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COMMENT: Uganda Airlines a strategic government project, needs protection

Bamuturaki (left) can wither the storm

COMMENT | Samson Tinka | The week ending 21 Aug 2022 was a turbulent one for the Uganda Airlines family. The top leadership was summoned to attend to parliament committee COSASE to answer Auditor General Audit queries.

Ideally, this should be alright. Legally, COSASE parliamentary committee is mandated to interface with those government entities that have issues with auditor general audit reports. However, the conduct of this committee has continued to receive mixed feelings from the public. Its remembered one time Persis Namuganza called it a torture chamber. Late Prof Mutebile also at one time got it rough with COSASE especially on closure of seven commercial banks.

Mutebeli eventually assured the committee that its only God that can remove him from the post of Governor BOU. May he keep resting in peace.

So what’s wrong with the COSASE committee’s conduct of its business? Everything seems wrong. What’s not disputable is that during any investigations, whether at police level, court proceedings, parliamentary committee sermons, the environment should be calm, conducive, gentle, friendly and accommodative. This is almost absent in most of COSASE meetings.

There is name calling, finger pointing, false accusations, table thumping, etc. wthe situation is tense and un human. The experience is so hostile that the attendees regret why they joined government agencies. Our MPs conduct themselves in a manner seem un honorable and un professional.

The CEO of Uganda Airlines Jennifer Bamuturaki has had a bad week courtesy of COSASE team. She has been accused and counter accused of many things including her level of education, experience in leadership, her real names etc. Certainly, at the end of the committee seating, a report will be generated and resolutions made to assist with both leadership and operations of the airline. As the media continue with the conversation of CEO and her team abilities and capabilities to steer the airline to the desired destination, as a frequent flyer with Uganda airlines and a patriot let me add a voice to the conversation.

Leadership abilities versus Academic credentials

In reference to the running advert by KPMG on the required qualifications for the post of CEO of Uganda airlines, the prospective candidate required/requires to have a post graduate diploma or Masters of which the current substantive CEO don’t have. Let’s assume that Jenny doesn’t have a post graduate qualification, would this alone but good enough to deny her the opportunity to lead the team.

Ten principles of strategic leadership include ( I will mention only 5 for the sake of this article)

1.develop opportunities for experience-based training

2. Bring your whole self to work

3. Hire for transformation

4. Recognize leadership development as an ongoing practice

5. Find time to reflect.

The 5 that I have left out non talks about any form of education for one to be a good leader. I recognize, uphold and highly support the need for one to attain as much formal education as possible especially in the current corporate world.

Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that leadership has less relation with high levels of education. At least the current examples both in country, at regional level and entire global, clearly shows that education only compliments leadership but not a must. I will pick examples from Uganda and from business fraternity. Late James Mulwana who owned Mulwana Group of companies went to both Mengo SS and Aggrey memeorial school. Apart from Honarary degrees awarded to him, he had no formal university education but left behind a chain of successful businesses.

Late Karmali commonly known as Mukwano from a lorry driver to billionaire. He had no diploma or degree to his name. He left behind a multibillion investments in Uganda from real estate, to manufacturing, transport, farms, and other high-level enterprises. I cannot exhaust the list of most successful leaders in the world without a degree. I am not per say defending Jenny’s one-degree I am being both realistic and factual. The colonial mentality of degrees and PhDs being a sign of efficiency in leadership is long ago displaced. Most leadership scholars have degraded this argument. In fact, employers are looking for soft skills like team builders, integrity, personal conduct, previous performance records and achievements than degree certificates and accolades.

Members of parliament versus education levels

For one to be a member of parliament in Uganda, you need to at least have a UACE certificate or its equivalent. This means that a S.6 level qualifies to be in a member of parliament. As it is of now, we have a number of them with either a diploma, UACE certificate or equivalent that are members of parliament. The same cluster of people seat on these committees and they are the same that face PhDs holders who are CEOs for interrogation.

The country has witnessed MPs struggling to express themselves in English at floor of parliament. In the recent past without naming her, the MP struggled to explain how a newly built school in her constituency lacked teachers. It was terrible. In the previous parliament, most MPs failed to contribute anything both in preliminary or committees reason being English language. How can therefore certificate holders discredit a woman with Hon degree and experience of over 20 years in corporate world? Some MPs of course with due respect cannot write a two pager presentation or any topic of their choice.  You can give what you don’t have.

Uganda Airlines a strategic project for Uganda.

Outside the academics and the leadership abilities of Jenny, MPs ought to know that Uganda airlines is a strategic project for Uganda. It needs more support than destruction. Why struggle this baby? What do you expect under 3 years. The current score card of Uganda Airlines is excellent. Looking at number of passengers flown, the destinations the airline flies to, especially direct flights, the number of people it employees and these are Ugandans technical experts including captians, first officers, cabin crew teams etc. these are achievement is less than 3 years with Covid-19 disruptions are not small achievements. We should celebrate them rather amplifying the degree hullabaloo.

COSASE chair Joel Ssenyonyi should have the patriotism at heart for Ugandan strategic projects. Being a COSASE chairman should not been seen as a platform to score political goals.

Uganda airlines has strategic stakeholders like other airlines , regulators at international level who can easily withdraw partnerships that are so vital for airlines growth and sustainability because of such minor issues being ballooned out of proportion. When dealing with strategic projects, COSASE can choose to have closed meetings. Service centered businesses are so fragile. If Uganda airlines was listed on stock exchange in Tokyo, Washington or London, its stocks would be in deep dive because of one MP flimsy allegations.

Committee chairperson should role should be given to not only educated but mature MPs. This should be the last time to see a government strategic project being stripped naked in public.

Other regional airlines performance vs Uganda airlines

Ethiopian Airlines commonly known as ET was founded on 21 Dec 1945 (76 years of operations) 134 aircrafts, -127 passenger destinations and 58 cargo air craft it struggled at begging and for many years. But it has been deliberate for current and previous governments in Ethiopia to support ET.

The common denominator is that Ethiopian government in whatever situation has supported ET. You will hardly hear, read or see bad news from Ethiopian government. This is because they know what ET means to Ethiopians where in government or opposition. Rwanda air has been struggling also. The figures look bad in terms of the airline performance. However, because of strategic reasons, Rwanda government pumped in the airline 145mUSD in 2020/2021 budget compared to RWF122BN in 2019/2020 budget.

The reason for this is to keep the airline in business because of its strategic nature not because of profitability. KQ made 15.8bn ksh losses in 2021 but still the government still pumps money into for obvious reasons. I then pose a question to COSASE team, why not protect this babe, and if there are really issues to address, why not off the media? Whom are you working for? Whom are trying to appease? If Uganda airlines go down the stream, will you take the credit for that?  Kindly use the boardrooms for critical discussions on how to support the airline than calling cameramen and ask weird questions that don’t only damage the airlines name but also puts credibility tests on your leadership abilities notwithstanding the higher education levels you attained.

Uganda airlines wins accolades under 3 years

Uganda Airlines Uganda Airlines has been awarded the ch-aviation Youngest Aircraft Fleet Award for Africa and the World for the second year running. The ch-aviation Youngest Aircraft Fleet Award recognizes airlines from across the globe that keep a young, modern, and efficient fleet.

Uganda airlines may have its challenges both strategic, operation or even leadership, NTV, NBS, social medial may not be the best place to address these challenges. COSASE internalize these challenges; propose the best remedies on how to quickly fix them. As it is, it’s hard to convince us that the way you tormented Jennifer and her team added value towards addressing these challenges. To us who have travelled with Uganda airlines, we pledge patronage knowing the benefits so far realized and how strategic this airline is to the vision 2040.

CEO and team reflect on the winds of last week and go align. The Ugandans have huge expectations and looking at so far work done, you can pull this out. To Ugandans continue flying UR to Dubai, Johannesburg, Kishansha, Nairobi and other destinations. One day, we shall celebrate golden jubilee of Uganda airlines.


 Samson Tinka is a safety and security consultant | Director Matts Secure Solutions Ltd Frequent flyer of Uganda Airlines | tindsam@yahoo




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