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How ambassador Onen was recalled from Arusha

By Onghwens Kisangala

Uganda, through Onen, as the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) of the EAC in charge of projects and programmes, and Beatrice Kiraso, as the DSG in charge of fast tracking political federation, held two DSG positions. The entry of Rwanda and Burundi created demand for two new DSG positions to achieve equality among all member countries at this level. Thus to begin with, it was inevitable that Uganda had to give up one DSG position. The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador James Mugume says Onen’s department turned up as the only viable one to be split into two ‘ Planning and Infrastructure and Social and Productive sectors ‘ to create room for the new member states.

This, he adds, was entirely a decision of the EAC secretariat in consultation with relevant ministries in member countries. As such, Onen’s, instead of Kiraso’s, appointment was not renewed when both their three-year stints expired, even if Onen, compared to Kiraso, has had a long career in Uganda’s diplomatic service. ‘There was a feeling that fast tracking [the political federation, which is Kiraso’s brief] was still more relevant and a continuing project,’ says Mugume. Owing to the political nature of this assignment, Kiraso’s background in politics came in handy and partly determined the renewal of her appointment instead of replacing her with Onen. Mugume says that, ‘Some politicians are trying to score cheap points about this. They don’t really seem to understand how diplomatic service works. It is deploy-and-recall based.’

For Mugume, the real issue is not that Onen has been recalled but rather where he will be deployed next. After all, to Mugume there is nothing particularly special about being a deputy secretary general. ‘What if he [Onen] is deployed to a more senior position, what will they [politicians] say?’ While Mugume asserts Onen will be deployed somewhere else, he says only the appointing authority knows at this point where that will be.

But Livingstone Okello-Okello, MP for Chua County, disagrees with Mugume’s view. He says there is a procedure in the EAC Secretariat where all countries appraise an appointee or anybody whose appointment is up for renewal before a recommendation is made. As it is, other countries and the secretariat appraised both Onen and Kiraso and recommended Onen because he had performed very well in negotiations about the common market. Kiraso on her part had run into disagreements with other countries and this disfavoured her.

Okello-Okello would not reveal what these disagreements were. However, The Independent has established that the disagreements accrued from the process of political federation, which Kiraso is charged with, where Tanzania is dragging its feet because the modalities of a political federation ‘ such as whether the EAC members will be under one president and if yes, how that president would be selected ‘ are not clear. Rwanda too has expressed its reservations towards political federation because of abstraction about its modalities but also because of its past conflicts with Uganda.

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