By Haggai Matsiko
Fresh details on how councillors warned Museveni against impeaching Lord Mayor emerge
On November 14, 2013, a group of over 20 ruling party Kampala Capital City Council Authority (KCCA) councillors held two separate meetings with President Yoweri Museveni at State House, Entebbe. High Court Judge Catherine Bamugemereire had that same day handed in a report of a tribunal she chaired that indicted KCCA Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and set grounds for his impeachment and removal from office.
President Museveni, through KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi, summoned the meetings mainly to forge a way of dealing a “final blow” to Lukwago. The Minister for KCCA, Frank Tumwebaze, attended.
The Independent exclusively reports that the President Museveni’s first meeting with the councillors started at about 3pm. But almost midway, the President held another meeting with a select group of councillors.
Musisi and Tumwebaze; several councillors who spoke to The Independent say, had convinced the President that they would not get anything moving at City Hall as long as Lukwago was still Lord Mayor.
Already, the two had secured 17 councillors’ signatures on a petition intended to kick Lukwago out. And they had a silent but very influential partner in the President’s wife, Janet Museveni.
Musisi belongs to a select group of hard working born-again Christians, whose ascendance to public office has as much to do with this trait as it has to do with their profession to integrity and hard work. Uganda Revenue Authority boss, Allen Kagina, leads this pack that has Janet Museveni as patroness.
Many in this group oppose Lukwago because he does not work well with Musisi. Even before Judge Catherine Bamugemereire committee report came out, it was clear she had her job cut out—paving way for impeaching Lukwago. As a result, although, some cabinet ministers and KCCA councillors had complained about Musisi too, all the fire in the afternoon meeting with Museveni went into frying Lukwago.
It is important that details of Museveni’s meetings with the KCCA councillors on the same day as the Bamugemereire Tribunal report was released are coming out at this time. They come at a time of heightened court battles, with judges ordering Lukwago in and out of his office at City Hall, and might indicate how court and politicians might be working hand in glove.
They also emerge at a time when councillors, including those that voted for Lukwago’s impeachment, are growing uneasy over endless court battles. Some who spoke to The Independent said the court cases mean that they cannot sit in council meetings and, therefore, cannot earn the allowances that come with that.
Many are now ruing the decision they took in the November 14 meeting with Museveni.
The Independent has learnt that some councillors at the meetings with Museveni anticipated and attempted to prevent the current legal and political imbroglio that have pitted the judges, public opinion, and Lukwago against Jennifer Musisi, Tumwebaze, and ultimately, President Museveni.
The details expose the underbelly of the machinations Museveni, Tumwebaze, and Musisi have pulled in their attempt to kick Lukwago out of KCCA.
These details are also the latest reminder to Lukwago and his supporters that Museveni’s team will do just about anything to get rid of him.
Such unending court cases are exactly what five KCCA councillors attempted to avoid. They told Museveni, they were against the impeachment.
Some of these were diehard supporters of the ruling National Resistance party.
That is when Museveni asked to meet just these councillors in a separate room. While in this meeting, the councillors told the President that impeaching Lukwago would lead to an unnecessary war that could easily be avoided.
The councillors told the president that Lukwago was popular—he had secured over 40% of votes from NRM supporters and had beaten the NRM candidate hands down. Lukwago pulled 229,325 votes (64.41%) against his closest competitor Peter Sematimba’s 119,015 (33.43%).
Besides, the councillors told Museveni that Lukwago was not the only problem. As Museveni listened intently, the councillors said that instead of impeaching Lukwago, the President needed to have the KCCA Act amended in parliament to establish the post of Council Speaker. This speaker, they noted would replace Lukwago as the chair of council meetings.
With Lukwago not chairing the meetings, they would have rendered him a lame duck. Already, they argued, the ruling party had the numbers in their favour. The councillors’ view was that this way, president Museveni would avoid controversy, which was likely to be to his disadvantage.
“We convinced the president that impeaching Lukwago was not a plausible solution,” a councillor told The Independent on condition of anonymity, “now look at the unnecessary friction they have caused between the executive and the judiciary.”
The councillor was referring to another episode in the soap opera that erupted on March 31 when the main actor Lukwago marched into his office at about 8am for the first time since November last year.
For five months Lukwago had been locked out of office by Jennifer Musisi and Tumwebaze. They claimed KCCA councillors impeached and removed from office on November 25, 2013. They had even signalled the electoral commission to organise election to replace him on April 21.
Never mind that Lukwago had taken his case to the courts and secured an injunction blocking his removal from office.
Musisi and Tumwebaze suffered a blow when again, on March 28, High Court judge Lydia Mugambe ordered that they stop blocking Lukwago from his office. They did; for a few hours. Until Justice Stephen Kavuma of the Court of Appeal revoked the High Court order. Then Lukwago’s lawyers said they would run to the Supreme Court. And the ping-pong goes on.
The councillor, who declined to be named, spoke to The Independent immediately after Judge Lydia Mugambe’s March.28 ruling in which she held Musisi, Tumwebaze, Attorney General Peter Nyombi, and their lawyers in contempt of court and noted that the executive had attempted to usurp the judiciary’s powers.
Several KCCA councillors including those who had been at the forefront of his impeachment attended court. Sources The Independent talked to for this story, some of whom are NRM councillors declined to be named for fear of being misunderstood.
One of them said that with the battle against Lukwago still raging, it was not safe to put himself in the midst of crossfire. This particular source said, however, that contrary to the popular view, councillors did not have a fundamental problem with Lukwago.
“In any case, we councillors never had a lot of challenges with Lukwago,” an NRM councillor also told The Independent, “we could have worked with him. We were already working with him and getting our way on many things as you know NRM has the numbers in the council. But other people couldn’t.”
The money link
The councillor was one of the few that attended the separate State House meeting with Museveni. The councillor said when their meeting ended and they re-joined the other councillors, Museveni who had agreed to release US $ 17,000 (UGX 42 million) to all the councillors to further the impeachment project, had changed his mind.
Councillors wanted this money as facilitation to help them explain to their supporters, most of whom had voted for Lukwago, why they were going to impeach the Mayor.
Lukwago was the first to make these claims in an interview with The Independent. Government officials denied the claims.
But sources intimated to The Independent that this money was discussed and money was given out.
“These people have told me something that we need to try out,” a councillor quoted the President saying.
At night, at around 10pm, the meeting ended and the President directed that Minister Tumwebaze chairs another meeting later to follow up on the minority plan.
In that meeting, which took place on Nov.18, the minority councillors’ proposal collapsed.
Tumwebaze and Musisi had from the onset been for impeachment. But the councillors appear to have been swayed because if they did not impeach Lukwago, they would lose the Shs42 million.
That is how, on Nov.24, a group of councillors were booked in Hotel African and boarded in a shuttle to City Hall the next morning. The funds or part of them was advanced to each councillor before taking off to City Hall, one of the ruling NRM councillors intimated to The Independent.
By the time the councillors reached City Hall, the impeachment project had already been sealed. The business would be finished early in the morning before court business.
But unknown to Tumwebaze and his councillors, Lukwago and team had followed the plot and arranged an “ambush”.
On the morning of November 25, 2013, they secured a court order blocking the impeachment proceeding. When Judge Yasiin Nyanzi gave them the court order, they made several copies because they knew their lawyers could be blocked from serving Tumwebaze by police that had cordoned off the KCCA premises.
A KCCA Councillor, Allan Sewanyana, sneaked one court into the KCCA chambers as the scene was played out on national TV. Sewanyana was beaten and thrown out of the chamber and the “impeachment” went on. Later, Tumwebaze, said he was not aware of being served.
But Judge Mugambe ruled that he should have halted the meeting and consulted court first.
As she made her ruling, it was clear that Lukwago’s lawyer, Abdu Katuntu had struck a chord with her. Katuntu had pushed the contempt of courts arguement and all his evidence was intended to show in subtle ways that all the actions of Nyombi, Musisi, Tumwebaze and Electoral Commission boss Kiggundu were in contempt of her fiefdom.
In her damning ruling, Mugambe, said that the conduct of the four was indeed unprofessional.
“It is clear that the AG [Attorney General] and all other respondents received the court orders but chose to defy them yet most of them are lawyers like Musisi,” Mugambe said, “It is for these reasons that I find the AG, Musisi, Counsels Martin Mwambutsya, Dickson Akena, Yasin Lugoloobi [KCCA] plus Erick Sabiiti not only unprofessional but also out of order”.
She ruled that the electoral process to replace the mayor was an illegality to be stopped, and that there be no attempt to remove the lord mayor.
The jam-packed court burst into ululations and cheers. Lukwago was carried shoulder-high.
“This is victory for all Ugandans…,” Lukwago told an army of reporters as another army of youths, some wearing T-shirts with his picture and writings; “Omuloodi Waali (The Lord is still here), Respect the court order,” chanted all sorts of songs praising him and attacking the government.
Back in the court room, the respondents’ lawyers tapped away on their Blackberry phones. In a dark jacket, white shirt and purple tie, the A.G’s lead counsel, Martin Mwambutsya who had put up a spirited submission the previous week, calling Lukwago’s petition fake and incompetent, cut a forlorn figure as Lukwago’s lawyer, Katuntu, smiled and sipped on cold bottled water.
The pro-Lukwago MP from Masaka Municipality, Mathias Mpuuga, described the ruling as “a re-assurance that courts can protect their territories and it goes a long way in entrenching the rule of law.”
The next day, however, the Court of Appeal quashed their victory. High Court Judge Lydia Mugambe joined the list of judges the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, was publicly calling “stupid”. Nyanzi, who is handling the other case in which Lukwago is challenging the impeachment, had earlier noted that Nyombi is “living in legal darkness”.
Meanwhile, the councillors The Independent spoke to say all this might have been avoided had President Museveni, Tumwebaze and Musisi looked at their proposal to leave with Lukwago as a figurehead Lord Mayor.