People & Power | Palace Politics Inside Uganda’s State House

Posted September 7, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Inside Politics ~ 8,610 views


The front view of State House, Nakasero. People who have worked there says there is a lot of intrigue and infighting at the institution. File photo

The front view of State House, Nakasero. People who have worked there says there is a lot of intrigue and infighting at the institution. File photo

IN SUMMARY — Mafia system? From the briefings to the documents he gets, sources indicate President Museveni is often fed on lies by those close to him. However, although the President treads carefully, the most powerful people are those who handle small things like microphones, envelopes and run-around aides and not the ministers.

The walls twinkle and arrest your sight, giving way to the magnificent seat of power. State House, by any measure, is a place you will yearn to stay and work in. To work there is to amass social perks.

This institution, where you will find the State House Comptroller, offices for the President, Communications Office, Security Office, and offices for the various Presidential Advisors attracts way over Shs140b off the National Budget, exclusive of the unwritten principle of supplementary budgets and the finest security detail in the land.

Inside the immaculate walls, people who have worked there before, say resides a lion called intrigue, with in-fighting written all over its mane, all colors of office politics resident in its heart and its killer canines biting beyond the pretty walls.

Last week, the presidential special communications assistant, Ms Sarah Kagingo, found herself on the receiving end of bad press. An unnamed policeman raided her Muyenga-based home in the company of a select group of journalists and claimed he was rescuing a ‘maid’ whom Ms Kagingo had allegedly kept under lock and key and starved.

Police have since acted cagey on the matter to which Ms Kagingo responded on social media. “I cry to God for wisdom and strength as I deal with this; a child I am raising was used against me at very difficult moments of my life and it hurts. Rachael is my child and not a maid….”

The communications aide, who shot herself to the limelight for turning around Mr Museveni’s social media presence, added: “The information peddled is extremely malicious. I will not jump in arms to point fingers but request for your prayers as the storm passes. And it too shall pass.”

Ms Kagingo started and has been managing President Museveni’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Last week’s incident and subsequent hullabaloo over Ms Kagingo’s woes have been interpreted as the climax of a protracted war in the President’s press team, which has in the recent past been fodder for media speculation with reports indicating Kagingo is being hounded for stealing the show at State House.

Presidential press secretary Tamale Mirundi has been first and fast to rubbish the claims, insisting his team is intact.

When contacted, Ms Kagingo said without divulging details, “Every institution has its challenges, even at the Monitor you have challenges but they remain in the board room. I am praying over whatever is happening and God willing it will all end.”

Stories of intrigue at State House are written all over the wall and are stale news but how deep does it go and why should any Ugandan care, after all man is a political animal?

Sources this writer spoke to, some of whom have worked in State House, christened the President’s official residence a “sanctuary of intrigue.” In fact, one of those who have since been kicked out of this sanctuary reveals, “the country has been taken hostage by a sophisticated mafia network whose headquarters are State House.

To survive there you have to serve the interests of that mafia, to think you will serve the president or the country is to work your way down.”

Mr Charles Rwomushana, the former political intelligence desk chief at State House, shared chilling personal experiences during his hey days when he came face to face with ‘the monster of State House intrigue.”

Appointments crippled by intrigue

In Uganda, one can safely argue, a public official appointed by the President, Mr Rwomushana says, can only beam with a smile the day he is sworn in. Stories abound of officials appointed to juicy jobs only to be told on the last day that their appointment was all but a dream. This, Mr Rwomushana adds, is the culmination of intrigue, with politicians using well placed agents in State House to foil chances of their business and/or political rivals getting appointed.

At the dawn of 2000s, the onetime Constituent Assembly delegate for Rujumbura County, who was a fire brand from Makerere University where his Needy Students Initiative thrust him to the spotlight, caught President Museveni’s eye.

“Mike Mukula (Soroti Municipality MP) told me the President had asked him to tell me to submit my curriculum vitae (CV) to his office because he wanted to appoint me RDC,” Mr Rwomushana shares, adding, “I did that and out of instinct, checked a week later with Amelia Kyambadde (then private secretary to the President) to confirm if my name was there.”

His name was not on the list of appointment letters destined for signing by the President. “Ms Kyambadde told me to write a note explaining my situation and she would attach it to the letters going to the President,” he reminisces. He did that. The final list was devoid of his name. Reason?

A senior government official and former minister, his arch-rival at the time, he claims, had used a well-placed aide of the President to diffuse all possibilities of his appointment.

“I met the President in Rwakitura after a few months and he wondered why I had rejected his job. I was shocked that someone had told him I did not want the job,” he says.

In fact, another source, formerly in Cabinet, reveals that State House has since been reduced to a ring where political wars are settled and goals scored by playing about and playing with appointments.

“The President is fed on lies and false intelligence and sometimes he innocently acts on that though he is quite careful and often reaches out to the other side,” the source, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, says. But this does not only affect the minister, ambassador, RDC, or government agency director whose appointment has been foiled.

The spillover effect gets to the staff at State House too because there is a clash of forces, pro and against the appointments, with some staff making a killing from safe-guarding chances of appointment for some public officials and those fighting the same being wrestled out.

When you cannot see the President.

And then comes the politics of who sees the President, what he reads, whom he meets, what he discusses and who must hear it. At the President’s office door, to figuratively say, lies the lion of intrigue, awake and sober 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The preying eye of that lion, Mr Rwomushana shares, is responsible for what the President recently publicly complained about. At the peak of the on-going railway saga, Mr Museveni cried out that corrupt officials in state house stole minutes of a delicate private meeting with investors and shared them with a rival Chinese company.

The minutes stolen at this meeting, are only a tip of a monstrous ice-berg. The President, in power for his 28th year now, more than two years ago told a gathering in Rwanda that, “Uganda is full of thieves.”

“In the late 90s, a man sent a file to the President detailing serious corruption. It never reached him. The man approached me and I took him to State House to meet the President with the file,” Rwomushana says. While at fourth floor where the President sits, Mr Museveni loudly called out Rwomushana’s name, signalling that it was his turn to enter.

Ideally he would ask an aide to summon the next visitor. Accompanied with the file-bearing man, Rwomushana sauntered to the Commander-in-Chief’s office.

But alas!

“The security aides grabbed the young man and struggled to take the file and block him from entering. I stood at the door and the President wondered what was wrong. I explained to him and the man was allowed in,” he says. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter the President read the file and wondered why it took long to reach him.

The man had sent the file a couple of months back. “The President furiously stopped business at State House and demanded to know where his file was. What saved the day is that my man told him he had given it to…..(a notorious legal aide the President had fired for stealing and selling his files,” Rwomushana says. That officer was later co-opted into intelligence, only be hounded out of State House and met a rather tragic end whose details we have withdrawn.

Now there lies the bug of intrigue. For every file and correspondence entering the President’s office, there is an interest group whose ends are being met. This in itself is a ticking bomb for intrigue.

West Budama North County legislator Fox Odoi who served as private secretary for legal affairs to the President from 1995, rising to head of the legal department from 2000-2010, when contacted to share the extent of intrigue at the office then and how he soldiered on for a considerably long time, only said: “I don’t know what politics or intrigue at State House you are talking about. I didn’t take part in it.”

“So when you hear that people are fighting or someone has lost their job, it is a fight that rotates around clashing interests, everyone has a mafia network they are serving, in fact you don’t need Museveni to survive in State House but the mafia networks,” Rwomushana says.

The power centers

No office, Ms Kagingo argues, is immune to intrigue and politics. However, systems and institutions, sources who have worked at State House, reveal have been crippled and mutilated at the altar of intrigue and in-fighting. Everything runs informally. The hierarchy spelt out in the laws of the land is nothing but paper tigers.

Former Amuria County MP (Sixth Parliament) and presidential press secretary Onapito Ekomoloit says, “I went in after serving as Member of Parliament, I was detached from the intrigue and petty politics. I went to play high level politics.”

Mr Onapito, who resigned in 2006 to join the corporate world, adds: “It is an open secret that Mr Museveni is an informal person. It is only him who knows who is superior to who at State House. Those titles mean nothing because the person you think is junior to you might actually be your senior before the President.”

“Forget about all these people with titles, even ministers! Talk about the President’s pilot, his driver, the lady who stands behind him, the man who fixes his microphone, then you are talking business. Those are the real bosses of State House,” Rwomushana says.

“It’s important to realise that whenever you give power to politicians or bureaucrats, it will be used for what they want, not for what you want,” Harry Browne, an American writer, politician, and investment analyst once observed.

Mr Museveni, Rwomushana argues, is an ‘A’ student of Browne. He has since withdrawn power from the formal structure and apportioned the same to his trusted ilk.

This, he says, is the boiling pot and point of intrigue, with different power centres positioning to magnetise the ‘real’ power to their side. This is the drainage channel where all titles and formal structures are flashed down.

The mafias, as Rwomushana calls them, “have now apportioned themselves agents that have penetrated the walls of State House to the extent of the president’s inner ring, you heard the President say his documents were stolen. So you can imagine the level of intrigue there.”

Why you must care: How this affects the country

Makerere University law school lecturer, Prof John Jean Barya opines the intrigue is and should be a cause of concern for any and every Ugandan. “First of all we must understand that the intrigue at State House and any other government department is a result of failure to respect legal and institutional procedure by President Museveni. He prefers to work informally and through patronage,” Prof Barya says.

If State House is run along the rails of intrigue, in-fighting and political manoeuvres, which critics have time and again accused Mr Museveni of personally fuelling and fanning, everybody is affected because, “there is so much unpredictability when the country is run outside the established law and institutions. You can’t tell what is next. Those with entitlements, for example, cannot get them because the institution is run haphazardly,” Prof Barya adds.

Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya has severally appealed for Parliament’s intervention in securing his entitlements as a retired Vice President but the government has acted wishy-washy, a move the self-proclaimed ‘mahogany’ has claimed is precipitated by his perceived and real presidential ambitions. But Prof Bukenya’s entitlements are the job of the Public Service ministry.

Our sources say the different government institutions run on directives of well-placed agents in State House, as though affirming critics’ view that the President has personalized the state with State House usurping other institutions’ roles. This too, fuels conflicts.

“If you are to trace the Mukono-Katosi deal, you will discover everything starts and ends in State House and that is where the intrigue and politics starts,” another source working in State House told this writer on condition of anonymity.

State House comptroller Lucy Nakyobe when asked to clarify on the assertion that the institution has been reduced to a clearing agent of large scale government deals, a move that acts as fuel for intrigue said, “I am tired of commenting on those things. There is no intrigue and infighting in State House.” She hang up shortly after.

“The mafia is controlling Uganda, Ugandans cannot defeat them and the President’s hands are tied, actually we need to liberate him from them. The only way he can liberate himself is by becoming born again, he has to die and come back as a new Museveni,” Rwomushana says.

About State House

In Uganda, State House refers to the official residence(s) of the President of Uganda. The main State House is situated at Entebbe, 40 km south of Kampala, capital of Uganda. The second State House is at Nakasero in Kampala. The office of the President of Uganda was originally instituted in 1962 by British as colonial rulers of the state.

Source — Daily Monitor

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.



    This article like some I ve cone across on facebook are kind of trying to exonerate Sarah Kagingo and the President at the same time from the chaos ,and mistakes .
    I wonder Why Miss Sarah Kagingo did not expose the police by calling the press to any one who knows or can confirm that , the girl is ” her child” not a maid, eg like the School she goes to, or the people who handed her over? Why did she refuse to talk to the media whe they tried to take her sied of the story but later aired it on Facebook?
    Is some one trying to tell that HE President Museveni is a dolt , who doesnt know whats going on under his nose? Or the President is part of that Mafia and hes just playing dumb? How can these crimes go on and on and on … Only for him to find out always later yet hes not doing anything to change the status quo?
    This is only raising more questions than answers! Who is fooling Who?

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