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Mbabazi, Muhwezi clash at top NRM meeting

Discussion in 'Ugandan News and Politics' started by August, Sep 11, 2008.

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    August JF-Expert Member

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    Mbabazi, Muhwezi clash at top NRM meeting
    Emmanuel Gyezaho & Richard Wanambwa

    Kampala

    Security Minister Amama Mbabazi and Rujumbura MP Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi were on Tuesday involved in a vicious verbal spat in front of President Yoweri Museveni during a meeting of the National Resistance Movement Central Executive Committee. The meeting was convened to discuss the controversial NSSF-Wakiso land purchase.

    Sources that attended the closed-door meeting, which started at 11:30am and ended a few minutes after 9pm, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the disagreement was entrenched in tribal sentiments, as Mr Mbabazi accused Gen. Muhwezi of reportedly leading a campaign to end his political career and that of other prominent Bakiga in the government.

    “I look at this as a fight against the Bakiga,” Mr Mbabazi reportedly told President Museveni. “They are pulling me, Dr Suruma, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, Mr Emmanuel Mutebile and Dr Ruhakana Rugunda in this matter and it is Jim [Muhwezi] who is pushing it.”

    Dr Suruma is the Finance Minister, Prof. Kagonyera is the deputy MD of NSSF and Makerere University chancellor, Mr Mutebile is the Bank of Uganda Governor while Dr Rugunda is the Internal Affairs Minister.

    Mr Mbabazi’s accusation, sources said, was not taken lightly by Gen. Muhwezi, who quickly responded, “Your excellency, Mbabazi should stop using my name to cover up the matter. I am not a petitioner and I am not a member of the committee. I am just a member of the party who is concerned.”

    It was just one of the several exchanges that the President reportedly laboured to contain without taking sides in a saga that has left a sharp wedge in the NRM party. And while it had been understood that the meeting was convened at the behest of Mr Museveni, who was reportedly alarmed by the negative publicity that Mr Mbabazi’s transactions with NSSF had attracted, it emerged that the matter was not even part of the agenda.

    After convening the meeting, a source said, Mr Museveni spent the next several hours briefing the top NRM officials about the party’s corporate plan ahead of the 2011 general elections, plans on how to raise money for the party, proposals of filling positions of secretaries and directors for the party secretariat and implementation of the government’s Prosperity for All programme.

    It was only when the meeting decided to address matters that arise from members in the ‘Any other Business’ agenda item, that the Mbabazi question arose.

    As if to pre-empt what his colleagues would say, Mr Mbabazi rose, according to the source and told Mr Museveni; - “I have a matter to explain before this organ about my involvement with NSSF.” “I am very much interested in this matter,” Mr Museveni is quoted as having said.

    According to a source, Mr Mbabazi went on to tell the committee that he had done no wrong in the land transaction and reiterated the defence he presented to the NRM Caucus on September 1.

    He said the price at which he sold more than 400 acres of land, along with business partner Amos Nzeyi to NSSF at the cost of Shs11 billion, was fair and not inflated, adding that Gen. Muhwezi had also recently sold land in the same neighbourhood at Shs28million an acre, while the duo had sold their at Shs25 million per acre.

    But his submissions drew the wrath of Gen. Muhwezi, also chair of the NRM Veteran’s League and Capt. Mike Mukula, the NRM eastern region Vice-Chairman, who, according to a source, contested Mr Mbabazi’s explanations. “By the way, the 52 acres of land Mbabazi sold is air and the balance of 47 acres is a wetland,” Gen. Muhwezi said. In the moments that followed, Mr Mbabazi rose and accused Gen. Muhwezi of collecting money from businessmen “to make sure I am censured.”

    Pointing his index finger at Gen. Muhwezi, Mr Mbabazi reportedly said, “Let me assure you comrade, I will not go. I am here. Try your luck but you will be disappointed.” But the Rujumbura MP retorted, “You will go down whether you like it or not and this is the time comrade, unless you own up.”

    Mr Museveni quickly intervened to cool down the raging tempers.
    “I think as party leaders we need to be very careful. We need to look at these issues from a bigger picture. We cannot be the engines killing projects over petty issues,” said the NRM chairman. But even the President’s call could not extinguish the fire against Mr Mbabazi.

    According to the source, the western region vice-chairperson, Brig. Matayo Kyaligonza, reportedly accused the security minister of supplying “swamps and frogs”, pushing the Mr Mbabazi to defend himself in a cheekier manner, “No I supplied dams and fish.”

    Mr Hassan Bassajjabalaba joined the fray telling the meeting, “Double standards should not be employed in this matter.” He cited the case of former Gender Minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, whom he said was “languishing in exile” for her role in the botched NSSF-Nsimbe investment project.

    Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga reportedly questioned the integrity of the deal as debate raged over whether Mr Mbabazi was guilty of any wrongdoing.

    At this point, Mr Museveni is reported to have told Mbabazi that he shouldn’t have involved himself in the deal if he was aware that NSSF had flouted procurement laws by not advertising their interest for land.

    Although he sided with Mr Mbabazi over questions about the price valuations for the land, the source said, Mr Museveni said he was concerned that “the procedures involving government procurement were ignored”, adding that it is an issue Mr Mbabazi would have “advised” NSSF in transacting business with them.

    Mr Mbabazi said he was ready to prove his innocence before Parliament’s committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises currently investigating the transaction, but added that if anyone was to take blame, it was NSSF.

    Mr Bassajjabalaba then attempted to move a motion to compel Mr Mbabazi to resign as investigations continue but NRM Chief Whip Kabakumba Masiko raised objections and said the party organ should “let the parliamentary committee continue and finish its work. We should not jeopardise investigations.”

    At this point, President Museveni closed the meeting, agreeing with the pro-Mbabazi camp that “we should wait for the report of the parliament committee” before a conclusive position is taken on the matter.

    Notable absentees at the meeting included Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, Information Minister Kirunda Kivejinja and Sports Minister Charles Bakabulindi.
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    August JF-Expert Member

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    Commitee summons Hope Mwesigye over Mbabazi SMS
    Mercy Nalugo & Sheila Naturinda

    As Security Minister Amama Mbabazi appears before the Parliamentary Committee investigating the controversial NSSF-Wakiso Land transaction today, it has emerged that State Minister for Local Government Hope Mwesigye has also been summoned by the MPs.

    The MPs claim that Ms Mwesigye, who is also a sister-in-law to Mr Mbabazi, has been lobbying NRM MPs to defend the security minister, an action MPs say amounts to influence peddling. "If Ms Mwesigye is very interested in the committee's work, she should appear and tell us exactly how we (the committee) can defend Mbabazi. This is a clear case of influence peddling," Mr John Odit, the chairperson of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, told a news conference yesterday.

    Last week, Ms Mwesigye reportedly sent text messages to some NRM MPs who sit on the committee, begging them to defend Mr Mbabazi during investigations.

    One such SMS, sent to Workers MP Bruno Pajobo, read, "Greetings! Kindly help out on Amama issue if you can. Hope Mwesige." Attempts to get a comment from Ms Mwesigye yesterday were fruitless as her phone was switched off.

    Wondering how Mr Pajobo would influence investigations considering that he represents workers, whose interests are pertinent in the inquiry, Mr Odit said, "She (Mwesigye) will be part of the long list of the witnesses. It is a case of guilt on her side."

    He added, "How can he (Pajobo) help out? We are not a team of potato growers and she cannot play around with the committee." Ms Mwesigye is scheduled to appear before the committee on Monday next week.

    At yesterday's briefing, the MPs said they had received phone calls and messages from key NRM legislators imploring them to back off the investigations. "We are very much aware of such attempts and we shall call for security," said MP Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County).

    Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu said the SMS and phone calls are meant to divert the committee from exposing the truth, although none of the legislators produced evidence to back their claims.

    Rwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo denied reports that some MPs on the committee had been bribed. "There is no truth in that. How can we be compromised in the face of naked evidence coming out?"

    He added: "Committee members are still solid and behind our chairman and we shall surely move forward. I absolutely see no chance of compromise in any of us because a lot more evidence is showing up."

    The MPs also revealed that they have asked Finance Minister Ezra Suruma to appear before by Tuesday next week to explain why he approved the NSSF deal even though the transaction flouted procurement laws.

    "We pardoned him but he must know that by Tuesday he will appear or else we shall evoke our powers to bring him here," said Mr Odit, adding that Dr Suruma's record of skipping parliamentary summons was well documented. "He may face the wrath of the committee if he fails to appear then [Tuesday]."

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