Museveni and MTN saga: a change of heart or an act of desperation?

By Moses Ssejjoba

Last week, this website published an article on the MTN-Uganda saga that has gone on for months, one that resulted in the summary deportation of four of its topmost executives. These included no less, it’s CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte – married to a Ugandan – who was deported to his country, Belgium in February this year.

Shortly before him, other executives – Olivier Printout, Elsa Muzzolini, and Annie Tabura – respectively the chief marketing officer, Mobile Money manager, and general manager for sales and distribution, had been deported in a similar manner.

They were all deported, reportedly for colluding with “enemies” of Uganda and were thereby “compromising national security”. In a complete turnaround Museveni, who claimed he was misled by the intelligence reports he got from his security apparatus, revoked the deportation of the CEO.

The most recent development is that a directive from Museveni to the officers in charge of immigration and airport security at Entebbe International Airport which was stamped “very urgent” was to not only allow the hitherto persona non grata Mr Vanhelleputte back in the country, but also process him through the “VIP lounge of the airport”.

So much for a man who was deported without due process and with no chance of saying bye to his family back in Uganda. This website is also reliably informed that the man has been reinstated in his position and that he is back in his plush office at Jinja Road.

Now, to the gullible, the turnaround is courtesy of the magnanimous Museveni, having established that his security people misled him as he told the MTN Group executives recently. To those who know him well though, this is the typical Museveni who will not hesitate to throw his people under the bus – to get out of a situation he himself created – in the effort to cleanse himself.

Highly placed sources have intimated to this website that it was Museveni who himself ordered for the deportation of the executives. He has actually admitted this much in the meeting he held recently with executive from the South Africa based conglomerate.

Museveni was not short of information on the validity of the allegations on which he acted. He had the full report that an unauthorized raid on the MTN servers by Museveni’s Internal Security Organisation of the company’s facility at Mutundwe in Kampala had yielded. The raid occurred around August of 2018.

“The report on the raid which saw assorted equipment seized was handed directly to Museveni, and it was clearly stated that there was nothing afoul in MTN Uganda’s operations…so the fact that he went ahead and ordered the deportations is simply ridiculous,” a security source intimated to this website.

One may ask why Museveni could do such an outrageous thing.

The answer is twofold. One, he aimed to force the telecom giant’s hand to pay an exorbitant fee on the renewal of its license (further sources of financing for his corrupt regime), and two, to score a point against an innocent neighbour he seeks to destabilize.

For the record, Museveni wanted US$ 120 million from MTN Uganda for the renewal of its operational license, whereas their main rival Airtel Uganda procured theirs at US$ 100,000. As we pointed out in our previous article, the desperate Museveni has already spent this license fee even before MTN paid, as stated by his planning Minister David Bahati on the floor of Parliament a few months back.

Now after MTN gurus stuck to their guns and refused to bend to his extortionist tendencies, he had no option but to turn and throw his own security agencies under the bus, as he normally does.

If Museveni indeed acted on wrong information to order for the deportations, let him revoke the immigration status of the other executives. Will he do such a thing?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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