News and Views
Nasasira, Rukutana, Kutesa step down
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Government Chief Whip John Nasasira, and Minister of State for Labour Mwesigwa Rukutana have stepped down, ahead of court appearance over corruption related charges today.
The trio’s decision to take leave from office was announced in a joint statement, in which they said they had decided to step down as prudence would dictate.
“We have, in order to allow for the due process of the court, which we highly believe in, and in the interest of the party to which we belong and the Government we serve, deemed it prudent and desirable to seek leave from our Appointing authority so as to step aside, until this matter is concluded,” said the three men in the statement a copy this newspaper has seen.
The trio, all senior members of the National Resistance Movement party, stand accused of abuse of office and causing financial loss in the Shs14 billion tender for fixing Speke Resort Munyonyo, ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala.
“We shall definitely take opportunity to plead our innocence and demonstrate that we are not guilty of the offences charged,” they said.
While it is still not clear whether the trio bowed to pressure, the announcement came on the back of public demands that they relinquish their positions so that they do not prejudice investigations.
The three men admitted, however, that they would not throw in the towel.
“We cannot resign because we are innocent,” Mr Rukutana told this newspaper in an interview yesterday evening. “What we have done is simply leave office so that we are not seen to interfere with court process.”
Speaking on behalf of his two other embattled colleagues, Mr Rukutana said: “We still want to serve. We are only taking leave. We shall not go to office but we remain holding our portfolios.”
Asked whether their decision had received the sanction of the President, Mr Rukutana said while Mr Museveni had been “a bit uncomfortable” about the idea, “he later said it was okay.”
At a press conference yesterday, Mr Museveni said the move was the trio’s decision and was okay because the courts will find out the truth.
The three men face two charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss, according to a charge sheet presented to court by Inspectorate of Governnment prosecutor Rogers Kinobe.
Last week, the court’s chief magistrate, Ms Irene Akankwasa, issued criminal summons against the three men.
Prosecution led by Mr Sydney Asubo alleges that on December 17, 2005, Mr Kutesa, Eng. Nasasira and Mr Rukutana while performing their duties as ministers did in abuse of authority of their offices “an arbitrary act” prejudicial to the interest of government.
IGG investigations conclude that the trio irregularly convened a consultative Cabinet meeting and decided that the government would fully fund the construction cost of drive ways, parking areas and marina at Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel, a decision that reportedly led to a Shs14 billion loss.
The facility, which housed the visiting presidents in November 2007, is owned by city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia.
The decision to issue criminal summons for the three men quickly moved to cool tensions over claims of selective prosecution which came in the wake of the charging of ex-Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya for his role in the procurement of executive cars for the summit.
Prof. Bukenya, who was granted bail on Tuesday, after spending a week behind bars, stands indicted for reportedly using his influence to award the Shs9.4 billion Chogm car deal to Motorcare (U) Ltd without proper tendering.
Background. Mr Rukutana was born on November 15, 1959 in Ntungamo District,
Political journey. A lawyer cum politician, Mr Rukutana is a practicing advocate who has been in the trade since 1985. From 1986-87, he was registrar of titles in the Ministry of Lands. He lectured at the Law Development Centre from 1985 to 2006.
His ascent into Cabinet came in 2001 after he was appointed Minister of State for Finance, a portfolio he held for five years before taking on the docket of State Minister for Labour, then Higher Education and back to the Labour ministry. He is the current Rushenyi County MP, a constituency he has represented for the past decade.
Bad publicity. A man whose reported wealth is the envy of friends and foes alike, Mr Rukutana is an alumnus of Mbarara High School, Kigezi High School and Makerere University.
In 2009, a bizarre domestic wrangle placed the burly lawyer between a rock and a hard place, after one of his four wives, reportedly poured acid on one of her co-wives. The matter dragged on in court for a few years before it was dismissed after prosecution reportedly failed to produce a key witness.
He is cited in the Chogm scandal for contributing to the loss of Shs14 billion that 0the government allocated for rehabilitation of parking lots and drive ways at Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel
Sam Kahamba Kutesa
Background. Sam Kutesa was born on February 1, 1949 in Nyabushozi District
Political journey. A vastly experienced lawmaker, Mr Kutesa represented Mbarara North Constituency between 1980 and 1985, was a Constituent Assembly delegate between 1994 and 1995 and is the current Mawogola County MP, a constituency he has represented for the last decade.
A former Democratic Party strongman, Mr Kutesa burst onto the political scene in remarkable fashion three decades ago when he famously beat President Museveni to a parliamentary seat in Nyabushozi in the December 1980 general elections.
The two men have been close confidants since then and cemented their relationship following the marriage of their children, First Son Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Charlotte Kutesa.
Mr Kutesa took on the foreign affairs docket in 2005, following the death of James Wapakhabulo.
Past allegations. No stranger to controversy, Mr Kutesa was censured in 1999-then a State Minister of Finance, as MPs drew daggers over alleged conflict of interest, citing his ownership of Entebbe Cargo Handling Service (ENHAS). He is also accused of causing a financial loss by allowing ENHAS to buy shares from the defunct Uganda Airlines below the then market value. He bounced back a year later and has since held key Cabinet positions.
John Mwoono Nasasira
Backgound. Mr Nasasira was born on May 1, 1952 in Kiruhura District
Political journey. A civil engineer by profession, Mr Nasasira is by every measure a veteran politician. He joined Parliament in 1989, as Kazo County MP, which he continues to represent to this day. Mr Nasasira has featured in all of President Museveni’s Cabinet since then. A member of the president’s inner circle, Mr Nasasira is one of a select breed of politicians, if you consider his longevity in government. In a May reshuffle, however, the curtains appeared to have finally fallen on his status as a member of the President’s kitchen Cabinet, when Mr Museveni dropped him from the works ministry and made him post of Government Chief Whip.
To many, this was a demotion and the answer to several years of public anger over his record at Works. Mr Nasasira disagrees, saying he is still a member of the Cabinet.
Administration. Mr Nasasira has served as Works Minister, Presidential Adviser, Constituent Assembly Delegate, Agriculture State Minister, Agriculture Minister and currently Chief Whip.
Public scrutiny. For superintending over the Works Ministry docket for more than 15 years, he took all sort of flack, earning the moniker “Pothole Minister” as the blame for the dreadful state of especially, Kampala roads, lay on his feet. He says the city roads were not in his docket but KCC.
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