There was that brave press conference that Kampala Lord Mayor Eria Lukwago gave in response to Gen Salim Saleh's blind notes.
The Ugandan public got anxious about the UPDF officer, Gen Salim Saleh’s blind notes announcing withdrawal of political support to the mayor if an apology does not come through. Against a steady wave of hitherto strong opposition fellas openly joining ranks with their nemesis, Yoweri Museveni — after rumours of clandestine dealings — as Museveni’s most powerful relative, Saleh’s announcement of support clearly tarnishes Lukwago’s public image.
He gets to be seen as no different from products such as Norbert Mao, Beti Kamya or Beatrice Anywar, among the most dramatic ones. Calling himself the “whistle-blower,” who is sadly, unfairly on the receiving end of public vitriol — as a mole masquerading as genuine opposition — the man spit fire at that press conference: uncensored, angry, determined, and often wrought with emotion; his was an inspiring performance for opposition forces.
For those who have followed Lukwago’s public performances, his eloquence and bravery with words is often expected. Kampala remembers the resoluteness with which he battled then Kampala Capital City Authority executive director, Jennifer Musisi revealing facts that actually sounded like fiction.
One time, during a TV show, Lukwago had said so much that he had to remind his visibly shaken host that he was a lawyer, fully aware of the implications of every statement he had uttered. Coincidentally, for the same reasons (inexplicable inflated budgets, ignored expert-plans and missing accountabilities for construction of road and other public infrastructures in Kampala) he battled Jennifer Musisi, he is now battling current executive director Dorothy Kisaka (and by extension, going by Lukwago’s own claim, Gen Salim Saleh, who is renowned for working in the woods).
SALEH’S CHITS, GREENLAND BANK, AND KCCA
It still bothers me that a senior presidential advisor at the level of a general, has been reduced to writing blind notes about how he has made Lukwago the politician he is. If these blind notes were fake—as Lukwago’s political party, the FDC has sought to demonstrate—it should be bewildering that Gen Saleh has allowed this fakery to continue in his name.
If his silence means ownership or endorsement of the message in the blind notes, it surely is a sign of cowardice on his part: why not appear like a man and voice your disagreement with the mayor of the country’s capital?
Upon Lukwago’s fiery interview, a journalist friend of mine called me, wondering why, in response to Salim Saleh’s notes, Lukwago went as far back as Greenland bank that was closed in 1999.
Yes, he went ahead and read a document that implicates folks such as Charles Mbire, Salim Saleh, and Jovia Saleh, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Matthew Rukikaire, Yoweri Museveni, etcetera, in addition to calling them “the cartel” keeping Kampala backwards.
Right in his speech, the immediate connection— between Saleh’s chits, Greenland bank, and KCCA—is a one Bosco Muwonge, a Kampala businessman allegedly in line to sell land to KCCA at a rate of $10m, per acre.
Lukwago also made the connection that those who finished off Greenland bank—and obliterated its owner Sulaiman Kiggundu—are the same people feasting off the ruins of Kampala. Here, he features at the surrounded but brave protagonist in this convoluted tale of theft and deaths, first as Greenland bank/ Sulaiman Kiggundu’s lawyer, and now as lord mayor.
Kampala is planning to renovate 69km of roads that make 31 already marked roads. The estimated cost of these roads is Shs 1 trillion. Mayor Lukwago insists these figures are “obscenely inflated” for the reason that the so-called technical persons running KCCA are making major cuts off these monies, and are working with and for Museveni’s powerful brother, Gen Saleh.
At this rate, we have Shs 14.4 billion being spent on a single kilometre of road, when the actual work is simply, mostly tarmacking. (Did they say they will also be building public toilets on these roads?) By Lukwago’s conclusion, for which several pundits agree, these obnoxious inflations are meant for pockets of a few individuals—the god-blessed cartel.
Enter Bosco Muwonge. That there is a letter from Gen Yoweri Museveni urging Finance Minister Matia Kasaija to disburse Shs 380bn to comrade brother Bosco Muwonge as payment for purchase of land for the relocation of market vendors is statement of dubious dealing.
How does Bwana Museveni feature in these matters? Bwana Muwonge is selling 10 acres of land and each has been cost at $10m (Shs 38 billion). Lukwago sarcastically asks, “Is there gold underneath these 10 acres of land?” Or “Is there oil like it is in Bunyoro?”
Why this price? Surely, there is no piece of land in Kampala where an acre can be honestly valued at $10 million. Lukwago reminds us that when a nearby piece of land was sold to KCCA—whose land title is still missing—all eight acres went at just Shs 4bn. Why, then, would these 10 acres cost a staggering Shs 380 billion with explicit orders from Mr Museveni?
Against these revelations, Mayor Lukwago has said so much that just an apology from him should not be enough. Either Gen Saleh will sue this man or call a press conference and expose him further. That is if the good soldier cares at all about these angry civilian ramblings. It is all a game, anyway.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.