OPM REFUGEE BOSSES FIGHT FOR OFFICE AS HILLARY ONEK, ECWERU DEFY M7 DIRECTIVE
By Mulengera Reporters
The OPM operates all its refugee-related business at its offices located along Sir Apollo Kaggwa near Law Development Center. Many staffers operate from there under the leadership of a Commissioner in Charge of Refugees who substantively is the flamboyant Apollo Kazungu. In 2018, some UNHCR officials became uncomfortable with his insistence on transparency, prioritization of Uganda’s supremacy and interest in the overall refugee management and ganged up with his political supervisors to arbitrarily force him out of office.
He was falsely accused of many things including conniving to create ghost refugees, a thing that made the government of Uganda seem scandalous. The resultant scandalization in the media was used as justification by line Ministers Hillary Onek and Musa Ecweru to push then PS Christine Kintu Guwatudde to have him interdicted. Kazungu had previously been blacklisted as a bad man who is non cooperative after he failed or refused to use his office as Commissioner Refugees to facilitate fundraising of more than Shs400m as contribution towards some people’s 2016 reelection campaigns.
Even when information subsequently emerged following the verification jointly conducted by the GoU and the relevant UN agencies that there was no wrongdoing on Kazungu’s part, the concerned supervisors have been dragging their feet about his return. And more recently with support of mentors like Speaker Kadaga, President Museveni became more involved in ensuring that the exonerated man Kazungu regains his job at OPM as Commissioner Refugees. Gen Museveni went as far as putting his directive in writing but the same has continued to be defied by his two political supervisors who consider him to be such a bad man always hostile to their interests.
The matter had actually gone to court where Kazungu protested his maltreatment under Judicial Review. That had to be deescalated after the leadership at OPM and public service realized this was a bad case for them to try defending. Some consent of sorts was entered into and his unconditional return was part of the concessions his employer had to give as part of the broader out of court settlement. For the last two weeks, Kazungu, armed with the President’s letter, has been trying to access his office and resume serving his country only to be obstructed and frustrated by Gerald Menhya who has been acting since his ouster in 2018.
In rare show of defiance, Kazungu spent much of last week operating from the board room hoping the elderly Menhya would realize the futility of his actions and ease out of the office. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda was notified about the brewing chaos at the refugee office and personally intervened. He called a meeting during which he grilled Onek and Ecweru demanding to know why they are personalizing public office. The graceful man from Kabale asked the duo what they exactly have against Kazungu and advised them on the dangers of defying the President’s written directive by obstructing the man from Kamuli from resuming his duties yet the President considers him the best person for the job having realized his incorruptibility, resilience and patriotism to firmly stand up to imperialistic actions, interference and manipulation by officials from the UN agencies.
At the end of the Rugunda meeting, an impression was created that Menhya and his two political backers would relent and get out of the Commissioner Refugees office for Kazungu to appropriately occupy it and continue from where he had stopped. This never happened because even on Monday, Menhya turned up for work controversially claiming his contract to serve as the Ag Commissioner had just been extended. This prompted Kazungu, a former Makerere Guild President, to forcefully storm the office which they have continued occupying jointly with Menhya since Monday.
Kazungu is sitting on one end and Menhya on the other and the resultant confusion has left staff deeply polarized as to whom to report to since they now have two bosses with each claiming to be the rightful Commissioner in charge of refugees. Despite both of them hailing from Busoga sub region, Kazungu and elderly Menhya have continued sharing the office without talking to each other. Not even a good morning to you as they each report for work in the same room. There are credible fears the situation might soon escalate into physical confrontation with the frail elderly Menhya likely to sustain the deepest bruises if not fractures on his body as Kazungu is physically a very strong man.
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