Twitter concerns over UCC chief Nyombi Thembo's political comments

Twitter concerns over UCC chief Nyombi Thembo's political comments
Nyombi Thembo

The government's communication policy says as an identified public servant, one's comments should be apolitical, impartial and professional

A section of Ugandans on social media have urged George William Nyombi Thembo to look into his position as executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) before shaking the political table on Twitter - now X.

Mr Nyombi has been using his personal account on X to make political statements that some construe as going against the government's communication policy governing the conduct of accounting officers or chief executives of ministries, departments and agencies MDAs).

"As an identified government employee, your comments should be apolitical, impartial and professional," the policy says.

On March 29, Nyombi posted on his personal account @nyombiluzze: "I think now the former LoP appreciates why most Ugandans could not vote for the Pulincipolo@2021."

The post elicited nearly 500 responses from among his 2,198 followers, the majority of them reminding him of the suit he wears at UCC.

Jimmy Kiberu, a socio-political commentator, urged the former junior ICT minister to "be mindful of the public position you hold as ED @UCC_Official, a supposedly independent tax maintained agency."

UCC is the regulator of the communications sector, which includes telecommunications, broadcasting, radio communication, postal communications and data infrastructure services - the latter including social media engagements.

The advent of social media and its rise in digital communication management has seen many organisations design communication policies, including those governing social media use.

In Uganda, the government in 2013 enforced a communication policy that, if applied to the letter, would hold Mr Nyombi in breach of the standards set out in the National Information and Telecommunication Authority (NITA)-designed framework.

The government's guiding principle on using social media demands that MDAs ensure that their employees desist from unacceptable behaviour - including "inappropriate activity" whether the social media is used as official or private account.

"Government MDAs shall ensure that employees do not make comment that they are not authorised to make especially where the comment may be taken as official comment," the policy says.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Nyombi on the status of this particular account were futile as he did not answer our call and messages to his known WhatsApp number remained in double grey ticks.

However, UCC spokesperson Rebecca Mukite acknowledged that @nyombiluzze was the executive director's personal account while @UCC_ED was official.

"I cannot speak for posts on his personal handle," Ms Mukite said.

Pressed on the communication policy of MDAs, the UCC spokesperson said she would consult and revert.

Mr Nyombi is not the first public official to engage in potentially divisive political statements on social media although for a position such his, there must be very few executive directors of top agencies investing time in discussing petty party politics.

Indeed, Resident District Commissioners such as Hudu Hussein are fulltime divisive political commentators on social media.

But Hudu is a political appointee, as long as his views are not critical of the government such as was the case for Herbert Burora, who was dragged out of Rubaga deputy RDC office and subsequently interdicted for speaking against corruption in government.

It is different for an executive director of an MDA like UCC even if the accounting officer was coming from a politically-leaning background.

UCC chief executive Nyombi Thembo

Mr Nyombi's conduct comes as Butambala County MP Muwanga Kivumbi said the political hoi polloi in the National Unity Platform (NUP) is being directed by State actors to disrupt the main opposition party.

MP Kivumbi, who was speaking on NBS's Morning Breeze programme on Easter Monday, suggested that the schism threatening to tear NUP over former LoP Mathias Mpuuga's alleged corruption and abuse of office was being fanned by external forces with malicicious vested interests.

Earlier, former LoP and Kasese District Woman MP Winnie Kiiza appeared shocked when Mr Nyombi posted: "Now we hear child molestation, drug abuse, family run party, dictatorial leadership and lack of emotional intelligence.

"We knew all these way back. Now that it's coming from the top most member of the "Pulitoburo"- those with a head filled with brains will understand."

The government communication policy urges officials like Mr Nyombi to always use their judgment when making private comments, particularly to ensure these comments cannot be misconstrued as official commentary.

"This is particularly important for senior officials for whom separating their private views from their positions may prove increasingly difficult the higher they are in the hierarchy within the Public Service Structure," the policy stresses.

It is probably for this reason that Ms Kiiza, who worked with Mr Nyombi in Parliament for nearly a decade before both bowed out in 2016, advised that the UCC top honcho "leave politics to the politicians".

"For now, do your job as UCC executive director. Doing otherwise looks a bit ugly," Ms Kiiza said.

X user Henry Kiwa Ssendege (@KiwaSsendege) wondered why the executive director of UCC should be "intensely concerned" with politics of some political party.

"Guy still wants active politics," he said.

In 2015, Nyombi Thembo graciously conceded defeat to former Police spokesman Simeo Nsubuga in the NRM primaries for Kassanda South in Mubende District.

To add to that, he wrote a nice article in the media stating that there is life after politics.

Last year, ICT minister Chris Baryomunsi appointed Mr Nyombi as the substantaive executive director at UCC, replacing Eng Irene Kaggwa, who had been serving in acting capacity since Godfrey Mutabazi left the position in 2020.

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