the search for a new substantive Managing director at the corporation.

The opinion was written on 18th October 2011, a month later the board decided not to renew Muhairwe’s contract but rather search for a new MD. However this did not come to pass until August 2013, two years later.
Did the board need two years to appoint a managing director? Was influence peddled? Who played the cards in the two years NWSC searched for a Managing Director? This blog post investigates the rubble that halted the NWSC appointment for two years.

How It Played Out

National water and Sewerage Corporation commenced the search of a new MD as early as November 2011 when an advert was placed to have a person fill the top slot. Documents obtained from a special board meeting on 31st January 2012 show that the board fearing the sensitivity of the appointment contracted an independent consultant to handle the process. Following the meetings on 22nd March, the board resolved that KPMG, a leading consultancy firm takes the contract for the appointment of a new MD.
KPMG Pull-Out
KPMG promised to develop screening criteria to include the requirements of the position and then present a short-list of 4-6 successful candidates for the Job. 22 days later, the consultancy firm presented a list of four members to the board for appointment however the board declined to appoint and ordered the firm to review the experience of the candidates at senior management level from 8 to 5 years and produce a new short-list.

It is after this that the first list of six was produced as Patrick Byabakama, Alex Gisagara, Keith Kalyegira, Silver Mugisha, John Genda Walala and Harrison Mutikanga.
However when reading the list to the board, the chairman Christine Nandyose added the applicants that had been apparently passed by the Public service commission. The board approved John Peter Mujuni and Dan Kibuuka Kyobe who were not on the KPMG list and dropped John Genda Walala who had been approved on the KPMG list. The list was then given to KPMG as the choice of the board for shortlisting.
In a shocking turn of events, KPMG wrote to the Board in a 21st June 2012 Letter terminating their services from the process citing the inclusion of new names as a breach of their professional standards.
The letter is quoted as saying, “The inclusion of additional names is not consistent with our professional standards and could put in question the integrity of the whole process, as a result we are unable to continue with the process”.

After KPMG pulled out of the process board members were divided as to whether the added candidate qualified for the job.
The IGG in her report stings the board saying it was indeed irregular and illegal for the board to smuggle a seventh candidate into the shortlist. The report says, the additional names had gained ‘unfair advantage over the others’.
Public Service Enters the Mess
The board chairman then deferred the process to the Public service commission to continue the appointment process. In a letter dated 28th June 2012,a copy of which I have seen , the chairperson requests the Public service commission to continue the recruitment process. Attached to the letter were the shortlisted candidates and their CV’s, however no criteria was given to the body.

PSC gave three tests to the candidates (written competence test, in-tray exercise and oral interviews) and from a shortlist of three candidates (Gisagara,Mugisha and Byabakama) chose Engineer Silver Mugisha as the potential candidate for the job. However after the results emerged, the different candidates raised queries concerning the fairness of the exercise. The board then subjected them to further questioning before they could be approved as the short-listed candidates for the job. Part of the questions, it is understood, were personal and aimed at tarnishing the names of some of the candidates.

The IGG delivers a blow to the board in her report saying, the board members were prejudiced and asked very subjective and personalised questions. She adds “this subjective process, of course, could not be perceived to be fair to either candidate” the report concludes that the PSC and board interviews of the candidates were manifestly unfair to the candidates as they lacked the required objectivity in any ordinary recruitment process.
Albeit the recommendations of the IGG, the new board that was to be appointed a month later proceeded to appoint Silver Mugisha with no mention whatsoever of the IGG’s recommendations.

nwsc
it took this board, two years to shabbily appoint a Managing Director Photo By;NWSC

The Letter Spring

At the height of the confusion over NWSC leadership, the board sat one more time and synonymously agreed to appoint Alex Gisagara who had been the acting MD at the time, the minutes were written and sent to the Minister, then Maria Mutagamba, for approval. Instead of approving, Mutagamba authored a letter to the president dated 4th August 2012 requesting him to carry out ‘security vetting’ of the top two candidates.

The following weeks were stormy as the decision to appoint Gisagara, initially unrevealed, surfaced in Parliament. Many board members fearing to conflict while appearing before parliament disowned the board resolutions saying there was no consent to those minutes and that the process of appointment was still on-going.
The reply from the president was a cabinet re-shuffle which saw Mutagamba leave the ministry for Ephraim Kamuntu. Immediately he took over office, Kamuntu authored another letter to the president on 7th September 2012 saying the president had been misinformed as to the facts of the appointment.

Kamuntu argued that Silver Mugisha and not Gisagara was the recommended candidate for the job. The basis of his argument was that the PSC had put Mugisha ahead in the appointment process as he had scored more marks from the tests.
Museveni wrote back six months later in a letter dated 24th February, he is quoted as having said, “The correct thing should be to appoint Eng. Silver Mugisha who scored high from the PSC interviews and besides he is the new broom which may be necessary”.
What however had not been told to the President was that the PSC had carried out a sham interview of the candidates based on no criteria known to the appointing authority (board) whatsoever. The process had also been discredited after KPMG pulled out due to undue influence from the board.

gisagara
After two years as acting MD, Gisagara was dropped under unclear circumstances for the top job at NWSC Photo By; Faisal Kasirye, Daily Monitor

Kamuntu then forwarded the letter and its contents to a new Board chairman William Oketcho on 4th March this year.
What will never be known to the public though is, what transpired in the board meeting that resolved Gisagara be appointed to the top job?
What is clear though is that the IGG says not all facts were put to the President, and not even Kamuntu himself new all the facts as regards the appointment process. He made a biased argument and tagged in the power of the president to push the water body to appoint Mugisha.
Events Unfold
After forcing the board to appoint Mugisha from both the President and the Water Minister Ephraim Kamuntu, a new board chairman William Oketcho refused to adhere to the opinion of the president and the minister saying the two do not have the legal mandate to handle the appointment process as the NWSC act only provides for the board as the appointing authority. Oketcho preferred that the board listen to the IGG’s report and refresh the whole process.
After the IGG released her report on the mess surrounding the appointment process where she condemned the board and the minister for exerting undue political interference on the appointment, William Oketcho was suspended as the chairman of the board by Ephraim Kamuntu.

His reason being, Oketcho had deliberately delayed the appointment process.

In the face of NWSC was a stinging IGG report that recommended the process be refreshed if it is to be deemed fair, critics had also weighed in that the withdrawal of KPMG, a respected consultancy firm had already tainted the process, a split board one faction in favour of the suspended Oketcho and another faction for the Minister Kamuntu.
Oketcho was replaced by Engineer Chris Ebalu and in unprecedented fashion, the IGG’s report was sidelined and Mugisha appointed as MD. The decision remained guarded and was only communicated to the media after repeated attempts to get the information.
The Daily Monitor was first to break the story of the appointment without quoting any official source on the matter but rather the appointment letter given to Mugisha.
After almost two years of bickering, the process was still shabbily done and irregularities cited everywhere.
For example,
Why did the minister suspend Oketcho at such a crucial point in the appointment process?
Why was Oketcho’s decision to follow the IGG’s recommendations regarded as ‘deliberately delaying the appointment process’ by the Minister?
Why was an earlier board decision to appoint Alex Gisagara, who had been acting MD for the two years shelved?
Why was the minister having peculiar interest in one of the candidates?
Why would the President be involved in the appointment of a corporate head?
These entire questions remain unanswered for the daily Ugandan water consumer.

mugisha 2
Mugisha (left) takes over at NWSC after a long hustle process.

QATAHAR INVESTIGATES: KYAMBOGO DOWNFALL: FROM BREAD STRIKE TO COLLAPSE

On 23rd March, a news tip trickled through my phone line of an eminent strike by Kyambogo students. Though full reasons were not given for this, I quickly rushed to the university to find out the cause and a possible way out of the crisis by the university administration.

It, at first commenced as a bread strike by government students requesting for an increase in their rations but that was not all there was to it. I was later to discover, the strike stemmed from a flood of unresolved complaints tossed from students, lecturers, well wishers and administration.

A carpet road with a barely the common potholes in the city would make you assume everything about Kyambogo is right as you head to the university but however the rot in the university stinks right from the moment you set foot within the university premises.

the clock welcoming you to kyambogo university.

From the littered compounds to gazing idle students, incomplete buildings and a swarm of pestered walls of guild race candidates, there certainly is a story that lies uncovered in the simple kyambogo bread strikes, lecturer woes and unpainted buildings.

Deep at the core of all conflict is an unresolved mystery of piled up education generals reduced to cadres after the merger of three successful institutions of their times.

such are the kind of doors holding intact the crumbling biology department

In a far much dilapidated state is the biology department one of the few sites i was allowed  to visit and stealthily made away with a string of camera photo shots. As welcoming sites to the real campus after the senate building are sights of burnt down cars 2 months ago in a students strike, i was to later find out that the university was yet to dispose them off as the money meant for their disposal was lost in unclear circumstances from a source in the administration of the university.

these cars were burnt by an unknown student as students protested over a short notice pin-up requesting them to clear their tution fees!

in the same parking yard are cars of the vice chancellor and high ranking officials of the university. The only water backup truck is also among the gallery of old web-sewn cars yearning for a facelift by the university administration.

the only water backup truck for the frequent water shortages faced by the university.

despite the attractive photos that scroll on the website of the university at http://www.kyu.ac.ug , a flurry of notice boards in desperate state hang as the kyambogo university’s only form of communication from the administration of kyambogo university.

these are some of the noticeboards that date way back to 2003 as their inception date. no form of re-fixing has been undertaken so far.

Originally formed as a merger of institutions, Kyambogo university is scaling the lows of downfall with increased recruitment of students and yet little room is available for their accommodation.

Lectures have been transferred to as shocking as the dining hall! as the available rooms can scarcely hold the rising numbers of students recruited. The buildings left standing in the university leave alot to be desired from their outlook to a string of re-constructions yet to be made.

the ITEK building harbors dirt marks and vegetation springing up from the old patched roof.
the sign post leading to the vocational studies faculty a pioneer in the merger of the university.
you can hardly read the others too!

however even behind  the buildings are silent whispers of a university crying out for a breather to save it from extinction.

Mr Lawrence Madete the university PRO believes the university is still on course to delivering responsible educated citizens for the nation though “little mishaps” continue to haunt them.

I set out once again on a mission of unearthing the “little mishaps” Mr Madete was talking about to figure out how they could potentially lead to the university’s destruction and maybe avert any further crisis.

I was to later on meet Mr Phenny Birungi an official in the National Council for Higher Education which is the regulating body of universities but also a backyard neighbor to the dying university.

Mr Phenny’s discussion with me yielded possible benefits to resolving the crises affecting public universities in he country in a package called “chartering”

Chartering a university is to accord the university an international standard after it has successfully undergone a stringent verification process.

This might have sounded a good idea but I was later to learn, it was a mere proposal before the ministry of education and that it had to undergo a ministry nod, parliamentary discussion, approval and a presidents signature before it could be passed.

knowing well the Ugandan mode of operation, i knew this was a briefcase project that may never get to see light but faint hopes still lay within me of a potential solution.

In the meantime, Kyambogo university was back at it again with lecturers demanding a further 300% salary increment else they proceed with a sit down strike. A contingent of bodies joined in to demand with the lecturers, inclusive of National Union of educational institutions and the students’ guild.

The troubles were never resolved even with an intervention of the office of the IGG which seemed to point to one of the founder members and machine behind the merger that went wrong prof. Lutalo Bbosa.

Prof. lutalo Bbosa a lanky old academic, former principle of ITEK and a one-time kyambogo vice-chancellor before being thrown out of office seems not to agree with the current trend of events during an earlier interview with him at his UNEB office before he left.

“The university never fully merged, many forces were thrown out yet they wielded power in their respective schools” this was the statement i got from him after a long interview with the scholar.

Truth be told, alot of forces with power machined their ways in the previous institutions which the new parliamentary act could not accommodate in the new setting of the university.

As a motive to enhance their prowess (former merged college principles), extra measures like illegal appointments for the professors went ahead. Prof. Lutalo Bbosa suprisingly also chaired a meeting that was to deliberate on his vice-chancellorship, a position he had not applied for but somehow had his name on he list and went on to become vice-chancellor from then.

Even after backing out from the meetings, the committe of five had three of it’s members earlier seconded to those positions by prof. lutalo Bbosa.

This doesn’t necessarily point to him as the problem, though skirmishes of blemish may rub off him, alot of factors are at play in the continued descent of the university nine years down it’s inception date.