What is happening to Museveni’s powerful women?

Jennifer Musisi Semakula

When President Museveni tapped Jennifer Musisi from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to head the volatile Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in May 2011, she was largely an unknown entity, having spent years in the recluse environment of legal battles at the tax body.

Musisi got up and running; her first target was the newly elected Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago who had polled some 229,325 votes and declared himself to have defeated Museveni. Museveni said he had appointed Musisi upon receiving divine conviction regarding her integrity.

Battle lines were drawn and Musisi’s eternal power struggles with Lukwago became the hallmark of City Hall. Musisi won that war, at least until the 2016 elections when Lukwago fashioned a superior comeback.

Musisi was literally Museveni’s blue-eyed girl; the iron lady that was sorting out the “Kampala mess” of potholed roads, unlit streets, sewerage filled streets, garbage and the traffic gridlock.

Museveni touted Musisi as the antidote to Kampala’s problems. The President would praise Musisi at the slightest provocation.

At some point, Museveni said real power at City Hall lies with Musisi and comically denigrated Lukwago as a “diluted man walking around with robes, chains and padlocks”.

Museveni always waxed lyrical when talking matters Musisi including claiming that if Uganda had 2,000 Musisis, the country would be a far better place.

But Musisi’s star gradually started dimming. Her somewhat overzealous manner of going about business was further alienating Kampala voters from Museveni. Power is Museveni’s raw nerve. Antagonise his power base and you are as good as finished.

Musisi took on boda boda riders, the all-powerful Utoda, street vendors, market vendors and all sorts of groups.

These fights estranged an already disenchanted urban voting block from the NRM, Museveni paid dearly at the 2016 polls and Musisi lost her position in Museveni’s heart.

Museveni openly blamed her for the NRM’s abysmal performance in Kampala and since then, she retreated to the backseat, rarely unheard of.

Before announcing her resignation in October, the last time Musisi was in the news was when she clashed with ex-IGP Kale Kayihura over management of traffic in the city.

Justice Irene Mulyagonja

Irene Mulyagonja was appointed IGG in July 2012 to replace Raphael Baku, who was largely seen as a lame duck who lacked the mettle to take on the mighty but corrupt.

The IGG’s office is a poisoned chalice; the boss has to be wary of offending powerful cliques in government who may be amassing wealth irregularly while the Inspectorate has to be seen to be fighting corruption. It is a delicate balancing act.

A self-confessed God-fearing woman, Mulyagonja rose through the ranks from teacher to judge to IGG. She holds a masters in Law.

At the Inspectorate, Mulyagonja has investigated deals as pricey as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the Shs24b Katosi scam and thus inevitably stepped on some high-end toes.

But Mulyagonja often complained that the Inspectorate is poorly funded and the under-funding was undermining the war on corruption.

But that does not move her, she does not fear putting her foot on the ground to take on the powerful.

Mulyagonja openly disagreed with Museveni on the issue of the Shs6b Oil Cash Bonanza. She said the payment was illegal. But it was her public spat with Bank of Uganda (BoU) Governor Tumusiime-Mutebile that lifted the lid on the factitious relationship with the powers that be.

She clashed with Mutebile over staff appointments at the Central Bank and even threatened to arrest the governor. Museveni called the two principals for a truce meeting at State House Entebbe and sanity prevailed.

But something ominous seemed to have been boiling at the IGG’s chambers and on Budget Day, Mr Museveni dropped a bombshell when he revealed that the public has lost trust in the IGG and he would now create a three-man unit to handle corruption.

Doris Akol

Museveni catapulted Ms Akol from the position of commissioner legal and board affairs to URA commissioner general in 2014.

Mr Museveni has always been jittery about matters of tax collection and insists he wants Uganda’s tax: GDP ratio to increase from the current 14.2 per cent to at least 18 per cent. Museveni has consistently blamed URA for the low tax returns saying the tax body needs to acquire more scanners to enhance vigilance at the borders.

But its Museveni’s rejecting of an order by Ms Akol to commercial banks demanding that they furnish URA with customer private details that indicated that the centre is no longer firmly holding. When the Finance minister Matia Kasaija told Museveni about Akol’s proposal during a Cabinet meeting, the President was furious and ordered the tax body to back off people’s account details and rather concentrate on catching tax defaulters.

Akol, a fairly introverted character, rarely seen giving soundbites, is said to have been irked by her boss’ snubbing.

Allen Kagina

Ms Kagina was posted to the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) in 2015 after spending over decade as commissioner general URA.

With the lucrative contracts that are routed through Unra and the roads sector taking an annual lion’s share of the budget, appointment to head the roads agency is a money-spinning offer but one that can burn one’s fingers.

Kagina’s resume at Unra was to clean up the mess there, with Museveni saying the agency is “a den of thieves.” But clearing a den of thieves is no mean task.

Kagina had cut her teeth in sorting the chaos at URA that was unearthed by the Justice Julia Sebutinde commission but Unra is a different fish to fry.

To clean up Unra, Kagina sacked the entire Unra staff.

But Kagina seems to be upsetting the President already.

Museveni and Kagina have been at loggerheads over the handling of the Dott Services deal for the construction of the Mbale-Tirinyi-Nakalama road.

Kagina wants the Dott Services contract cancelled while Museveni wants the firm to complete the road construction.

Those in the know say the President has been unhappy with the slow pace of pulling off critical road construction projects.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Ms Kagina now that her agency is among those to be scrapped in the merger of government agencies

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