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Andrew Mwenda interviews Lukwago

By Andrew M. Mwenda

He explains why he fell out with Jennifer Musisi over money and why he cannot work with Museveni.

First of all, are you Mayor of Kampala given that council voted to impeach you?

If you believe in the rule of law in this country, you must appreciate that there was a court order issued by the High Court. If the order was restraining the minister from proceeding with that vote, from moving the motion for the impeachment and the judge maintains that the order was validly issued and still stands, how on earth can one say that I am no longer in office; unless you are saying that now we have the rule of the jungle.

I am tired of this cowboyish style in this country which the likes of you Mwenda, OnyangoObbo propagate – I have seen even Joseph Kabuleta of New vision has joined that club which condemns democracy and rule of law in the name of development. It is very dangerous.

But the Attorney General(AG) says the judge made that ruling without serving a notice to the AG. So the judge was trying to defeat the essence of the law?

Why didn’t they make those wonderful submissions before the judge? That is a sign of incompetence on the part of the AG. But away from that; the court order is a court order. In the case of the so-called rebel MPs, the AG supported the decision given by Justice Kavuma and others that the Speaker has no valid reason to question the court order whether issued illegally or validly it remains a court order and should be obeyed. Now why shift goal posts here?

But your court order arrived when the decision of the council had been concluded?

Listen, the AG is not an average lawyer in as much as he interprets the law in a warped manner.He knows the procedure you have to follow to set aside such orders when you are aggrieved by the decision of court. Like in the case of the rebel MPs, I do not agree with Justice Kavuma but the rebel MPs had to go to the Supreme Court to cause that court order to be set aside.

For the learned AG to write letters without the courtesy of copying them to me who is the subject matter or even my lawyers and send them to the press is abuse of office. So the court order remains. The good thing is the AG’s lawyer was there when even the interim order was given. The lawyer for the councilors Kiryowa Kiwanuka was also there.

So it’s not that we sneaked into court and walked away with the order to stop the process. They were there; made their submissions, and were overruled so they should have gone on appeal. That is the same argument that Frank Tumwebaze is advancing; that if I am aggrieved by the decision he took with the councilors I should appeal. Why doesn’t he use the same standards, why shift the goal posts?

Leaving the legal issues, am intrigued why out of the 34 members of council 29 voted against you?

Before you ask about the 29, you should ask about the 4 councilors representing the 4 professional bodies elected on Tuesday and sworn in on Thursday. They had not yet been gazetted. None of them has ever interacted with me personally save for Kanduho whom I have occasionally met at the ULS. What grievances do they have against me?

They must have read the judge’s report and are residents of the city.

No. The process of impeachment has stages.  The motion has to be made and debated in the council. If the report was so sufficient that you just look at it and say fait accompli;why subject the issue of the impeachment to another process? It means that we are appealing to the reasoning of individuals; that we must be rational. They never heard from me, when making that decision. I was bedridden.At least the four should have abstained. I know the meetings that took place in State House.

Imagine a councilor shaking the hands of the President for the first time; some of them were even shaking. I am also from the ghettos here, but most of these councilors are not privileged to have even gone to tertiary institutions. I know how money exchanged hands, a night before. They all slept in Hotel Africana and all of them were driven in a minibus dropped at City Hall. On the 21st of September, you can crosscheck this; they had a meeting at State House, the President met them and they presented him with a document where they demanded US$10,000 each.

Do you have that document?

I can show you the document and there are people who can testify to it.

But do you have the document?

Yes I have a copy and I can give it to you.

Please give me a copy now?

Not here now, you can see I am in a different environment. The president at first assigned Frank Tumwebaze to handle but he was out of the country. Jennifer Musisi was there and Kiwanuka Kiryowa. The President said the matters will be handled by Todwong who held a number of meetings with the councilors. In the cabinet board room, they had meetings and specifically zeroed on the amount. Two councilors from the NRM disagreed with the rest.

Aidah Nakuya representing the youth even voted against the motion. Another councilor; Mpindi Bumali too walked out, he represents people with disabilities. After the report was released, they had several meetings, including with division mayors who were trying to pump sense into the heads of these people. They advised that whatever they were trying to do was actually impeaching the council because they have not approved the deputy and after the decision was taken who would be calling the council meetings? How are you going to continue with business? The authority stands dissolved.

No, the Minister takes over the powers of the Lord Mayor.

Which provisions can you cite in the Act?

I don’t know; that is what they say.

Of course legal gymnastics and manipulation of the law is the middle name of President Museveni. What transpired is that these people realised that the day they are not only impeaching Lord Mayor Lukwago but they are also sending themselves into retirement. They raised their stake to US$20,000. Subsequently after haggling they agreed to US$17,000. They were first paid US$10,000, accommodated at Hotel Africana where they spent a night and after that US$7,000 was got on that day of the impeachment.

Even those that were close to me like the FDC councilor Lukwaya Henry I am told that he has bought a new vehicle. He has been badly off. Some of them I have been assisting financially, there is another one called Mujjuzi, MagretKiryowa. They are my close friends and have no problems with me but it is just money. There are some NRM councilors and you will ask Elijah Owobusingye, DaudiLwanga, the chairman NRM caucus these are all my friends.

These very councilors sat together in the month of September last year, in the council presided over by myself, and they moved a motion which was carried to impeach the ED on the same grounds abuse of office, incompetence and misconduct in a vote of 17 to 3. The others abstained and some were absent. I can give you a letter written by the ED to Frank Tumwebaze dated 2nd October last year. I told them we are stuck the ED had absconded from meetings, the people were raising issues of unsigned minutes and time and again I called for these minutes to be signed.

There was a clerk who was interdicted because he brought the minutes for signing. He was called Samuel Takan and then Jennifer installed Kamoga Lauben her stooge. This man would not bring the minutes to me. He would say that they are with the ED. We summoned the clerk and he refused to come to the meeting. The ED and all the directors refused to turn up and we adjourned and they again did the same. It is at this moment that the councilors were flabbergasted and moved the impeachment against the ED and the motion was carried.

Is it provided for in the law?

No. It was a motion to say that we are passing a vote of no confidence in her as council. We agreed to send her back to the appointing authority as she is appointed by the president.We wanted to tell the president that the person you brought to us is incompetent, has abused our office and all these offences leveled against me. The reasons were sabotaging meetings, insolence, pronouncing meetings illegal, refusing to bring minutes to be signed and impunity.

I said let me lead some councilors to petition parliament and that is when Jennifer was going to be brought down on all the above issues and also misappropriation of funds. What happened when the investigations were carried out by parliament?

I am surprised Mwenda you are not objective enough to raise these issues; that two members of parliament, the chairperson Florence Kintu and Raphael Magyezi forged a report of parliament and smuggled in a recommendation that the President should take over the office of the Lord Mayor and the management of Kampala when actually Parliament did not find anything wrong with the way I was conducting my duties.

Did parliament investigate?

I have a huge report by parliament, investigations were carried out and I was vindicated on all the issues.

Did they find the ED incompetent?

They said that Shs58 billion Jenifer found on the frozen accounts of the defunct KCC cannot be explained and that has been the crux of the matter. The system we inherited from KCC was rotten. We worked together and I shudder when I hear particularly you Mwenda saying that I have taken a collision course. In the beginning that was not the case, the practice by KCC was to open several accounts in almost all the banks in Kampala and they could not be audited.

When we entered office, we embarked on a discovery process and we discovered 152 bank accounts and in these we commissioned an audit to be carried out by KPMG because we requested the auditor general and he couldn’t do it. I have a report where KPMG shows that there is Shs58 billion on those accounts. We wanted to know which area gets a particular amount and that was the point of departure with Jenifer.

When parliament set out to investigate this, she first claimed that she had returned it to the Consolidated Fund and we said no because we sat in a meeting and said that we ring fence the money because it was local revenue that could not go to the Consolidated Fund.

I raised this in the meeting and if you ask anybody who attended that meeting Jenifer fainted and I felt sympathetic because on one account in DFCU Kawempe she had withdrawn Shs500 million which is not normal.

Has the auditor general queried because he audits KCCA?

I got a very big report by the Auditor General which was not complete at the time or authenticated and signed by the Auditor General but a whistle blower brought this document and said that we have unearthed this massive fraud. Part of it was the Shs58 billion; the rest was about the incompetent staff withdrawing double salaries especially the many who came from URA. Jennifer was also getting extra time pay and this is where am being convicted of misconduct.

I took the document to parliament in a petition and we requested for an adhoc committee but the speaker in her wisdom said it can be handled by the Committee on Presidential Affairsbut at that time there was Tinkasimire. So they said let it to go to Local Government headed by Kintu and deputised by Magyezi and all of them confirmed that the money has not been accounted for.We fear it could have been squandered and we need a forensic audit.

Even for the Shs6.5 billion of the Youth Fund they recommended the same. Then they smuggled in a recommendation that the President takes over Kampala because there is a total breakdown of the system. I brought a petition to streamline the management of the institution and this is what you people have always called bickering. My role is twofold;policy making and oversight.

Are you saying therefore that initially, you tried to work with Jennifer, but your relationship with her collapsed? Why didn’t you try to find some working formula with her?

I really tried, If you care to find out the facts, how many times I would visit her office, how many times I would seek to talk to her informally, how many times I wanted everybody to intervene and see how we address the issue; all in vain. I went to court for interpretation of the Act because she was saying that we are not entitled to asking for accountability and the policy making. Those issues were not clear to her but for us we would read the law.

Section 11 saying the Lord Mayor shall lead the institution in designing strategies and programs. But she would initiate programs not brought to my attention, execute them and then she does not account. That is not what the framers of the law intended and I said this is very absurd we are not here to just sit and witness.Mwenda, for the last two and a half years that I have been in office, the argument of the state has been the power center changed from the office of the Lord Mayor to that of the Executive Director and the mayor’s office is largely ceremonial.

Doesn’t it surprise you that I have been found incompetent? Isn’t it a contradiction? I have always tried to assert my powers.  Is signing minutes or calling council meetings a ceremonial function? I have always said `bring the minutes and I sign’ and then you say I am fighting Jennifer, call council meetings and she says they are illegal, the councilors are compromised and they don’t attend meetings.

But you have the budget; doesn’t she bring it to you for approval?

During the budget Jennifer would be the best civil servant you could ever have. During the budget cycle she would never sabotage any meeting, all these roads you see we put them in the budget, but after the budget she did not want to know.

Did you ever have your own PAC as a council?

The law provided for it, if you read section 58 the Lord Mayor shall appoint members of PAC, 5 certified accountants

From outside the council?

Yes, from outside the council

Did you ever appoint them?

Yes I did and these are the critical issues. I sourced around and got all these people with their CVs and I got Hon. Oduman Okello as the chairman. Do you doubt him?


I submitted the names to the Authority and they were approved. At that time MuruliMukasa was the minister. I sent the names to him and he wrote back saying that that he would communicate, he did not.  He was a statesman and I must applaud him we would interact often and in several meetings we had he confessed to me that he could not approve the names without consulting the principal who is the President and it died there.

Did you during all this time try to reach the President and say look; me and the ED cannot work well, we need to find a working formula?

No, the attitude of the President towards my government has always been that I am ceremonial.

Have you met him since you became Lord Mayor?

No and let me tell you why;there is break down of a system and bureaucracy.Let me tell you Mwenda; you guys are killing this nation. The President has a minister and there is a Lord Mayor whom he can deal with directly through the accounting officer.

When you were elected did you try to speak to the President?

You know this pampering of one individual, how many PSs or EDs do we have in this country and how many have that free access with the president just like it is with Jennifer? You see he is over glorifying her and at one time he said that he wished he had 2,000 Jennifers in Uganda, the ones who are not audited. The report I’m telling you about which was going to be audited has never seen the light of day. That is why I took it to parliament and now the tribunal says that was misconduct or misbehavior.

Let me ask you: did you try to call the president and arrange a meeting?

Do I know his number; I don’t even know whether the President has a mobile phone.

Let me put it this way; there is you the activist, the opposition politician and also the Lord Mayor. When elected mayor, you ceased to be amere opposition politician but the head of the city, you need to understand therefore that you have to work with other arms of government. You can’t be demonstrating on the streets and calling the President and government institutions all sorts of names and you expect to have a good working relationship?

I have to be honest with you; the biggest misfortune I have suffered is to be Lord Mayor at a time when the regime is tired. If I was the Lord Mayor in the first ten years of Museveni’s rule you would see a different person. The picture you are portraying of Lukwago that is not me. You come to be a Lord Mayor at a time when there is public mistrust. Even when you go to meet the President, the presumption is that he has given you a sack of money.

Today if I say I have been in a meeting with the President, the next thing would be I have been bought. I have a career and that is the biggest disservice the President has done. Ordinarily I should be working well with an elder and the sitting President even if we don’t share the same ideology. But I have to carry the mandate of the people with me everywhere.

You cannot appreciate these dynamics because you have not gone in this gutter politics and you can afford to say that these people can be disenfranchised. But let me tell you my brother; if you want to get the `I-don’t-care attitude’, it is among the elites. I doubt Mwenda, if you have a Voter’s Card.

Yes I do

(laughs) You are among the isolated cases. Many of your calibre do not appreciate the input of governance issues. You are good at debating the issues in air-conditioned hotels and offices.

You have raised an important issue that if you established working a relationship with the president and it was cordial many of your supporters would think you have sold out.

No not my supporters.

Okay many people would think you have sold out because of the caliber of politicians bought by the President?

You can genuinely meet the president and people accuse you of that. But let me add one thing; the attitude of the President himself is to buy off. He sees Lukwago and doesn’t value my contribution to the development of this city and country in terms of the ideas and views I hold but rather whether he can buy me off to his side.

When he was in Wandegeya launching the market and later the New Taxi Park and sent out the message that I should apologise, that is exactly the message he was putting across. He said Ssebagala had to repent and now he is on our side and we are working with him. It was a screaming headline in The New Vision.

You have two challenges, I am a journalist and I face the same challenges I have to criticise President Museveni but also I believe I have to be balanced and strive to be impartial in the sense that I have to point out his achievements while pointing out his failures. Also I must engage him and I cannot wish away the fact that he is the President of the country.

You are a student of political science. A person who fights for the rule of law and good governance cannot be revered at the time when you are doing it. You have to lose the image.

For the Christians, Jesus said that “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home”.

Precisely you have put it in a better way.

Equally if you had tried to establish a working relationship with the President, people would not have applauded you but you would have achieved significant progress in the city and many years later we would have said this Lord Mayor was smart, he was able to establish a good working relationship with the President and together with the ED they were able to mobilise resources to build the city? You and the President have to find compromise.

You have not appreciated the challenge that I have.

I do and agree with the prognosis but not the prescription.

There is development politics which is the politics of social transformation, rule of law, constitutionalism, good governance etc. Today this government has no credentials when it comes to democratic governance. When it comes to development, I don’t think that they carry that tag of pro-development.

Away from brutality, harassment and persecution, the image of the government that we have today is a rotten government tailored on corruption. The issue comes in that the moment you are seen hobnobbing and perception is very important. The moment you do that with them, you are not seen as a person who is pro-development.

My view is that you and your friend Dr. Besigye live in an eco-system of extreme Museveni haters and in trying to win the confidence of that group you have alienated the vast majority of Ugandans who may constitute 80- 95 percent of the population who are willing to assess every case at its own merit. You can poll Ugandans and find that 90% don’t agree that Museveni bribes everybody?

I don’t agree with your analysis.

But Afrobarometer in 2010 did a series of polls and in 2011 at the height of `Walk to Work’. They told Besigye that 77% of Ugandans in Kampala said they don’t want `Walk to work’. Kampala has over 3 million people. If you have 20% which is about 600,000, it is a huge number it can easily deceive you that you have huge numbers. When you ask about confidence in Museveni as a leader, you find that you have over 70%.

Tell me the parameters I can use to work with a government, even if it is just 10% of the people that perceive it as a government of looters. Tell me how I would guard my image.

So you made a choice that in order to maintain the confidence and the right perception of 10-15 % of the people of Uganda, you were willing to sabotage any effort?

That is where you are going wrong Mwenda and I want to get this out of your mind and that is being unfair to me. That I have been a saboteur all through is very wrong. You have accused me of constructing roads leading to my home but we put this road in the budget, it is KabakaKintuRoad.

Have you ever seen me blocking women sweeping the roads, those who are desilting the gullies, installing street lights, and doing any development work. On the contrary, I am asking Madam Jennifer; `in the first budget we passed Shs5 billion to install solar street lights and the money was appropriated, what happened because I want to see solar lights’. You have been to Bujumbura and seen those solar lights, even in Kinshasa they have solar lights and in Kampala we cannot have them.

The point is that I am not a saboteur.All am asking for is value for money because it is my role to do oversight. I am doing my job. Mine is a political audit and not the professional audit. The critical thing that you have not appreciatedis that there is no development in Kampala.

In your political oversight over KCCA, do you think you have used the money properly?

The people we succeeded had a budget of Shs45 billion. The Road Fund was just Shs15 billion. In our first budget, the Road Fund was tripled to Shs45 billion and the total budget to Shs145 billion. The second budget was Shs175 billion and the current one Shs200 billion. Forget the specialised projects from World Bank like Lubigi channel, Kawempe roads, forget about the markets like Wandegeya, I will give you its report and my heart is bleeding with tears because we got a loan of Shs70 billion that I supported in parliament.

We said lets borrow from the African Development Bank to support markets and provide employment and help support the agricultural sector. We got US$ 13.5 million and we said we are going to support Busega along Masakaroad,Kasubi market along Hoima road, Ntinda ,Nankulabye . By the time we launched Wandegeya, we were supposed to launch six of that standard. What happens? They cannot account for them.

There are ongoing deals that have stalled these projects and I have the Auditor General’s report. For Busega, Jennifer paid a widow of Kabusu. They went into a wetlandand when the contractor came and said that they cannot construct a market there and the widow had no letters of administration, the family said you bought air; that matter went to court and that project stalled.

How much money did they pay her?

It was Shs300 million and the Auditor General queried it because Shs300 was put on a particular account and the other Shs300 on a different account. She wanted to deceive the relatives that she got only Shs300 million and Jennifer knows all this.

You therefore want to say that the money for the markets was misappropriated?

Yes it was.

What of the budget for roads?

The entire road network for the city is roughly 12,000 kms and the tarmac is roughly 400kms with the coming in of Kisasi-Ntinda and the rest is murrum. Even if you chased away all the matatus and Bodabodas there is no way you can deal with the congestion in the road network of that nature.

How much does it cost KCCA to do 1Km of the roads?

That is another problem, and you can go and ask Hon. Odonga Otto. The government assurance committee discovered that Jennifer is costing each Km at Shs3 billion. The new Kabale-Katuna road which is a highway is roughly Shs1.8 billon per Km with side cutting through the rocks and hills. But you who is not even creating a new road; you spend thatShs3 billion.

Shs3 billion would be about US$1.2 million. The average cost of a mainstream road here in Uganda for heavy traffic is at US$800,000.

In the first budget we allocated Shs45bn. What mileage did we get for that?Look at Section 66,and this is where I have a problem. I told Jennifer everything starts with planning. The law talks of a 5-Year Development Plan. We should be able to give Ugandans a picture of where we want to go, we can’t take them on a blind date.

They should have a clear vision that in the next five years when it comes to the road network we shall have covered this percentage and that in the next 20 years, we shall have covered that. For example, what welcomes you at Kigali Airport is their plan. Kampala has neither a social development nor a structural plan and this is a national tragedy. If I showed you a report made by the Israelites in a project funded by the World Bank, we got consultants from Israel and South Africa and carried out a study on how we can transform Kampala.

Today it’s a national tragedy and I shed tears for my country. Frank Tumwebaze convicted me of incompetence but the Act has been in place for two and half years and we have not come up with the Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority, structural development plan such that you can use it as a basis to assess our performance.

Let me come to the issue of your demonstrations. You and Besigye decided that you will not work as Lord Mayor. Every day you are disrupting traffic and trade in the city?

That is a misconception and propaganda engineered by the state.

Or it is the state that brings you in the streets to demonstrate all the time?

No a legitimate civil exercise is termed as a demonstration and demonstrations in this country have been demonised. Demonstrations are lawful and in the constitution but if today I called a rally and say that I will meet the people at Nakivubo Blue they will still consider it as a demonstration. Whether it is a rally, demonstration, or tour, they will stop it.

But you guys have refused to cooperate with the police; you want to do things your way in the middle of crowds and cause havoc so that you appear in newspaper headlines?

Do you know what is causing this? It is the political dynamics of the day, that we have a largely illegitimate government.

What do you mean by that?

If there is a pronouncement of court that there was rigging of an election but it was not so significant to turn the results and there is a unanimous decision that the election was not free and fair; this is where we have always questioned the Electoral Commission and the rationale of this finding.

Is that what is causing the riots

No. Since 1996, the electoral processes have returned an illegitimate government. So an illegitimate government fears the people it leads. It lives in a state of paranoia that these people can rise against us and it is what is causing all this. Otherwise if they were legitimate like where the Kabaka goes, don’t you see people rise up and jubilate and welcome him because they know that for the Kabaka he is not interested in taking over the government?

But it is not the illegitimacy of the regime but your clearly stated objective of regime change that may be spreading paranoia and therefore indirectly undermining the very essence of democratic expression that you are looking for?

If you love this country and would like to see stability, be honest enough and tell President Museveni and his family that the perception in society is he is trying to create a cult-like institution. That is very dangerous for this country. People lose hope and trust in the electoral system. Actually there is public despondency and apathy. They believe President Museveni cannot be changed through the electoral system.

In Kenya, Raila Odinga can afford to wait for five years when he is rigged by Kibaki because he knows in five years he will be gone, When he doesn’t win, he says let me hang around for the next five years, this man Uhuru will mess. That is missing in Uganda. If you went on the streets and asked which system can take President Museveni out power, they will tell you the natural process; death.

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