Bemanya’s powerful backers
The fight over control of UTL reveals that Bemanya is not a lone wolf. He has very powerful backers.
In what Anite’s camp says is a show of his influence and power, Bemanya last year managed to secure a renewal of his contract as Administrator of UTL in spite of rejection by Anite and her boss, Finance minister Kasaija.
Apparently, Bemanya first approached Kasaija, who raised concerns that he was not providing UTL periodical performance reports as required by law, and refused to extend his contract.
While Kasaija was away, insiders say, Bemanya got the Minister of State for Finance (General Duties), to give him a oneyear contract extension.
However, Bemanya argues that it is not the minister that extends his contract. There are two ways to extend the administrator’s contract. One is through approval by a creditor’s meeting. The other is by getting a green light from the shareholders. However, both are still part of a court process.
Once the administrator gets a green light from the creditors or shareholders, he or she has to submit this documentation to court and court bases on this to offer the extension. While Anite argues that it is the Finance Ministry officials who has been extending Bemanya’s contract, Bemanya disagrees. He insists it is court that has been extending his term.
Away from the legalese, in another classic tale of Bemanya’s power, sometime this year, the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija and two other ministers summoned him or a meeting at the Finance ministry.
But when Bemanya arrived, he apparently went to the office of Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi. The ministers sat waiting for Bemanya in vain. Almost an hour later when Bemanya emerged, Muhakanizi was holding his hand.
“The matter has been resolved,” Muhakanizi told the ministers who were left in shock. Bemanya left Finance just like that, a source told The Independent.
So when the latest tussle started, Anite was forewarned about Bemanya’s powerful connections in her own backyard. But she possibly underestimated his tentacles in Uganda’s legal circles.
While Anite claims she is looking to eject the administrator on the advice of President Museveni, Bemanya is unshaken. And he has the law on his side; in the form of the Attorney General Byaruhanga and the Deputy AG Rukutana.
The very day Anite went to parliament, Byaruhanga had told her together with officials at Finance in a meeting at their ministry that according to the law Bemanya was independent and couldn’t just be kicked out anyhow. Anite resorted to politics—she hoped to rally parliament and turn the tide against Bemanya. It didn’t work.
In the past, Rukutana has been at the centre of many mega toxic government deals; including the deals surrounding preparations for the preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007.
In this particular case, he was together with other ministers–John Nasasira, and Sam Kutesa—accused and charged with causing loss of Shs14 billion before they were all acquitted in November 2012.
Early last year, Rukutana made headlines when he appeared dismissive of Justice Catherine Bamugemeire and her Land probe.
Bamugemeire’s probe had invited Rukutana to explain circumstances under which Shs24.6 billion was about to leave the treasury following his legal opinion.
The money was for land comprising of 12 plots, which is being claimed by one Muhammad Kasasa, 80, and was purchased by government at a cost of Shs2.4 billion in 2002. The figure had since jumped to Shs24.6 billion. The compensation award was part of the wider dispute the Commission was investigating.
“Are you going to be respectful to this Commission?” Justice Bamugemereire asked Rukutana during the hearing.
“My position is very clear. As long as I am respected, I will be respectful. If I am not respected, I will not respect anybody,” Rukutana shot back forcing Bamugemereire to end the session.
Bamugemereire said she would refer the matter to His Excellency the President of Uganda probably the appointing authority would find a body that the learned attorney general respects enough.
“I don’t give a damn. Let her tell the president, she can even tell God,” Rukutana told journalists when they asked him for a comment as he left the probe venue.
Rukutana is no ordinary folk. He joined parliament as MP Rushenyi County in 2001 and has since held several cabinet positions. In the Attorney General’s office, he is a major force to reckon with.
In a trade where connections matter more than anything else, Rukutana who taught at the Law Development Centre from 1984 until 1992, taught many senior lawyers today, some judges and studied with several others. In government, his colleagues are senior cabinet ministers like Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire and Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa.
In terms of contributions to Museveni’s stay in power, while serving in his current role, Rukutana was part of the legal team that argued before the Supreme Court and won the 2016 Presidential Elections petition in which former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi sought to challenge President Museveni’s victory. It was not a one off. Rukutana is always directly defending Museveni’s government in court.
If all this was not enough armor for Rukutana and his protege Bemanya, Anite appeared to boost it when in a June 28 letter she said she was not seeking advice but had “instructed” the Attorney General’s office.
The powerful lawyers’ lobby group– Uganda Law Society (ULS) jumped on that single word to defend the Attorney General’s office.
“Under our laws, no minister has the mandate or power to order the Attorney General to undertake any action,” the ULS said.
Meanwhile, Anite ’s only claim to fame in the ruling party is that she led a campaign for Museveni’s single candidature in 2015 eliminating the possibility of an internal part contest against Museveni, and in 2017 championed another campaign to eliminate the presidential age-limit, clearing the last huddle for president Museveni’s life presidency.
In the latest fight, therefore, Anite, a newbie in government appears to be taking on deeply entrenched forces. But she is not known to run away from a good fight. She is emboldened by a belief that she is fighting elements within government who are looking to dissolve UTL, a strategic company, and benefit from a mega asset stripping bonanza.