By Our Reporters
Credible information reaching us indicates that President Museveni sometime back reached out to his old friend Mohan Mohammed Kiwanuka who is also husband to ex-Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka. Sources close to the two men say that Museveni, who directly and often speaks to the reclusive tycoon since first meeting him many years ago through late James Mulwana, begged Kiwanuka to accept a ministerial posting in his cabinet, an offer the legendary property owner respectfully declined. “He wanted him to take up a cabinet slot in order to boost the presence of such seasoned men in his cabinet but Mohan declined saying he was too busy with business,” says a source. Family sources say when he made Maria Finance Minister, Museveni was prompted by Mohan Kiwanuka who back then declined and reluctantly recommended his wife. “The H/E hoped that today so many years later, Mohan could have changed his mind but it appears the disgust with which his wife left has only made him more hardened and disinterested,” said an influential assistant at the Museveni palace.
In once again reaching out to Kiwanuka, Museveni is trying to bridge the vacuum that is going to be created by the departure of seasoned figures like Edward Sekandi and William Byaruhanga who have already begged him not to reappoint them. There is also Adolf Mwesige who is ripe for relegation on the account of frail health as well as Moses Ali.
MOHAN SHOCKING SECRETS;
To understand why the Kiwanuka family aren’t easily moved by cabinet appointments, one has to reflect on their profile as a solid family. Who they are and what makes them tick? Both Maria and Mohan have very strong Ganda family heritage-and lived privileged childhood. This explains why some refer to Mohan as old money. He isn’t easily excited by anything because he grew up in things. For instance Dr. Muhammad Kasasa Buwule, the well-educated Muslim who in the 1970s declined Amin’s offer to become health Minister, is Mohan Kiwanuka’s uncle. Buwule is young brother to Mohan’s mum. A very successful physician of the 1970s (working both in Mulago and private practice), Buwule himself is very rich and every month pockets not less than Shs1bn in rent from the residential and commercial properties he owns in places like Nakulabye, Bakuli and Mengo. He also owns the whole of Mutungo, a matter Kabaka Mutebi is disputing in court. Every day he wakes up to go on rent collection spree whereafter he drives to the bank to deposit the money. First it was Obote in the 1960s who tried to make Buwule a minister and he was being marketed by his Buddo OB Grace Ibingira, a strong UPC and pillar in Obote I government. Buwule flatly declined saying he was comfortable serving his country as a medical doctor in Mulago. When Amin took over, it was natural for educated and well-empowered Muslims to shine and indeed Buwule was marketed to Amin who agreed to make him a minister. He declined saying he was comfortable serving as a medical doctor. At some point, Buwule was even advised to ask for a transfer from Mulago to Kasese so that he operates there quietly as Amin forgets about him. Instead in that period, Buwule concentrated on medical work and business and in the process accumulated lots of wealth. This was at a time civil servants resented and despised business. That is the caliber of maternal parentage Mohan Kiwanuka Musisi had behind him.
BACK TO MOHAN:
A lawyer by training, Mohan started out life as a young Makerere and LDC graduate working with Uganda Development Bank whose legal department he later on grew to head. And it was at UDB that he supported many business enterprises and manufacturers in Uganda. He was one of the many young men that long term UDB MD Abbas Mawanda mentored and groomed for future corporate roles. Under Mawanda’s supervision and nurturing, Kiwanuka grew to become the Company Secretary (basically chief lawyer) for UDB. As of 1986 when Museveni became President, World Bank offered to help economic reconstruction of Uganda and emphasis was on revival of industry and manufacturing. WB advanced the Uganda government colossal sums of money and UDB was selected to be the implementing entity of that intervention aimed at economic reconstruction after many years of ruin. With that revitalized mandate, UDB was given a list of enterprises to be supported using WB funding and on the list were giants like Mukwano, Kasaku Tea Estates, Kakira Sugar and others-all of which were in total ruin needing urgent financing as of 1986. As Company Secretary, Kiwanuka (closely supervised by Abbas Mawanda) was at the center of this restoration that prioritized industry and manufacturing. In fact his Oscar Industries too benefited as well as the Mulwana Group among others. Museveni, whose political and economic reforms were celebrated globally as very revolutionary and one to be benchmarked upon, unreservedly empowered the team at UDB to work. Museveni of those days listened having rightly concluded it was the best way to learn and become a better president given that he was running the country with a team of men and women with no basic experience to write home about. Mohan’s long time in the banking and financing world deepened his understanding and appreciation of real estate which he grew up generally learning about from relatives like Dr. Buwule Kasasa. In the end, he accumulated lots of property and real estate in prime locations of Kampala. Abbas Mawanda was another role model of economic success from whom Mohan, who worked with UDB for most of his post-University life, learnt a lot. So seasoned and eminent was Mawanda that as of 1986, when Museveni took power, he wanted to quit after word went around that the new revolutionary leader was communist and not easy to work with. He also had fears Museveni might be uncomfortable with him because he had served at Bank of Uganda during both the regimes of Amin and Obote. Museveni surprisingly sent for Mawanda in his first weeks as President and casually told him “I’m told you want to leave; why are you running away when the new government needs men of experience like you?” Mawanda reluctantly agreed to stay on condition that his UDB team wasn’t dismantled to ensure continuity and institutional memory. Before Museveni, Mawanda had served as Director foreign exchange at BoU and later GM BoU. As of 1971, the Budo OB had just completed his Master’s degree at Minnesota University and Amin sent for him as he enrolled for his PhD there saying he needed such well educated people to serve in his government. Mawanda also served as Chairman and MD Uganda Commercial Bank and also had a stint in what became Tropical Bank. Mawanda, who owns the famous Mawanda Royal Gardens in Kireka, is so wealthy he owns much of the land in Kololo and Nakasero. His protégé Mohan equally owns much to the extent that he is the land lord to 13 Ambassadors from Europe and Scandia in the plush Kololo neighborhood. “The truth is those two guys [Mohan and Mawanda] own Kololo and Nakasero. The sudhirs too own a lot but we know much about them because they are outspoken about what they own. But Mawanda and Mohan have what they call old money because they don’t talk and you won’t find them anywhere but they own as much. If they are to come out and blow their trumpet we might be shocked to realize that the Sudhirs are nothing,” knowledgeable sources said of Mohan who also owns the building housing Danish Embassy and the large property on Jinja Road below the main gate of Parliament. This is the premises that originally housed DFCU bank headquarters but is currently occupied by UBA bank for their head offices in Uganda. A story is told of a very big person in the politics who got issues with the bank that wanted to confiscate his house and throw them out for loan defaulting. The tearful official reached out to the President but unfortunately the big man from Rwakitura was in New York. Museveni reached out to Mohan and asked him to bail out the situation and wait to be reimbursed by State House later. “The truth is Mzee also knows guys who have money and totally respects them because he knows they never look forward to conning and getting money from him and Mohan is one of them,” said a knowledgeable State House official. The same official went on to illustrate using another example of something Mohan did that caused Museveni to appreciate him even more. “Oscar Industries used to print campaign materials for Mzee and for us would just go and pick the materials. The two principals would talk directly but one time Mohan printed Mzee’s things for 2001. Some balance remained of Shs900m and he never reminded his friend about it. When Mzee sent money for campaign materials for 2006, Oscar Industries sent in things which are less by the worth of Shs900m. Mzee got information from the people at Kyaddondo that the materials were less. He was very furious thinking it’s us who had cheated him by ordering less. He rang Kiwanuka directly. He was shocked when he told him you had my debt of Shs900m and I had to take it off.” That Museveni was shocked at Kiwanuka’s humility and patience. “He asked him why have you not been demanding for that money yet we have been meeting and talking all this time? I hope we didn’t kill your business by keeping Shs900m from you for all this time,” the official explained. That this incident too showed Museveni that Mohan wasn’t these usual showy and greedy city tycoons and he came to trust him even more. Even when he contributes funding NRM things, Mohan always prefers not to be disclosed. And he is one who never calls the President for anything. It’s the big man to call whenever he needs his help-mostly consultation or sending him to go secure Kabaka Mutebi’s concessions whenever it’s appropriate. The other thing that happened and indicated to government officials that the Kiwanukas were above the ordinary was in 2011. After being appointed and inaugurated as Finance Minister, Maria Kiwanuka turned up for her first day at the Finance Ministry. Knowing this was someone posh, PSST Keith Muhakanizi had procured what he considered a befitting vehicle for the new minister but was shocked with the one Maria came driving. “We had to go and buy another one because what we had bought thinking would fit her standards was way too below compared to the private vehicle she came driving on the first day,” says a Finance Ministry official. The workaholic couple also own Radio One and Two plus the entire building opposite Bank of Uganda where the two radios are headquartered.
MOHAN MEETS MARIA;
But how did Maria and Mohan meet? As UDB manager, Mohan had his offices at IPS Building opposite Parliament. Maria at that time worked for Bank of Uganda and her offices were on the next floor above where Mohan was sitting as UDB lawyer. “They always met in the lift in the morning arriving for work and evening for the departure time. It was a daily routine and in the end they developed affection towards each other, started talking and the rest is history,” says a retired civil servant friendly to the couple. Being older than Maria, Mohan (a devout Muslim) had previously married Mzee Paul Kavuma’s daughter with whom they separated and he took on Maria up to this day. They have a lot in common including contempt for mediocrity. Mohan learnt many things from his fellow Muslim and mentor Abbas Mawanda including the need to educate one’s children abroad and getting for them work there. Indeed just like Mawanda (all of whose children work with US space agency (NASA), Mohan’s children too have had the opportunity to study and work abroad. The Kiwanukas are also very close to Nabagereka whom they even helped find cheap financing to erect her Sanga Apartments in the upscale Nakasero neighborhood behind State Lodge and opposite Laburnum apartments. Some of the funding came from DFCU after the Buganda Queen was strongly recommended by the Kiwanukas. One of the things that continue to intrigue the wannabe city tycoons about Mohan is his simplicity and contempt for pompous life style. Many times he will abandon his posh cars and travel in special hires. Humility and modesty is what some young journalist learnt about Mohan sometime back. On finishing a meeting at MM Pub Kabuusu, the journalist was asked by someone who had been having a meeting with Mohan that “my friend can you drop this friend of mine to town?” He obliged and was days later shocked to learn that the very quiet man he carried in his not so very good Premio was Mohan Kiwanuka reputed to own much of Kololo and Nakasero. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.