M7, Kutesa Fallout Over New Ambassadors’ List
By Our Reporters
President Museveni and his key man on Foreign Policy Sam Kutesa (aka SK) have fallen out after the former totally ignored the latter’s advice on who to drop or retain on the Ambassadors’ list.
On Friday morning, Museveni released a list of new Ambassadors in which he retained only two career diplomats namely Mull Sebujja Katende and Richard Kabonero.
According to reliable sources this was against the professional advice Kutesa gave concurring with numerous briefs his foreign affairs Ministry technocrats have been writing guiding the president on who is suitable for which mission.
Technocrats at Kutesa’s ministry clearly indicated to the President that with the unraveling of the international system both in the UK and US, there was need to deploy career diplomats rather than rewarding political cronies.
“A number of lists were made strongly recommending some people for posting in the most strategic missions abroad but the President ignored most of the names on the list from Kutesa’s ministry in favor of rewarding political cronies and the price for that will be paid by the whole country.
Our diplomatic service has been declining and Kutesa, Oryem and others are now a laughing stock going by the caliber of people we these days deploy to head missions abroad.
We are now known for mediocrity and what makes it even worse is that the big man’s ignorant appointees don’t respect technical advice from career diplomats working under them at the respective missions.
To them it’s all about being known by the President the incompetence notwithstanding. In the end its Uganda being embarrassed and becoming less competitive because of the way these political appointees conduct business abroad. They behave like RDCs yet this is a technical area,” said one of the very reliable sources we spoke to.
This source is close to both Museveni and Kutesa and confirmed: “all isn’t well between them because SK feels betrayed by his comrade.
The new list has created a lot of anxiety and people in the Foreign Service are very broken with the way the service has been stuffed with political appointees and all the career diplomats have been sidelined.
It’s something SK realizes is going to lower morale in his docket.” Sources say SK hoped to use this ambassadors’ reshuffle to overcome fatigue and frustration in the Foreign Service by priotizing career diplomats at the expense of political appointees.
“People this time put in effort thinking the H.E. would for once respect technical advice only to see even the few career diplomats we had being decimated to give way to political appointees,” said a source adding that “Kenya is one worst case scenario because I’m sure SK couldn’t have recommended Phoebe Otaala.”
The source added that Nairobi is a multilateral station technically handling more than just relations between Uganda and Kenya.
It covers a number of UN Agencies (like UNEPI, Habitat) which don’t have any direct liaison offices in Kampala.
It also handles relations with Israel because the strong Zionist state has no direct diplomatic representation in Kampala.
“This is why the guys at foreign affairs wanted a career diplomat there and not just a political appointee like elderly Otala,” said a source adding that such low profile appointees should have started out in smaller missions like Asmara in Eritrea but not the all important Nairobi Kenya.
The fact that elections are coming in August is more reason why Kutesa wanted a more seasoned person to handle the Kenya mission.
The other big disappointment to Kutesa’s guys at foreign affairs was the posting of Rebecca Otengo to Addis Ababa, another very important multilateral mission handling all the AU-related work.
This comes at a time when Uganda is struggling to rebuild its image amongst AU peers following the last July 2016 Kigali summit where Specioza Kazibwe who was Museveni’s candidate for the top AU job was badly rejected for not being good enough.
“Otengo is good because she is a fast learner but her posting at Addis when she is still new in these things is proof that our President didn’t learn anything from the Kigali debacle,” said a knowledgeable diplomatic source.
The same source described Addis as “the linch pin” of our regional politics on the African continent adding that any serious country should naturally have posted there its most seasoned diplomat and not mere political appointees.
“That is one place where serious countries send their most senior diplomats and not upstarts. It’s like Brussels, Geneva, New York, Nairobi and Paris,” said the diplomatic source concluding that Otengo, just like Otala, will find serious hurdles catching up with more seasoned diplomats deployed by other countries.
The other appointee who’s posting sparked mourning among Kutesa’s technocrats is Barbra Nekesa Oundo, the political failure who lost her Busia Woman MP Seat in February polls. She also deputized Janet Museveni in the Karamoja docket.
She was posted to the South African mission which currently has 6 very experienced diplomatic staff that will be working under bossy and inadequately knowledgeable Nekesa.
“That is another mission that is politically very strategic and of great economic importance given the volume of FDIs we currently have in Uganda brought by South African companies,” said a source lamenting Museveni’s decision to reject career diplomats SK’s ministry had recommended for the SA post in favor of Nekesa who has no background whatsoever in diplomatic work.
“Even if he wanted to post his political cronies there are many guys that are thorough and could do much better than Nekesa.
You have people like Henry Mayega and ex-foreign affairs Minister Asuman Kiyingi who is a political cadre and diplomatically very knowledgeable in these things,” lamented a source disgruntled at Museveni’s choices.
The source added that Nekesa was in for a hard time just like Otengo and Otala.
The sources added South Africa is Uganda’s strong political, trade and defense partner and there is hard technical stuff to discuss by the Ambassador.
We were separately told that the casual approach the Ugandan government attaches to diplomatic work is the reason some very exhausted diplomats had previously applied to be retired but Museveni refused their request. These include Angeline Wapakabhulo and Gen Rusoke.
“They have both been dropped but the truth is they had applied for retirement on grounds of old age because they had clocked 60 years but the actual truth is they are very frustrated with the embarrassment associated to Ugandan diplomats abroad.
Even by African standards everybody is laughing at us,” said a diplomatic source.
The other remarkable thing about Museveni’s latest envoys’ reshuffle is that in the whole of the ECOWAS region which has 15 countries we now have only one diplomat and that is Nelson Ocheger who will be sitting in the Abuja Nigeria mission as its head.
Sources say Museveni is these days very uncomfortable with ECOWAS governments because of the high standards they have lately set including rejecting and despising long serving leaders.
They are actually proposing in the AU to isolate leaders who scrap term limits just like is done for those who ascend power through coup detats.
He is understood not to have liked the strong pro-governance position they took on Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh.
Led by elders like Obasanjo, Kofi Annan and others, West African/ECOWAS leaders were also very instrumental in frustrating Museveni’s candidate (Kazibwe) in Kigali.
All said and done, sources maintained that Museveni’s decision to take only two (Katende & Kabonero) from a list of 20 career diplomats recommended by Kutesa’s ministry technocrats has created bad blood between SK and Museveni that would take long to heal.
“Don’t joke with Museveni. He knows how to rehabilitate annoyed allies and I think what he is going to do to appease Kutesa is to allow him fill the positions of deputy head mission with career diplomats the way he wants and that will revive Kutesa’s self esteem as a minister among his technocrats who are beginning to feel his influence on Museveni is waning,” said a State House source familiar with both Museveni and Kutesa.
Like we exclusively reported on Monday, Museveni intends to take the new Ambassadors through rigorous training at the Jinja-based Civil Service College for the Annual Ambassadors’ Conference which was suddenly put off after Museveni rang Kutesa and told him there was no reason training guys he intended to fire any time soon.
We are told the other cause of uneasiness between Museveni and Kutesa concerns the choosing of deputy mission heads.
Whereas this has always been a preserve for the Minister closely working with the PS, President Museveni has previously insisted on being the one to appoint deputies as well leaving SK and his senior diplomats almost with no input to make in determining who is deployed where as deputy mission head.