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Uganda’s storm in a teacup

How our MPs invented a scandal around Uganda Airlines’ shares and our chattering elites joined the chorus

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” Voltaire

Last week, our parliamentar- ians alleged that some unscrupulous ministers had stolen government shares in Uganda National Airlines Company Limited (UNACL) by registering them in their private names on the shares allotment form. A “vigilant” committee of parliament “unearthed” this fraud. Parliament went hysterical with the deputy speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, saying he would have fired the ministers if he were president. On traditional and social media, pundits outdid one another denouncing this blatant theft.

Yet for all the hysteria, there was actually only a minor clerical error on the forms that did not affect the substance of owner- ship of UNACL. MPs and other Ugandan elites exhibited a degree of ignorance that makes one worry about democracy in our country. Socrates described 5th century Athenian democracy as “empowered envy.” The democratic assembly sentenced him to death by drinking hemlock because he always questioned the self-righteous claims of Athenian elites. Increasingly, I find myself in the same position.

I wrote in this column last year that the revival of Uganda Airlines is a good idea that has been introduced into a wrong country. Ugandan elites are not interested in the good of their country, but in proving their biases. So mistakes in the airline will not be an opportunity to reflect and reform the way it is run but a chance to grandstand and score political points in order to win cheap popularity.

Last week, our MPs and pundits sunk to their lowest level. They claimed that because the share allotment form reflected the names of the ministers rather than the ministries as owners, the airline shares had been stolen. They ignored the fact that UNACL is registered as a public company. Therefore there is no chance in hell that a private person can own its shares.

A background: at incorporation of UNACL on January 30, 2018, the company was given 2m shares and only two shares were proposed pending allotment of all the shares at a later date: one share by each of the two shareholders the ministry of finance and ministry of works. This is normal. The real allotment was filed on July 11, 2018. Here the form provides for name of shareholder, address and particulars of allotment. On name, it says Matia Kasaija and Monica Aruba; address, it gives ministry of finance and the ministry of works and on shares one million shares for each.

Ideally, on name of shareholder, it should have said “minister of finance, Matia Kasaija, and minister of works, Monica Azuba.” The clerk omitted the title of ministers. But this was not fatal because the memorandum of incorporation and articles of association describe the objectives of the company, the share capital, the owners, the shareholding and the value of the shares. These documents state clearly that the subscriber is government of Uganda through the ministries of works and finance; and were signed by both Kasaija and Azuba in their official capacities as line ministers.

Therefore legally there was no risk to government losing the shares because the ministers whose names appeared on the registration documents are the same per- sons who appear on the allotment form. If the ministers later, after leaving their current jobs claimed ownership, the claim would not stand because the articles of association and memorandum of incorporation clearly show the subscribers; and they also clearly show that they signed in their official capacities. Even a third grade lawyer in a third world country would see this.


  1. I am not as young as I once was and a friend told me age is like toilet paper; tends to peel off faster as it diminishes…….Mwenda’s defence of corruption (both done and attempted) is now public knowledge. He can aptly be called ‘devil’s advocate’. He does not blink an eye when he is telling his yarn;knowing as he does that his publication is read by high-brow people but criminally continues to pull their legs. These people (ministers) whose due diligence is so assured that they cannot even be short-changed in a supermarket; cannot overlook such grave matters which Mwenda wants us to treat as trivial,corrigible and negligible……
    quote……..”The MPs reached the height of absurdity when they asked why a company registered last July 2019 could have its documents certified in March 2019. Really? I will not honor this stupidity even with a comment.” unquote…… I believe he meant JULY 2018 (not 2019) as date of registration and it took a whole 7 months to certify the company; the planning that goes into such a big heist takes.

  2. Mwenda is not ashamed to write, “You cannot own some- thing you did not buy and have no sale agreement for.”… Didn’t Mwenda’s real sister (Magrette Muhanga ) almost succeeded in stealing UBC land that she did not buy or own? Those who remember the time, recall how Mwenda persistence and consistency in defending how right her sister was-on radio and print media!! Even after the court ruling that proved she had stolen the land, Mwenda didn’t stop defending her or provide an apology. The recklessness in which Mwenda attached a fellow Journalist Daniel Kalinaki for writing about the issue of that land and later on Mwenda not apologizing to Ugandans who he was deliberately trying to Misinform has since made me doubt his values, conduct, character and integrity. I do not think Andrew is a person of good character and conduct. No wonder people of questionable character such as Mirundi keep on referring him as a top mafia in Uganda. Approach some of his writings with greater caution.

  3. Andrew is such a sweetheart you should see him dressed in sweatpants you can cry tears of joy for the rest of your life.
    1.There is something about a plane that excites people in the 3rd world they even wave at planes that are parked.
    2. The allotment of shares in Uganda Airlines shouldn’t have been a big deal coz Govt owns 100% of the shares may be it would have made sense if technocrats like the PS signed on behalf of Government but not politicians.
    3. The Managers of Uganda Airlines will have to think of merging with other Airlines but we retain our company name.Why merge its because there are over lapping routes i.e most airlines may cover the same area of interest.(British Airways had to merge with Iberia to capture the Transatlantic
    4.When people travel they consider the following(i) Direct flights to their destination(ii) Affordability for example, few Ugandans may travel with SN Brussels,KLM Emirate coz of costs(iii) Bonuses issued(iv)Luggage capacity(v)comfort(vi) Time Mgt.
    5. Was a feasibility study carried out before govt invested in the airline?
    6. Was it just to raise our social and economic profile?
    7.Are there statistics of the number of foreigners that travel to Uganda?
    8.What do the foreigners come to do in Uganda is it for trade, tourism\ or to attend conferences and workshops?
    9.Did we consider the impact of ICT in the era of globaliztion?at times CEO travel if they must.
    10.Uganda is now safe the influx of NGO’s is now history actually most hotel owners are financially traumatized.

    2. But remember what they said when they were privatising parastatals, they said the government is not good at business; any business, so how come they are entering into a cut-throat business where better participants go under red? Someone somewhere wants to eat something at expense of the people.
    3. The idea of merging is wonderful and advisable but when a people are as selfish and eat-minded as you know most local decision makers, they won’t tolerate a real management pundit. Who do you suggest to merge with? Rwandair? they might quarrel on-board, TZ air of KQ? With KQ they might out-steal us like they did in 1977 and confiscate all aircraft when they land in Nairobi. They once did it.Either run it(under red) or abandon the whole idea …. by the way have they paid for the Bombardier in full? The last I heard there was a small shortage of funds and we were paying for parking fees through the nose…on credit.
    4.When people travel they consider the following(i) Direct flights to their destination(ii) Affordability for example, few Ugandans may travel with SN Brussels,KLM Emirate coz of costs(iii) Bonuses issued(iv)Luggage capacity(v)comfort(vi) Time Mgt.4. All those factors you considered are also taken into account here here but we just don’t work on them until the business is too indebted to pay; then auction follows as sure as day follows night. This matter is doomed some knowledgeable guys say……unless of course the oil starts flowing but Tanga is also far…..such that the visionary might not see his oil accruals….like Moses/Moshe or Musa depending on your faith……… the way what religious faith do you subscribe to Winie?
    5. A feasibility study was done extensively by some whitemen and you know what they consider….as if they knew about Bashir or Bobi Wine.
    6. It was for purpose of prestige just like buying into fashion when you still have clothes for all functions; utility and necessity or essence were never considered.
    7. Foreigners who travel to Uganda mostly come on foot and most don’t have official documents….but those who come by air are so few that the planes won’t have any significant number and consequently no profit. If it were me I would use military pilots and police attendants for all functions in the aviation industry and pay them their salary and just a little allowance over… would reduce on costs.
    8. Foreigners come to Uganda for tourism and seeking employment but most come once and the chinese who roast maize in kansanga. those won’t go back and maybe they don’t even have papers because it is said some are escaped convicts. They settle marry and well…the next thing you hear, they are naturalised citizens.
    9. CEO love to travel for the reasons you know for which they cannot delegate….. to sleep with a secretary or other woman for example, and/or picking a travel allowance and most importantly to see new things and do some shopping at company expense. With the present age when corruption has embedded in the DNA, you bet they will want to travel and travel and travel.
    10. Hospitality industry is very delicate and is in fact kept afloat by the other illicit business you know too well otherwise, the overheads of a hotel are so many that it is near impossible to stay in business if it were not for the (you know them) who operate day and night.
    I hope I have answered your query satisfactorily Winnie.

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