This Week in Ugandan News
January 04- January 10
Museveni’s Trek into the Past
On December 18, 2019, we first got word that President Yoweri Museveni would be embarking on a 195km trek from Galamba in Wakiso district to Birembo in Kibaale district. The six day trek (Jan 4-9) was meant to, “Celebrate freedom fighters heroic sacrifices for patriotism.”
The trek would be a chance for President Museveni and other veteran National Resistance Army fighters (bandits according to the Dr Milton Obote government), “To sensitize the younger people, including the Bazukulu, the heroic exertions of the freedom fighters who were doing for no pay, no reward – just for patriotism, (mwooyo gwa Uganda).”
The last time President Museveni embarked on such a walk was twenty years ago. The 1990s were over, the National Resistance Movement had been in power thirteen years. Insiders, not just the pesky politicians led by Democratic Party president Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, had begun to ask, “For how much longer?”
Politics was about to undergo an evolution and no one appreciated this more than President Museveni. The 1999 walk was a return to the landing dock of his struggle, resilience, and legitimacy.
It might all be in this writer’s mind but the 2020 sojourn seems sadder. In his own words, the 75-year-old Museveni said the Africa Kwetu trek was to allow him to, “Re-engage with families, individuals and communities that massively contributed to the peace of this nation.”
The note of sorrow and nostalgia underneath the words, “This trek helps to relive the moments during the liberation struggle that ushered in the National Resistance Movement,” was impossible to miss. Museveni promised to retrace his footsteps here in March 2020 but an elegiac feel hang about the trek from beginning to end.
Bobi Wine Tilting at Windmills
Impatient for the future, Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu started to learn a lesson Dr Kizza Besigye is well versed in. You maybe right but that does not mean you will have right of way.
Two days after President Museveni began his trek in Wakiso, musician turned politician Kyagulanyi attempted to begin what he hopes will be a run to State House after the 2021 general elections. On January 6, Kyagulanyi planned to meet his constituents in Kasangati to consult for their opinions as he prepares to contest for the presidency. The day ended with selfies in a Naggalama police cell Dr Besigye must be very familiar with, probably on the very same pock-marked, cold cement.
Subsequent planned consultations in Gulu and Lira (for 7th and 8th January) suffered similar abortions. Flashing forms of approval to consult from the Uganda Electoral Commission did not deter the police from quickly bundling Kyagulanyi and his team into speeding convoys away from their supporters.
Like two naughty teenagers, People Power and Police ended up before the exasperated Electoral Commission to try and resolve their squabble before Kyagulanyi tries to proceed to Adjumani, Yumbe, Arua and Zombo district. The only run Kyagulanyi seems certain to make for the moment is on Besigye’s record of a night in most police cells around the country. And cases in court.
But he must also be watching his back as musical ally and friend Ronald Mayinja announced the formation of his own Peace for All, All for Peace movement on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.
What’s going on at MTN?
2019 was not a good year for telecom giant MTN Uganda. That year began with the February 14 deportation of its CEO Wim Vanhelleputte, as MTN was accused by the state of espionage, tax evasion and money laundering.
Vanhelleputte was allowed to return at the end of May 2019 after extensive negotiations between Uganda and MTN’s country of origin South Africa. But MTN’s troubles seem far from over.
As the new year began, we started to learn that American Tower Corporation had reached an agreement with MTN Group Limited to acquire MTN’s minority stakes in each of the Company’s joint ventures in Ghana and Uganda for total consideration of approximately $523 million (shs 1.9 trillion). The announcement was made January 2, 2020.
A statement from the MTN Group Chief Executive Officer Rob Shuter described the action part of its strategic objective to simplify its portfolio, reduce debt and risk, improve returns and realize proceeds of at least $1b over three years.
A Reuters report on the matter painted a grimmer picture for Uganda. It indicated that the MTN business decision was to give the telecom behemoth a chance to refocus its attention more, “High-growth markets on the continent and in the Middle East.”
The exit of MTN from the Ugandan market would have a devastating impact for what was once the top tax paying company. It would not be the first large multinational to find the economic going in Uganda untenable as other giants like Nakumatt, British Airways have. It is still too early to jump to that conclusion but the writing on the wall should be cause for concern.
David Tumusiime is a Nile Post editor.
Email: dtumusiime @nilepost.co.ug