On April 13, a prized sleek black Toyota Land Cruiser V8 was unveiled publicly as a presidential gift to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II on his 60th birthday.
But hours after it was publicly unveiled at Bulange-Mengo by Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, the car was driven back to State House, The Observer has learnt. The car was procured from Toyota Uganda on April 12, a day to the Kabaka’s birthday. It remained a closely guarded secret because President Museveni wanted to present it himself as a surprise gift to the Kabaka.
Before Museveni cancelled his attendance late on Sunday night (April 12), a member of the organizing committee had said in a WhatsApp message sent to this writer that the president would deliver a “special package” to the Kabaka.
And when Museveni called off his attendance, Ssekandi stepped in, and moments before he was invited to speak, he went over and whispered to the Kabaka. Ssekandi, according to a royal family member, tried but failed to get the Kabaka to accept to be photographed as he received the car.
Ssekandi later moved and handed him an envelope with an enclosed presidential birthday message before he went on to unveil the car. After the birthday celebrations, palace sources say, the car was delivered to the Kabaka’s palace in Banda by Herbert Ndiwalana, an employee of the President’s Office.
Once there, Ndiwalana reportedly told the Kabaka that the president intended to give him an armoured car, valued at over Shs 1bn instead of the Shs 300m V8 Land Cruiser which was unveiled for all his subjects to see for symbolic reasons.
The Kabaka is currently chauffeured in a lefthanddrive (LHD) Lexus. Buganda spokesman Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi told us on Tuesday that he was not aware the car had been taken back.
“I have no idea. I don’t know what goes on in the palace; it was a personal gift to the Kabaka, so, I don’t know,” Walusimbi said. Walusimbi said the gift had taken him by
surprise just like many other kingdom officials.
“To be honest with you I was taken by surprise; and how it was done? I don’t know,” Walusimbi said.
Royal sources said Trade and Industry minister Amelia Kyambadde, a member of the event’s organizing committee, could have had a hand in the delivery of the car. But Kyambadde told The Observer on Tuesday that she was not involved.
“I was part of the organizing committee representing government, and my role didn’t go beyond delivering Shs 50m [government contribution],” Kyambadde said.
“The vice president is better placed to speak about it,” Kyambadde added.
Ssekandi was not available for a comment. He is reported to be out of the country, according to his office.