By Independent Reporter
Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for the Presidency and Kampala Capital City, might live to regret Nov.08, when he sent to a hastily recalled Parliament a Bill that was destined to become controversial. Called `The Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Bill was intended to block the embattled opposition stalwart, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, from getting re-elected. Instead, the Bill is reported to have upset President Yoweri Museveni and left Tumwebaze isolated in Cabinet and at the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Initially, however, it appeared Tumwebaze had orchestrated a master stroke against Lukwago.
A day after he sent the Bill to Parliament, the Electoral Commission announced the cancelation of the nomination exercise for the Lord Mayor candidates and the deputy.
“The nomination of the Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor shall only take place after the minister for Kampala has availed the Electoral Commission with regulations governing the entire electoral exercise as required under the KCCA Act specifically sections 82 of that Act. Therefore the Commission is unable to conduct nominations for the two elective positions,” said EC boss Badru Kiggundu in a prepared statement to the press.
Lukwago appeared cornered. He looked for wiggle room and unverified claims carried in some newspapers suggested that he had zeroed in on contesting as an MP for Nakawa Division in Kampala, Attorney General Fred Ruhindi’s constituency. Tension mounted because Lukwago is very popular but Ruhindi, who is a ruling party candidate, has in the past ridden on the `voting machine’ of the army barracks located in the constituency. Lukwago’s supporters were saying they had a cure for that.
In the end, on Nov.17, exactly seven days after it was presented to Parliament, the Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was unceremoniously withdrawn and, the next day, Lukwago was nominated.
But not before Lukwago’s nemesis; KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi and her allies, sources say, hatched a plan to foil the nominations. Ironically, the sources add, although some of them are members of the opposition Democratic Party (DP), which is backing Lukwago, they remain at loggerheads with him. As a result, a petition was lodged at the Constitutional Court by a “concerned citizen”, one Mulindwa Muwonge, seeking to block the nominations because the Minister for Kampala had not provided guidelines for the mayoral elections.
The petition was, however, not treated as an urgent matter and the nominations went ahead. Since a prominent lawyer thinks it was overtaken by events, The Independent now brings you what happened behind the scenes and leading to the retreat by minister Tumwebaze.
Panic at KCCA
It all started on Nov. 05 when embattled Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago sprung a surprise and picked nominations forms to run for re-election.
Apparently, Musisi and Tumwebaze cannot stand Lukwago. During his first term as Lord Mayor, despite winning several court battles, Lukwago was blocked from his office due to friction with President Yoweri Museveni and his appointees at KCCA.
In 2013, he was controversially impeached but he ran to court, which ordered his return to office. The government in turn lodged a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, but has until now not substantively appealed the ruling, and Lukwago’s lord mayorship has remained in limbo.
Lukwago, as a result, has no salary and other benefits attached to the office, although the government let him keep the official vehicle of the Lord Mayor.
When at some point the High Court ordered for Lukwago’s return to office, Musisi announced that she had shut down all KCCA operations. She said Lukwago’s supporters were attacking KCCA workers and that the workers lacked sufficient protection.
On his part, Lukwago said the people running KCCA were uncomfortable with his presence because they did not want accountability questions to be asked of them. He had run for the Lord Mayor position on the theme of “Cleaning Kampala”, saying that the old city administrations were riddled with corruption.
Musisi, on her part, also claimed that her mission was to clean up the city administration and she, on taking office, sacked almost all the workers of the former Kampala City Council. Lukwago, accuses Musisi’s administration of resisting oversight, the main reason he says he was kept out of office.
Sources say that the unsaid position of people in the government who took over the Lukwago affair was that regardless of the legal grounds he would have, they would keep him out of office until his term expires and then pay him damages.
Knowledgeable sources say that Lukwago’s opponents within the government thought that he had been frustrated enough to find vying for the office again attractive. Lukwago, in fact, appeared unsure of whether to go for the position, leaving it late to announce his bid.
When he announced that he would stand for the Lord Mayor job, therefore, his opponents within the government, especially at KCCA, were taken by surprise and were thrown into panic.
They quickly dusted a Bill that had been designed to clip Lukwago’s wings in 2013 and presented it to Parliament on Nov. 10.
Tumwebaze meets unexpected resistance
Dubbed `The Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Bill, 2015, it had 36 clauses. But only on two were politically sensitive.
The first was Clause 7, which sought to replace Section 9 of the principal Act to say in Clause 9 Section 2: “The Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor shall be elected by the Council from among the councilors…”
The other was Clause 35, which sought to amend Section 79 of the principal Act to say in Section 79b (1a) that: “For purposes of this Act, the minister shall be the political head of the Capital City and may, with the approval of Cabinet, assume the executive and legislative powers of the Authority or Council…”
The chief import of the first clause of the proposed amendments was to block Lukwago from getting re-elected. The second was to whittle down the powers of the Lord Mayor and the councilors and vest them in a powerful minister for Kampala City.
The first clause drew the ire of Lukwago, which was expected. But the reaction to the taking away of councilors’ powers led to an all-together unexpected backlash.
Initially, it was all confusing for observers when the Bill was tabled. Some observers claimed it was a red-herring to distract the Opposition as the ruling party pressed through the Finance Bill.
The amendments to the Finance Bill had themselves been opposed, for there was fear that the Cabinet would abuse its powers if it was allowed to draw money from the Consolidated Fund without parliamentary approval. The amendments to the Bill were eventually passed.
The Independent has now established that whereas President Museveni was aware of the KCCA Bill, he was not enthusiastic about it and did not consider it a matter of urgency.
The Independent has learnt that the unfavourable reaction to be Bill in Parliament and among the public left Minister Tumwebaze isolated and upset Museveni.
The Bill was dated Nov.08 when President Museveni was campaigning in northern Uganda. But High level sources privy to the inner workings of the government power machine say that Museveni got concerned when violence erupted after Lukwago insisted on going to the nomination venue on the day he had originally been scheduled for nomination despite the Electoral Commission saying it had suspended the nominations. In the ensuing chaos between the police and Lukwago’s supporters just outside his home gate, several people were injured including a journalist. Soon images of the chaos were being broadcast on local TV and the internet.
Our sources say that Museveni wanted normalcy reinstated immediately because the Papal visit set for Nov. 27 was very close and he did not want any bad publicity.
He, therefore, ordered Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to quickly find a way out of the situation. Rugunda, our sources say, had been unenthusiastic about the Bill, largely failing to appreciate the import of introducing it at the time it was.
This became clear in a meeting of the Business Committee of Parliament, which the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca had chaired earlier. Rugunda, as Leader of Government Business in Parliament, had been represented by Gen. Moses Ali, his first deputy.
The meeting was also attended by, among other people, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Wafula Oguttu, Attorney General Fredrick Ruhindi, and Abraham Byandala, the minister without portfolio who was standing in for Tumwebaze, who has travelled abroad. Electoral Commission boss Badru Kiggundu also attended.
Kadaga, our sources say, tasked the government side to explain why they were introducing a Bill, which she said had legal implications, including disenfranchising the people of Kampala. In the meeting, we are told, there were more questions than answers.
The Speaker then asked the Prime Minister to present a statement to Parliament explaining the Bill. This was not to be. Rugunda, as we noted earlier, was unenthusiastic.
Attorney General Ruhindi, we have learnt, was also not keen on defending the Bill. Because he had tabled it as Attorney General, Ruhindi, the MP of Nakawa in Kampala, had come under attack and there had been suggestions that should direct elections for the Lord Mayor position be scrapped, Lukwago should stand in Nakawa to fight Ruhindi.
Ruhindi could therefore have been weary of a possible protest vote, but our sources say the Lukwago problem was largely viewed in government circles as local to KCCA.
Even Byandala, who was standing in for Tumwebaze, declined to defend the Bill on the floor of Parliament, saying that he was not duly briefed, as did Ruth Nankabirwa, another minister. They asked the Speaker to wait for Tumwebaze to defend “his” Bill.
The order to Rugunda to sort out the matter was, therefore, very well-received. Rugunda then convened a meeting, again attended by Oguttu, Byandala, Ruhindi and Kiggundu, among others. Musisi, who had been invited, came in at the tail end.
It was agreed that the Bill had been tabled in “bad faith” and that it would therefore be withdrawn with the view of re-tabling it in the third year of the next Parliament.
Shortly afterwards, the Electoral Commission announced that the nominations for the Lord Mayor position would go ahead. There was no mention of the regulations, which had led to the suspension of the nominations in the first place.
The visit of Pope Francis, election campaigns and pressure exerted by Lukwago and his supporters ensured that the proposals to the law governing Kampala were shelved, The Independent has learnt.
Museveni, Lukwago beef
For one, Museveni has publicly made known his issues with Lukwago. When launching the Wandegeya market last year, for instance, he said that Lukwago would not return to office unless he apologised to him.
Museveni was upset that Lukwago, on being declared winner of the mayoral election in 2011, said he had not merely defeated his challenger, Peter Sematimba, the ruling party candidate. Lukwago said he had defeated Museveni who had campaigned against him.
On taking what the government said was a down-graded office following the passing of the KCCA Act in 2010, Lukwago got embroiled in power fights with KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi and Tumwebaze.
These two, both direct presidential appointees, argued that Lukwago was a ‘ceremonial’ Lord Mayor with no powers over KCCA, while Lukwago insisted that the KCCA Act gave him powers to, among other things, head the Authority and initiate policies. Early court petitions to clarify the matter were futile.
Lukwago, saying that his powers had been usurped, effectively became the opposition leader of his administration at KCCA, and joined then Forum for Democratic Change president Dr. Kizza Besigye in the ‘Walk to Work’ demonstrations.
He would later be controversially impeached; with Minister Tumwebaze declining to look at what a councilor said was a copy of a court order and stopping Council from impeaching Lukwago. The High Court later overturned the vote, but the government still kept him out of office saying it was going to appeal the ruling. The saga continues.
For now, however, the The Independent has established that President Museveni currently sees the “troublesome” Lukwago as a problem that can be deferred to the future as he handles more urgent ones.
As matters stand now, Museveni has chosen to have a peaceful Papal visit without demonstrations and to concentrate on his re-election. He sees the Lukwago war as one he can fight in the future despite the discomfort it may cause his appointees at KCCA.