Severino Twinobusingye: start up a massive CSR programme and be a true patriot

Do you ever fall upon a news storythat is so unbelievable it makesyou go back to cross check against another, which is also so unbelievable that you go back further to cross check more, and then the mind threatens to boggle?

One story last weekend announced the wedding of Severino Twinobusingye and would have gone past me if it were not for the juxtaposition of two sentences at the start:

“…in a quiet simple ceremony. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi attended both the church ceremony at Rubaga Cathedral and the reception at Sheraton Hotel Kampala…”

I laughed a bit at the irony of a wedding being covered by a national newspaper being called “quiet and simple”; then I suddenly had to sit up and pay attention.

“I am, therefore, his non-biological father…” Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is said to have declared at the wedding, which is the point at which I had to go back to check whether said Severino was not the same lawyer who petitioned the Constitutional Court over Parliament asking Mbabazi and two other ministers to step aside over “oil allegations”.

For that, the Court Registrar, Elias Kisawuzi, announced an award to Twinobusingye and his team of Ushs13billion shillings.

An uproar followed, during which the figure was brought down.

To Ushs11billion shillings!

Not really laughing much anymore, I was struck by one explanation for this in another story on the court case over the payment: “…Mugisha demanded 12billion as taxation and Bakiza, an assisting counsel, asked for Shs8billion claiming that the matter was of great national importance…”

Bakiza? There have not been many Bakiza’s in the media in Uganda so…yes! Chris Bakiza, formerly Director of the Police Criminal Investigations Department…and this is where the mind boggled, so I turned back to the Ushs12billion being justified because “the matter was of great national importance“.

On the way there, I had a second look at an interview Severino did with Daily Monitor about his life where, to be fair, he had already declared his close link to Mbabazi.

I was trying to reconcile the “Ushs12billion” to the case being “of great national importance”, but Twinobusingye said a few things in his interview that stuck out as well.

He undertook the case, for instance, because he “thought he had a responsibility to contribute to our jurisprudence” –not for the money.

“The infamous October 2011 parliamentary recall for oil debate was a mob justice (sic) at its worst, violating cardinal principles of civil discourse and civility. It required somebody very courageous to go to court and stop this miscarriage of justice and impunity…” (Memorise this phrase)

He also revealed, in that interview, that he filed the case against the government when he was a government employee – Election Management Officer, with the Electoral Commission for eight years.

“I resigned soon after filing this Constitutional Petition 47 of 2011 because to me Uganda was more important than a small job at the Electoral Commission. I could do without it and moved to save Uganda from a crisis…”

A patriot! A self-less patriot!

A Patriot with an understanding of economics, I think, because he says, “the two arguments that informed the Court’s consideration of the award: The subject matter; in this case the value of Uganda’s entire oil wealth, and the cost of overthrowing the legitimately elected government.” (Eh?!)

“We asked for a very small figure of about Ushs23billion, not trillions of shillings…and court in its wisdom gave us that very little money, just peanuts of about $5million.”

And by the way, Severino is highly aspirational and should therefore inspire many Ugandans; according to this interview, he was a Nutrition and Early Child Development Projects Manager in Rukungiri and Kanungu, before joining the Electoral Commission, and now knows US$5million to be “peanuts”.

Which must be true because, he says, “…I earn on average Ushs30million per month in my legal chambers, sometimes more.”

Considering that he opened up those chambers in January 2012, he will have earned a minimum of Ushs630million in his legal chambers by end this September, in a country where the per capita income is US$1,400 or Ushs3.6million (a year); and where doctors earn Ushs1.2million as monthly salaries and graduate teachers about Ushs450,000.

He is not doing badly at all! Now, as he makes his way back from his honeymoon, let’s find a way of getting this selfless patriot with a personal per capita income of 100 Ugandans even before getting the Ushs12billion, I mean Ushs11billion award, and who considers the “great national importance” of things, to undertake the biggest private Social Responsibility project in Uganda, and ‘give’ the Ushs11billion back to the people of Uganda.

Before somebody very courageous goes to court to stop this miscarriage of allocating public funds to expenditure such as this Ushs12billion award…oh, sorry! I mean Ushs11billion.

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