The government has ordered the Central Broadcasting Station radio to immediately relocate from Bulange-Mengo, the seat of Buganda kingdom, and disassociate itself from the Kabaka if it wants to remain in business.
Saturday Monitor has learnt that a Cabinet meeting at State House Entebbe chaired by President Museveni on Thursday night agreed to temporarily allow the radio, taken off air 19 weeks ago, to resume broadcasting - subject to a dozen stiff provisos, among them an explicit apology to the government.
Sources that attended the 9-hour meeting but whom we cannot name because Cabinet discussions are confidential, told this newspaper that a consensus was reached to permanently withdraw the station’s licence if the mangers do not toe the line preferred by the central government.
Among the 12 conditions, which CBS Managing Director Kaaya Kavuma yesterday said they are yet to formally receive from the government, is a requirement for the radio managers to sack all employees accused of inciting the September 10-12 riots in and around Kampala.
At least 27 people were allegedly shot dead by state security operatives as they violently quelled the civil unrest, ignited by a government refusal to allow the Kabaka hold a royal function in Kayunga District where a section of the minority Banyala are seeking a break away from Buganda.
President Museveni blamed the bloody events of the time that has heavily strained relations between Buganda kingdom and his ruling NRM government on tribalised incitement by CBS radio in which Mengo owns majority shares.
It has also emerged that Thursday’s State House meeting settled that disaffected CBS staff who sued the government over closure of the radio immediately abandon litigation or the government will freeze dialogue with the broadcaster and let the courts decide.
CBS was also asked to re-apply for a new broadcasting licence after the initial one was revoked during the station’s shutdown some four months ago. “[CBS management] must ensure that all those people consistently breaching the broadcasting standards should not appear on air again. The station’s management should be immediately changed; employees who incited riots be nowhere in the employment list,” a minister told this newspaper, reading from resolutions of the night meeting.
It is these set of conditions that the government says CBS has ignored – provisos the radio managers deny knowledge of – that President Museveni reportedly seized on at Thursday’s meeting to indict CBS on its current predicament.
“CBS management is responsible for the delays in re-opening of the station,” Mr Museveni is quoted to have told his ministers. Yesterday, Mr Kaaya, the radio MD who is also a shareholder, said he was surprised to learn of the decision from the media because “we have never once before been informed of the conditions”. “Until we have got those conditions officially, I cannot comment and when we get them, I will sit with the Board [of Directors] and we decide on what to do accordingly,” he said.
Saturday Monitor has learnt that CBS management met with President Museveni on Friday last week and held follow up discussions with Information, Communication and Technology Minister Aggrey Awori shortly before Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, arguing a case for reinstatement of the station’s operations.
Mr Awori, whose ministry oversees the communications sector, including broadcasters, heads an ad hoc Cabinet committee formed purposely to handle the CBS closure, a thorny issue for the government on an election eve.
Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko who sits on Awori’s committee, told Saturday Monitor yesterday that: “As a government, we are willing to forget and forgive if the CBS management is cooperative.” It has emerged that another team of ministers, only those with legal qualifications, has been tasked to re-package the expanded pre-conditions to keep CBS in check and Mr Awori, as the line minister, will chair this committee.