INSIDE NSSF COMMITTEE
Probe split along tribal lines
Museveni meets probe MPs
What appeared like a major offensive to save Mbabazi was the meeting between President Museveni and all NRM MPs on the probe committee that took place at State House Entebbe on Friday October 10. This is the day the committee on State Enterprises that has been probing the sell of land by Mbabazi and Amos Nzeyi to NSSF was supposed to camp at Libya Hotel in Entebbe, near State House, to write its report.
They drove to Entebbe and met Mr. Museveni for about two hours.
Museveni told the MPs that the NSSF land transaction was not a party matter. He said, according to MPs who attended the meeting, that all he needed was a fair process and justice to prevail.
The President claimed he didn’t have full facts about the transaction, although Mbabazi had briefed him. Then he allowed some questions.
Ahabwe Pereza (Rubanda East) told Museveni that the NSSF MD, David Jamwa, had been coached and that is why he was claiming in his second testimony that he faced political pressure.
This is when Museveni spoke of investigating Jamwa to find out who actually coached him. Incidentally this came out differently in the dailies, which suggested that it was President Museveni who first mentioned the issue of “coaching”.
Jinja Municipality East MP, Nathan Nabeta, pointed out that Mbabazi had himself demanded that the allegation of about a quarter of the Temangalo land being a wetland be determined by the relevant body, in this case the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). Indeed NEMA was contacted and their conclusion was that a quarter of the 463 acres of land is a wetland.
This is when, again, Museveni took a shot at NEMA, wondering why they had allowed construction in low areas of Banda and Kyambogo if they are serious about preserving wetlands.
MPs went into this meeting expecting an express order from Museveni that they save Mbabazi. The President didn’t issue that order. Instead, he sent mixed signals and left the matter to individuals MP to decide.
Like The Weekly Observer has reported before, the President may have feared to alienate the many supporters of his who seem to have beef with Mbabazi. Besides, he told the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting that he would “wait for the committee’s report” before taking a position.
So the MPs left State House Entebbe confused, not knowing what exactly Museveni wanted of them. Mwenge North MP, Tom Butime Rwakaikara, is the only NRM MP who didn’t attend the meeting with Museveni. Butime, an NRM historical who declined a ministerial portfolio (Karamoja Affairs) in 2006, might have found it inappropriate to meet the President over a matter before the committee. Another NRM absentee, Sarah Nyombi, was said to be outside the country.
Mbabazi meets probe MPs
Two days before going to Entebbe, Mbabazi held a night meeting with NRM MPs in the party Chief Whip’s office at Parliament, on October 7. This was the last opportunity for the ‘Super Minister’ to convince the jury of his innocence. He pleaded for a fair trial.
Sources have told The Weekly Observer that both meetings with Mbabazi and Museveni didn’t help the former because they put the legislators under immense pressure. They faced bribery and compromise allegations that were later used as a campaign tool against Mbabazi in an outside the committee.
A vote for Mbabazi was now going to be seen as an obvious result of bribery by members of the curious public!
As the committee began real evaluation of evidence in Entebbe, the Mbabazi camp planned to throw them into disarray.
The plan was to get the sacked Erute North MP, John Odit (UPC), re-instated as the probe committee chairman. Odit was sacked by Opposition Chief Whip Wadri Kasiano for accepting to go on a trip with President Museveni in the middle of the investigations.
He was replaced by his vice, Johnson Mallinga (Kapelebyong, Amuria), an Independent. Even Odit’s membership on the committee was nullified by the same decision and was given to lead Counsel Abdu Katuntu.
Reliable sources have told The Weekly Observer that UPC Vice President and party Whip, Livingstone Okello Okello, was part of a plot seeking to squeeze a ruling out of the Speaker of Parliament, to the effect that Odit had been sacked irregularly.
Okello Okello stood up in Parliament on Thursday last week and sought a ruling of the Speaker on the sacking of his party member, John Odit.
The Speaker replied that if rule 13 was used, it was wrong. It should have been rule 134.
Immediately after Parliament, the Minister of State for Local Government, Hope Mwesigye, who is a sister to Mbabazi’s wife, went to the office of the Clerk to Parliament, Aeneas Tandekwire, demanding that he writes a letter informing the Entebbe committee that its leadership had been nullified.
Tandekwire, who is known for his no-nonsense honesty and straight-speaking, told Mbabazi’s in-law that he was watching the proceedings from his monitor and didn’t hear the Speaker making that particular ruling.
When Kassiano Wadri learnt of what Mwesigye was trying to engineer, he too rushed to Tandekwire’s office which is not very far from his, seeking to know what was going on. After meeting the Clerk, Wadri wrote a fresh letter now citing rule 134 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.
Meanwhile, one of Mbabazi’s foot soldiers, Kibuku MP Saleh Kamba, had sent a text message to one of the probe committee members, Henry Aggrey Bagiire (NRM Bunya West), telling him: “Odit re-instated. Mallinga and Katuntu leadership nullified, Bravo.”
After spending 10 days at Entebbe dinning together, Bagiire shared the message with his colleagues and it temporarily affected business. The whole committee was informed and telephone calls were exchanged with Kampala.
Ahabwe Pereza called the NRM Chief Whip, Kabakumba Mastiko, and she told him that the man (Ssekandi) simply dealt with the matter in passing. Ahabwe, a pro-Mbabazi member of the committee, informed his colleagues of this view and urged them to proceed because the message was misleading.
When the issue of Mbabazi’s guilt was put to vote for the first time and the minister lost, it was the same Ahabwe who demanded time out to sort out the Abdu Katuntu membership. This effort also failed. It is curious why pro-Mbabazi forces would be comfortable with John Odit, a UPC member. Was he indeed compromised as alleged by some in the opposition?
Soldiers invade Entebbe
After failing to save Mbabazi from Kampala, Hope Mwesigye reportedly pitched camp at a nearby site in Entebbe.
Mwesigye had been summoned to the committee during the investigations to explain why she was sending text messages asking MPs to save Mbabazi.
Also in Entebbe to save Mbabazi was Workers’ MP, Dr. Sam Lyomoki, Kibuku MP, Saleh Kamba, Bugabula South MP. Asumani Kiyingi, and Lt. Jessica Alupo Epel (rtd).
Some of these were seen at the committee’s hotel trying to influence the members. But this strategy also went horribly wrong when Kiyingi visited the hotel. His brief was to target NRM Busoga MPs. Kiyingi found Bruno Pajobo, Meddie Mulumba and Bagiire seated on one table. Other committee MPs were seated some tables away.
Kiyingi saw two NRM Busoga MPs; Bagiire and Mulumba seated together, but there was a third person – Pajobo.
“It is time for you people to make some money,” the Bugabula South MP reportedly told the three. “I also brought you some women and they are in the cars.”
Upset, Bagiire got up and walked back to his hotel room. The 61-year old Pajobo stood up in anger and confronted Kiyingi: “Why don’t you respect me. How can you tell an old man that you have brought him women?” The quarrel went on for minutes before the Workers’ MP walked away. Meddie Mulumba stayed with the now embarrassed Kiyingi for a while until he disappeared to an unknown location.
Enter Chief Whip
The NRM Chief Whip, Kabakumba Mastiko (Bujenje) also visited the probe committee’s hotel in yet another effort to save Mbabazi. In a meeting with some NRM MPs, Matsiko said she was only checking on them to be briefed about the progress they were making in writing their report.
But the Chief Whip had trouble explaining to Bubulo West MP, Fred Bukeni Gyabi, what the party position was on the matter.
In the meeting, according to our sources, Bukeni asked Kabakumba to articulate the NRM position was on the matter. She replied that said she would first consult and tell him later.
“Which organ are you going to consult when the CEC sat and said they are waiting for our report; when the caucus sat and said they are waiting for our report?” the MP asked. Kabakumba appeared lost. Another effort went begging.
A source within the committee has told us that even Mbabazi’s supporters at times didn’t help their cause. He cited MP Ahabwe who after some bottles would reportedly say “these people have put us in a difficult situation and it is now our committee on trial.” The MP would reportedly talk of how he cannot sentence Mbabazi and Suruma because the whole of Kigezi might ask him to explain.
However, the following day the same man would take charge of the save-Mbabazi crusade like nothing happened the previous night.
In the end, this tribal outlook seemed to galvanise other regions against Mbabazi. For instance, all Baganda MPs on the committee; Salabaya, Mugerwa and Sarah Nyombi voted and appended their signatures onto the report that pins Mbabazi and Suruma. Their action might also have reflected the anger generated by the Land Bill in Buganda.
The Busoga sub-region had the highest numbers on the committee; Katuntu, Bagiire, Mulumba and Nabeta. They too had their individual and collective grievances, but it is believed that committee vice chairman and lead counsel Katuntu (Bugweri, FDC) was a big influence.
With that, Mbabazi was left with mainly NRM MPs from Ankole and Kigezi in western Uganda. The odd man and woman out are; James Kakooza (Kabula) and Rose Munyira (Busia Woman). These are the ones writing a minority report.
Mbabazi must now get worried because this voting pattern on the final report could well reflect what is likely to happen either when the NRM caucus sits or when the whole Parliament debates the report.