News and Views
Museveni probes Otafiire over oil bribe documents
President Museveni has told members of NRM’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) that he is investigating Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire after receiving intelligence briefing that the outspoken minister is the brain behind the leaked oil bribery documents that were the centre of a parliamentary debate in October last year.
The documents, which were tabled by Mr Gerald Karuhanga, the Western Youth MP, accused Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and ministers Sam Kutesa (foreign affairs) and Hilary Onek (internal affairs) of taking bribes to influence award of oil deals. The ministers have insisted they are innocent although Parliament resolved that they step aside as the validity of the documents is investigated.
A committee headed by Bungokho South MP Michael Werikhe is conducting the investigation although court recently asked it to stay the probe. But in what appears a new twist to developments, Daily Monitor has learnt that President Museveni on Monday told CEC at State House Entebbe that he had received intelligence reports that Maj. Gen. Otafiire hatched the oil bribery plan to disorganise perceived detractors in government.
A source that attended the meeting but asked to stay anonymous because proceedings were confidential, told Daily Monitor yesterday: “The President said the information in the file submitted to him by intelligence suggests that Gen. Otafiire could have had a hand in the oil saga and fake oil documents. He promised to investigate the matter in his own capacity before briefing CEC again.”
CEC is the highest decision-making body of the NRM party. Mr Museveni reportedly told CEC that given Gen. Otafiire’s legendary underground operations, he would investigate to establish if indeed he had a hand in drafting the documents or whether the reports are the works of the Justice Minister’s detractors.
According to the source, the President, who looked “serious”, said he knows Gen. Otafiire too well and that he had personally superintended over the bush war political commissar to check him from being a “more dangerous person in the region”.
Gen. Otafiire is a former head of the External Security Organisation and is said to be a consultant on matters of security in the Great Lakes Region. Contacted about these developments yesterday, Gen. Otafiire said: “Ask the one who said it. I wasn’t there. I am not a member of CEC. Contact those who attended the meeting.”
NRM Vice Chairman for Eastern Region Mike Mukula, who attended the meeting, yesterday declined to disclose details of the meeting, saying CEC passed a resolution banning leakage of information to the media to build cohesion in the party.
“We shall not let out any information and I know you want to sell your newspapers but we also want cohesion within the party,” Capt. Mukula said.
Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi said Mr Museveni receives a lot of intelligence information but it is not his habit to discuss such reports without summoning those implicated.
Mr Mirundi instead said NRM would do itself a big favour by letting its spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, attend such meetings and help dispel public speculation.
“The NRM has a weakness on media. Opondo should be allowed to attend such meetings so that if there are any facts needed, then it should be him.”
Meanwhile, sources have told this newspaper that the Banyoro, led by Brig. Matayo Kyaligonza, attempted to block the former Presidency Minister Kabakumba Masiko from attending the meeting.
However, when the meeting started, the President, according to sources, asked members to deal with the core issues affecting the country. Ms Masiko was recently forced to resign after UBC equipment was found at her private radio station in Masindi.
In an attempt to defuse the acrimony between Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Mr Museveni demanded an explanation.
When Mr Mbabazi took to the podium to explain his side of the story, he allegedly narrated how Ms Kadaga allowed MPs to prosecute him during the special sitting on the allegations of corruption in the oil sector. The Prime Minister also alleged that Ms Kadaga did not give him opportunity to defend himself from the bribery scandal.
But the Speaker is said to have asked Mr Mbabazi: “Why do you lie to yourself? We need to understand each other by telling the truth, there is no need to tell lies.”
It is at this point that Ms Kadaga tabled the footage of the proceedings in the House, insisting that Mr Mbabazi was trying to undermine her. The President then cut her short, promising to use his personal intelligence system to establish the cause of bad blood between the two senior politicians.
Sources also say midway the discussions there was a proposal that Mr Mbabazi be replaced with Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the ICT Minister, but the President reportedly said Dr Rugunda should assume the foreign affairs portfolio.
These discussions were part of a wider call that ministers who have either resigned or stepped aside over corruption be excluded during a Cabinet reshuffle. The meeting, according to sources, was intended to generate the agenda for a two-week Kyankwanzi retreat, which starts on January 12.