How Museveni used his brother to loot property abandoned by Asians
By Moses Ssejjoba
A story has kicked the storm in the corridors of parliament, where the parliamentary Committee on Commission, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) is investigating a massive fraud involving property that formerly belonged to Asians.
The high-value property in question belongs (or belonged) to Asians who were expelled by former president Idi Amin in the early 1970s.
Currently, the property, if there is any left of it, is under the management of the so-called Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
However, as the parliamentary commission has learnt, much of the unclaimed property valued in hundreds of billions, which ought to be in the custody of DAPCB, ended up in the hands of private individuals closely linked to President Museveni and his family.
The Board members include Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Lands Minister Betty Among, Attorney General William Byaruhanga, State Minister for Local Government Jenifer Namuyagu and State Minister for Industry and Cooperatives, Michael Werikhe.
But here is the bombshell; despite the fact that the above-mentioned members sit on the board by virtue of the dockets they hold in government, another member was co-opted by Museveni as part of the board.
This is his maverick brother, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho commonly known as Salim Saleh.
The Parliamentary Committee was brought to the attention of the glaring scam that has occasioned these properties as indicated in a report by the Attorney General.
The report, owing to the disorganized way the board has been operating, took the Auditor General some 15 years to conclude. During a meeting with the parliamentary committee, William Bizibu who has been at the helm of the DAPCB for about two years, the legislators’ worst fears were confirmed.
For instance, Bizibu told COSASE members that the board does not have information on the current ownership of several plots of land formerly owned by Asians despite records indicating that they were compensated by the government. The plots in question are not just ordinary pieces of land; this is high-value property located in some of the upscale locations within Kampala and other towns, valued in billions.
For example, the legislators singled out the fact that while the Auditor General’s report claimed the Custodian Board owned Plot 24 along Kampala Road, a court ruling had indicated that it belongs to businessman Sudhir Ruparelia.
It does not end there.
Other properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB but dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people include; Plot 20 Parliament Avenue; Plot 3 Market Street; Plots 6, 8, 10 and 12 Namirembe Road; Plot 14 A George Street; and Plot 7 Bombo road, the list goes on and on.
Enter Salim Saleh
While appearing before the committee on Tuesday this week, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, who chairs the board, was put to task to explain the role of Saleh in the mismanagement of these properties.
This is a tall order on the part of the MPs and I am sure they are not naive; they very well know whose interests Saleh was dubiously appointed to the board to represent.
It has been a pattern that with his elder brother in State House, Saleh has had free-reign to deep his hands in everything he or Museveni felt was lucrative enough. He is Museveni’s bagman in all matters to do with looting.
He has done this with impunity, little wonder that the COSASE members insisted on having him before them, despite claiming that he had unceremoniously quit the board without any formal communication, having already stripped the enterprise bare.
Again that is the impunity that Museveni has bred over the years, starting from his own household. Through his brother, there is no doubt that Museveni has looted this property while he continues to play to the gallery, displaying to the world his apparent “magnanimity” towards the Asians expelled by Amin.
Indeed, after the legislators insisted that Kasaija produces Gen. Saleh before the committee, he said he would not give any guarantees that he would bring him to his next appearance. “I will do my job he is a senior citizen, I will look for him and I will ask him to come if he doesn’t come, I would have done my job,” Kasaija told the MPs.
The fact is, both Kasaija and the MPs know that Saleh will not answer their summons, and they will not do a thing about it either. This is the level of impunity that has reigned in Uganda the past 33 years, no surprise there.