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WHAT EXACTLY DID MRS KABATSI DO TO GEN KATUMBA WAMALA? 

By Mulengera Reporters 

Like he tried to do with the Uganda Airlines CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki, Works & Transport Minister Gen Edward Katumba Wamala is once again determined to ignore the President and proceed to do what he considers to be right regarding who must become the new Chairperson for Uganda Railways Corporation.

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In April, Gen Museveni wrote to Katumba making it clear that Bamuturaki was his choice for the new Uganda Airlines CEO but, because the information wasn’t shared, the UA Governing Board went ahead and advertised the job instead of confirming Bamuturaki who was already acting, as was directed by the President.

They spent money advertising the job for CEO (this was in June) and it only became known that Gen Museveni had written to Katumba, directing Bamuturaki‘s confirmation months earlier, after the shortlisting had even been commenced. There was some chaos and government looked shabby, disorganized and uncoordinated. Katumba only shared the President’s communication after State House saw the advert prompting the main man from Rwakitura to wonder what was happening.

Weeks later, after the UA-related storm settling, Gen Katumba Wamala is on the verge of angering or even defying the mighty once again. The latest defiance relates to who should become the head of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC). Reliable sources say that Gen Museveni sometime back rang Gen Katumba Wamala registering his wish to have Mrs. Joy Kafura Kabatsi serve as the new Chairperson for URC (he actually directed him).

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The H.E’s directive was a follow up to related engagements two bush war heroes (namely Gen Jim Muhwezi and Salim Saleh) had made to the same Katumba Wamala pitching for the same Mrs. Joy Kabatsi. The very first one was Gen Salim Saleh who reached out and indicated to Katumba his wish to have Kabatsi take charge. Why? She is presumed to be incorruptible, decisive and knowledgeable on matters relating to URC because it was one of the many agencies she supervised while serving as the Minister of State for Transport until June last year. She is also seen as someone with the decisiveness and energy to move things quickly to once again revitalize railway transport for Uganda.

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Each time he is confronted with questions relating to traffic jams and the rampaging fuel/commodity prices, Gen Museveni has pegged his hopes and long term solution on revitalizing and once again having a functional railway network. Only last week, he was interviewed by the BBC ‘s Allan Kasujja and vowed never to give in to pressure to subsidize fuel prices because his more realistic and sustainable solution is to have a functional railway network in whose revamp his government has lately been sinking trillions (with support of donor groups).

He told the BBC that a functional railway network, which he vowed to deliver sooner than later, would diminish costs related to transporting cargo into Uganda while facilitating exportation. He believes that the same will diminish the demand for petroleum products and thereby alleviate the economic suffering of Ugandans.

Museveni also wants the railway network up and running as quickly as possible in order to facilitate the movement of bulk logistics relating to the oil/petroleum and gas commercialization activities which are commencing in Uganda in the next 2 years.

The country’s Chief Executive Officer also believes reliance on railway transport will de-congest the roads and prolong their life span since heavy trucks have since been established to be a major cause or reason as to why Ugandan roads develop cracks and don’t last longer. A revamped railway network also naturally impacts on the cost of doing business in Uganda which is a key ingredient when it comes to attracting foreign investors.

It’s a combination of all these that explains why the railway sub sector, and the URC leadership, has all of a sudden become a matter of urgency and great importance to the veteran leader from Rwakitura. And it’s the reason he and his influential brother Salim Saleh feel justified to get involved in determining who becomes new Chairperson, and therefore over all head, of Uganda Railways Corporation. Yet the two politically very powerful brothers aren’t the only ones who have tried to impress it on Katumba that Mrs. Joy Kafura Kabatsi is the best person to head URC at this juncture.

Gen Jim Muhwezi, another bush war hero who is also the Minister for Security, has equally weighed in. We have it on good authority that the veteran legislator from Rujumbura in Rukungiri district wrote a strong recommendation and addressed it to Katumba Wamala, as a fellow Cabinet Minister, while marketing the same Mrs. Kabatsi. Gen Muhwezi wasn’t acting improperly because the practice in Gen Museveni‘s Cabinet is that when any governing board for a government parastatal expires, and the new one is due to be constituted, the line Minister writes to all Cabinet colleagues imploring them to suggest names of people they know and consider suitable for inclusion or deployment on such boards.

It’s in that spirit that Gen Muhwezi wrote to the Works & Transport Minister recommending Mrs. Kabatsi. Being colleagues, same Ministers and Generals in the same UPDF, Gen Muhwezi followed up his written communication with even a phone call to understand if the line Minister had any reservations about Kabatsi who he used to supervise as State Minister for Transport until June last year. “If the President is for it and Gen Saleh is for the same and now myself, what’s the problem? Why can’t we do it? Why can’t we make it happen? We are the Generals and we should be able to resolve this simple matter,” sources quoted Gen Muhwezi as trying to lighten up the mood of his fellow General regarding the Kabatsi posting.

We are told that Gen Katumba, who ironically has created a lot of enemies in government, simply said there was no problem as far as he is concerned. He made it clear he had nothing personal against Gen Muhwezi‘s person or recommendation favoring Mrs. Kabatsi. Yet even inside the Port Bell Road-based Ministry, Gen Katumba hasn’t disguised his dislike for Mrs. Kabatsi who famously contributed to great transformation at MAAIF, through the revamp of NAGRIC, during the years she served as the State Minister in charge of livestock and animal husbandry under Vincent Sempijja. A diehard NRM cadre, Mrs. Kabatsi also previously served as the Director Legal Affairs at State House. Her husband Peter Kabatsi is one of the personal friends and lawyers for the President.

Yet Gen Katumba, who is understood to favor the re-appointment of businessman Hannington Karuhanga to continue heading URC, clearly remains uncomfortable having the same Mrs. Kabatsi head URC as Chairperson. She wouldn’t be the first former Minister getting re-deployed to Chair one of the Parastatals under the Ministry she previously headed. Former ICT Minister Nyombi Thembo has comfortably served as one of the effective Directors at Uganda Communications Commission which he used to directly supervise.

Yet Mrs. Kabatsi will equally not be the first State House-backed appointee to endure Gen Katumba‘s lukewarmness and foot dragging. Years ago, Allen Kagina’s reappointment as UNRA ED, which had been cleared by both State House and the Governing Board, couldn’t be promptly effected because the veteran army General from Ssese Kalangala was taking his time. At the Entebbe-based Uganda Airline, the President’s wish to have Bamuturaki confirmed was communicated to Gen Katumba in April but was only proclaimed to stakeholders towards the end of June.

Inside the Works & Transport Ministry, Gen Katumba Wamala‘s discomfort towards Mrs Kabatsi has caused serious rifts which, if not managed, could gradually hurt service delivery. The PS Mzee Waisswa Baligeya and Transport Minister Fred Byamukama are said to be okay with Mrs. Kabatsi who Gen Katumba has managed to get Musa Ecweru (Works State Minister) to see as not good enough to chair URC. Reference is being made to the belligerence with which Kabatsi caused members of the old Board and management of Uganda Airlines to be fired on grounds of financial impropriety and inefficiency.

Ecweru, through whom the support of VP Jessica Alupo who is likely to chair the Monday Cabinet session, has been delegated to represent Gen Katumba who will be away. The Cabinet order paper for the Monday session is out and the Works Ministry has been allocated time to make their case relating to the composition of the new URC Board on which Enterprise Uganda’s Charles Ocic has been proposed to sit. Mulengera News couldn’t readily establish names of the other proposed nominees who Cabinet has the mandate to approve or reject.

What has alarmed many Ministers, however, is the fact that the files that have been sent out to each one of them ahead of the Monday Cabinet meeting doesn’t contain the list of names of people Gen Katumba would want to comprise the new URC Board. For unknown reasons, the URC matter has generated a lot of interest among Cabinet members to the extent that those in favor or against the Katumba position on Kabatsi have spent much of the weekend reaching out and calling colleagues trying to market and popularize their position.

It’s not just Katumba but many other Ministers sometimes overlook the President’s guidance or even drag their feet on it under the impression that, being a very busy person, the veteran leader from Rwakitura will forget and eventually let go. The apprehension with which the Works & Transport Minister has approached the Museveni, Muhwezi and Saleh proposal to give the job to Joy Kafura Kabatsi has left many wondering what the amiable female politician from Sembabule could have done to Katumba Wamala to deserve so much haranguing. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at mulengeranews@gmail.com).

 

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