A Kenyan painter claiming $16,579 (Shs43.9m) for a huge portrait of President Museveni, says he is stranded in Kampala after State House allegedly refused to pay him.
However, a senior State House official, described Mr Joakim Onyango Ndalo, 61, as a “con man”.
Under-secretary Hope Nyakairu, who received the artwork on the President’s behalf at Okello House in Nakasero on July 12, challenged the painter to produce a Local Purchasing Order (LPO) as evidence that he was authorised to do the work.
Mr Ndalo had said the President, while on a visit to Kenya in July 2009, commissioned the artwork in a conversation at Jaramogi Museum Bondo.
The painting was incomplete at the time, the artist said. But he promised to finish and deliver it to Kampala upon which the President, who was “impressed” with its quality, offered him $500 (Shs1.3m) as “transport” .
Mr Ndalo and two of his children, both painters, hired a pick-up truck from Nairobi four months ago to transport the portrait but were upon arrival in Kampala, told that Mr Museveni was out of the country.
The guests were housed at Mosa Courts, by State House. The next day, they were given $500 and Shs300,000 as transport refund.
Mr Ndalo, who visited the Daily Monitor head offices in Namuwongo to explain his predicament, said courtiers had thwarted all his attempts to meet Mr Museveni over the last four months yet none of them is helping him get paid.
He said in August, the President’s handlers told him visitors were not allowed at State House due to an Ebola outbreak. His follow-up trip to Okello House this week resulted in a presidential guard threatening to arrest him, Mr Ndalo claimed.
However, State House’s narration cast the painter as an initial benevolent Museveni admirer, turned greedy extortionist.
Ms Nyakairu said by telephone that Mr Ndalo presented the portrait as a “gift” and she was surprised he now wants cash payment.
“Why would we go to order for a portrait of the President in Kenya when we have many artists in Uganda who could do the work? She asked. “Does he (Ndalo) have an LPO or voucher as evidence that he was commissioned? He is crafty; he’s a con man.”
What was reportedly a discreet understanding between State House and a talented commoner is surging into a diplomatic fireball.
In presenting his case as a genuine artist, Mr Ndalo showed this reporter letters originated by Kenyan Premier Raila Odinga’s political adviser, ascertaining the claimant’s identity and requesting he be paid to meet urgent health needs.
Dr Adhu Awiti first wrote to State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe, who advised him to channel the communication through President Museveni’s Principal Private Secretary Mary Amajo, which he did on November 23 to no avail.
The Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, to which Kampala separately referred Mr Ndalo to schedule an appointment to meet President Museveni, instead coerced him to sign a disclaimer absolving the diplomatic mission of any responsibility, according to documents seen by the Daily Monitor.
Mr Ndalo is a man of many tragedies. He says he has no money to treat a worsening sight problem, and already missed an opportunity this month to exhibit his paintings on invitation in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.