out with lukwago; you could be next


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Lukwago’s new personalised number plates: ‘Frank Has Screwed Me’ (Photo thanks to The New Vision)

I bumped into Erias Lukwago’s offices purely by accident some months ago and made my way in to chit chat for a few minutes during which I was surprised by the astonishment on his face when I asked what he planned to do after being thrown out as Mayor of Kampala.

Quite flabbergasted, he asked back how that could happen, while repeating, “Abasajja b’andi bubi!” (They are really on my case!) and laugh-laughing in that manner that you always find it hard to associate with seriousness.

A few minutes later, the police arrived quite at random, led by District Police Commander James Ruhweza, to serve him with some notice or another regarding a rally he had planned – and I exited amidst an eruption of the obvious tiresome jokes to do with tear gas and whatnot.

Lukwago’s look of astonishment stayed on my mind because I had seen it before, most significantly when we were students at Makerere University and had just joined the Guild Representative Council, and some debate manoeuvre pulled the rug out from under his rambunctious feet.

Even back then he clowned a lot as a student politician, but he had the gab to get himself elected, and Lukwago is no fool; today he has Parliamentary Membership and Mayorship of the capital city of Uganda on his CV, so he is ‘serious’.

And whereas he is down, he might not be out; but this is not about politics; and neither am I going to dissect the law.

Lukwago’s fate could have befallen any Ugandan in politics, corporate management, private business, or even in private.

And while the politicians discuss this with three-letter party lenses and analyse the colour of the report bindings, and the shawls of Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and neckties of Minister Frank Tumwebaze during the months of the tribunal, we have to acknowledge what this really says about us.

First of all, whenever anyone accosts you to discuss the report and its fairness or skewed nature, test to see whether they have read it – mostly, you will find peace in their silence.

Yesterday afternoon I tweeted part of it under #Lukwago and parried the usual statements from people who will probably never read the Tribunal report; just as Lukwago himself appeared not to have read the KCCA Act before embarking on his campaign for Mayorship or assumption of the seat.

Or maybe they had read it, but felt that if they argued enough they would simply wish away what it said along with months of witness statements, tendered evidence and even cross-examinations of the protagonist himself; just as Lukwago seemed to believe that press conferences and palaver would get rid of the basic facts that the Tribunal stuck to.

Basically, the Tribunal “found that the three grounds of Abuse of Office, Incompetence, and Misconduct/Misbehaviour were proved…”

The evidence in the Tribunal Report’s summary is damning enough on its own but reads like stuff that happens in any other government office, private company or even domestic arrangement:

– The letter he wrote inciting the public against paying taxes proved abuse of office.
– Recalling and replacing representatives to Makerere University and Mulago Nursing School without the approval of the KCCA, abuse of office.
– Failure or refusal to convene meetings where he was required to, Abuse of Office.
– Failure to establish or renew Standing Committees, Incompetence.
– Failure to cause Committee reports to be presented to KCCA, Incompetence.
– Failure to sign minutes, Incompetence.
– Attacks on KCCA staff using the Auditor General’s report, Misconduct.
– Disregard of Ministerial directives, Misconduct.

These bullet points, slightly edited, could get most company directors thrown out of office if somebody did a serious check, and I don’t know how many other government offices would measure up to a spot-check of files to ascertain whether minutes are signed or meetings are even held as stipulated.

Just yesterday morning a group of us, entrepreneurs, were discussing these weaknesses amongst ourselves:
– Many seem to abhor proper governance; they don’t contract work with seriousness, nor do they follow full invoicing and accounting procedures, if any. They don’t read contracts or terms of reference, and sometimes just don’t even read…or think. Most private companies are run whimsically with a semblance of order that is just that – a semblance – but so are many government departments, and even some of the BIG companies that thrive on momentum and our having little option but to use their products and services, plus our lethargy towards change.
– Many business leaders abuse office daily – influencing job appointments, ruling like monarchs rather than leading, using fear as a tool like the slave driver’s whip rather than the motivation of reward. There is no need to look to any government office for senior officials using cars for private use or office imprest to take their wives (polite, you know who I mean there) out to lunch; they’re the same number of private businessmen that use company money in this way, regardless of what the shareholders say.
– Shareholders? How many Ugandan companies make a distinction between shareholders and management, or have Boards of Directors? Or have meetings of the Board, with minutes signed and registered and actions endorsed and followed up? What about the government parastatals and ministries?

The list goes on, and on, and if Lukwago’s provides any learnings for us we should only hope that these learnings are taken down in notebooks and implemented rather than picked up by the Registrar of Companies, and other arms of the government that could cause nationwide administrative mayhem by checking to see how many of us call meetings when we should, take minutes and then sign them.

It would certainly help change Uganda if this did happen and we were forced to get organised, because it has changed Kampala.

Jennifer Musisi is not an NRM party functionary as far as I know, even though many people say Lukwago’s woes are just political. Musisi and her KCCA are just organised – a simple walk through the corridors of City Hall and the absence of people selling chapatis and kabalagala near the lifts is a good indicator.

But more seriously, the changes are evident seen from above, and they seem to have permeated ‘to the grassroots’ of Kampala. Today, the so-called downtrodden masses did not riot. I drove through Kisekka market on my way from a school run while tweeting the #Lukwago ruling and didn’t even look up to check whether anybody was angry.

A few weeks ago someone told me that those women you see sweeping the Kampala roads so dedicatedly in the mornings cost KCCA about Ushs600million monthly, but they are working happily earning a few hundred thousand shillings each. In the previous city administration, this person said, road-sweeping was a contract that went to one supplier who billed the City almost Ushs2billion and employed a few people who earned less than Ushs100,000 each.

And I never saw any of them, nor did I see their work, under Ssebagala or John Kizito Sebaana.

Unverified, but if it’s true, I can see where the support for the likes of Lukwago went.

The people who had spread Nakasero Market onto the road and forced car users onto the one lane on the Kiyembe side weren’t happy about being reigned in, but when they saw the market expansion plans they shut up about it and are now waiting to be like Wandegeya Market vendors.

Lukwago?

Sseeya Nasser Ssebaggala, the originator of the lumpenproletariat-turned-lumpenpolitick, also left those tactics long ago – some say he was chucked but the reality seems to be very different.

In 2011 Museveni & the NRM got 46.08% of the vote, a close second to Besigye and FDCs 46.86%, where in 2006 Museveni and the NRM had won 39.5% and Besigye and FDC 56.7%.

But like I said, I’m not going into the politics – even though it was certainly the motivation and a surefire objective.

Right now, Lukwago is down but not necessarily out.

There might still be many people who will vote for him to return as Mayor; plus, his chambers, on Media House along Kiira Road, which he shares with MP Medard Ssegona, are still open. Of course many people might think twice before hiring him as their lawyer, in case he doesn’t cross some t’s or dot i’s and makes them lose their cases.

But he will still have clients, so even if he doesn’t win back the Mayorship, he might bounce back as a big time lawyer – not as big-time as Kiryowa Kiwanuka, his former classmate and now nemesis, but big-time all the same.

Nevertheless  Lukwago has been brought down using:
– Abuse of Office
– Incompetence
– Misconduct

All these were of his making, just as any other average Ugandan in his or her job is currently sitting lacklustre and doing nothing but trusting that a well-delivered excuse, or highly-connected relative will save them should anybody look into their work.

It is almost amazing that a man with a University education and such experience can neglect to sign meeting minutes, ignore the basic rules of governance as spelled out in law, in a way that can be used to whip him out of a job, but it is a reality that could have befallen any of you fellows out there being average or lousy Ugandans.

So we should check ourselves – lest someone petitions and comes for us in our offices…

63 thoughts on “out with lukwago; you could be next

  1. An intelligent, educated, analysis of what’s wrong with governance in Uganda; leadership that ignores processes, policies and procedures and instead relies on whim and impunity. Sadly, many have bought into the demagoguery that for so long has passed itself off as leadership, and you will hear a lot about how Lukwago has been persecuted, and how he will return stronger. Yet, he has indeed fallen on his own sword of hubris and empty populism.

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    1. Thanks. Let’s work on ensuring that we don’t continue putting more of such people into office – political or otherwise – and that those who are already there are sent down the same path (complete with updated personalised number plate).

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  2. Let every politician, Public officer or any other business person be judged the same way Lukwago has been judged and see whether they will stand a chance of surviving on loosing their positions.
    Even the President, Frank T and even the head of the Tribunal all w’d packs their bags in seconds.

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    1. Very, very likely. But the lesson we must take out individually is that we need to get organised and be serious with what we are tasked with, lest the same happens to us.

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  3. Simon, i have read the analysis. The last two paras have the key message for not only those running public offices but all in business and civil society and individuals.

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  4. Simon, this is an eyeopener, am I following the rules in letter of appointment? I will check again! Very lovely piece simple and to the point!

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  5. U chose to abstain from discussion of some factors on purpose. Yet it’s at the centre of it all. So simplisitic analysis.

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    1. As you noted, having read the text, I chose to not discuss some things. Your summary that this is simplistic is one word for it, and thanks; now, feel free to post a more complicated one, sir – wordpress.com offers free accounts for this purpose. 🙂

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  6. “I drove through Kisekka market on my way from a school run while tweeting the #Lukwago ruling and didn’t even look up to check whether anybody was angry”…dont tweet as you drive

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  7. Mr. Kaheru, thank you for a very informative article I hope this is an eye opener for all those in positions of leadership that tend to over look such important aspects of corporate governance. We should all learn from this.

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  8. this has been well sayd. I honestly think that even in his wierdest levels of heights, Lukwago knew that what he was doin’ wasnt in the best interests of the nation or even for his own credibility…but he just trode on just so he can prove that he can bring the mighty down…how that quickly turned him into the fly that sticks with the coffin to the grave is testimony to how cheap popularity can lead u the wrong direction…

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  9. I wish i contributed to your school fees. Damn your good!!!! This kind of organized analysis that is so on point is what we should fight for in these important discussions. It is of course not in the interests of the loser to explain gracefully what befell them. All you will hear is, I was targeted by the mafias. All said, this piece is bigger than you, it’s a national piece. Put it up on the clock tower for all to read. Thank you sir.

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  10. You mention important matters about leadership discipline. But going by the way this tribunal hurried it’s work against protests about its membership, why would I want to read it’s report?
    Councillors and the KCCA Executive Director were so shabby in answering to their own responsibilities in the hearings. Can we exonerate them and bind one man? Oh, please…Ugandans are not fools.

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  11. Great piece you have there Simon with important points to keep in mind as we go about our day to day business, regardless of what that is.

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  12. Finally an analysis that meets my respect..touching on those simple things..simple as they maybe which have costed individuals and a country as a whole lots and lots ot time and money…..

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  13. The public outcry should be a bout equal application of the law to both opposition as well as party members. Not that ridiculous line of arguemnet about political motivation or, “but Jennifer did the same thing when she said…” nonsense.
    What Uganda needs now is a spate of private prosecutions whether politically motivated or public spirited to root out corruption.

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  14. I think even if Lukwago comes back as a Mayor there lessons learnt.
    I dont think he’ll behave the same way. this time round sanity will prevail.

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  15. This combination of in-depth analysis coupled,with objectivity and independence is a very rare quality among Ugandan journalists. Your analysis illuminates the width of the implications of the Lukwago ruling. I wish this article could find its way into the inboxes of every minister, MP, and all those charged with leadership. I hope by the time Lukwago returns to office he will have learnt the difference between politics and public service.

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  16. I find you opinion disturbing and shallow in context. That even learn t people like you would actually make such conclusions. Yes Lukwago could have personal flaws but on all the cases you have highlighted what happened. Say if he didn’t sign minutes what was the reason? If he didn’t call for meetingS what happened. Before you make those wild allegation look at the circumstances that the man was working under. Were they premeditated to simply fail him or noT?. I think with due respect Simon you are part of the intellectually dishonest people in Uganda who are causing suffering to the unsuspecting Ugandans. Your opinion should be discarded with the contempt it deserves.

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    1. Kindly discard it if you find it disagreeable. But take time to read the Tribunal Report itself so that you find done if the answers to your question – it’s public and even available elsewhere on this blog.

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  17. The piece “out with Lukwago; you could be next” kind of strayed onto my wall through a friend’s account. I ignored reading it for sometime until I could not anymore. I have gone through it to the last word…From its insight, indeed anyone could be next and I wish the LAW could be applied uniformly.

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  18. Thanks Siomon. Vert objective and informative as always. But wait the detractors will stay with the political persecution as an excuse. I do not how it will save them. But some judge might entertain an appeal.

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  19. You’re so careful with words, felt like I was walking on broken glass while reading this article, yet I think I somehow get it

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  20. When I think of someone who can write my feelings, you are that person. It beats my understanding, how Lukwago even without necessarily being a lawyer could put his career in the hands of ignorant Boda Boda and Taxi drivers……He thought that they alone could keep him in……the sad truth is that even ignorance has limits- common sense! The other day I was passing by Mulago Boda Boda Stage and the young men there were heatedly discussing Lukwago’s failures as a mayor and even asserting that Kampala does not need one. In essence, Lukwago missed the point…He is simply a a lost sheep surviving in Besigye’s shadow while the last nail is hammered into his political coffin. Why did he leave Parliament?! JEEZ.

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  21. yes it is true that lukwago has brought about his own censure, by failing to dance to the tune of the powers on high. his predicament is nothing but a direct result of the rotting management system employed in the country today. by singling him out and trying to relate this to matters of a greater scope you are barely making sense. the dominoes started falling once integrity and patriotism were thrown out the window by the govt and theyre still falling. u cant sweep the trash under the sofa forever

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  22. you are pointing out something very miniscule and yet ignoring the bigger picture. selective journalism. as a result of a selective justice system. why speak about the egg and ignore the chicken? if the same judicial procedures were applied to the very people running him out of office would they survive? the minister and police threw out the court order halting the meeting 30 minutes before it started. for you to seemingly ignore the core issues is nothing but an insult to your profession(s) mr. kaheru

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    1. That’s not ‘selective journalism’, sir. My commentary is based on one issue that I believe I was clear about. As I’ve told all else, feel free to comment on the other issues and the bigger picture.
      In the meantime, when you state yourself that “if the same judicial procedures were applied to the very people…” you appear to have caught on to the gist of my post, though obviously not all of it.

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      1. i do believe it is a case of you stating the obvious, and yet this is assumed to be a medium for the dispensing of opinions, and not obvious undisputable facts. yes ANY incompetent person will eventually be held accountable. but for you to dedicate time to point that out is the equivalent to one issuing an article detailing how the sun will rise from the east tomorrow. now i wonder if that would make for good reading

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  23. i dont know when incompetence being punishable qualified as being noteworthy. but you know what’s noteworthy? incompetence NOT being punishable, which is what tens of millions of people have settled for over a period of more than 2 and a half decades. that sir is what you as an (experienced?) journalist should be able to point out while standing on your two feet. and not obvious factoids. really

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      1. as a 20 year old ugandan living in uganda, i will be quick to remind that the current state of affairs is a direct result of not just the current govt. but our ancestors, and theirs as well. however looking to the past will only cause us to stumble. the future is what is in our hands, here and now. and until we stand up and demand for what is right then the dream of uganda fulfilling her undeniably immense potential will forever be just that. a dream

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