Museveni pledges to pay Mukula's legal fees

Saturday January 26 2013

Museveni pledges to pay Mukula legal fees

The Soroti Municipality MP, Capt. Mike Mukula, being led to the cells last week after chief magistrate Irene Akankwasa sentenced him to four years imprisonment. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa. 

By Chris Obore & Stephen Otage

President Museveni has told Teso leaders that he will not twist the law to grant freedom to jailed former junior Health minister Mike Mukula.

He, however, promised to pay Mukula’s legal fees, according to sources who attended the Thursday meeting between Mr Museveni and a delegation that included bishops, MPs and Emorimori’s team.

The delegation had sought the President’s help to get the jailed NRM Vice Chairman for eastern region released from jail.

The Emorimori reportedly told the President to intervene in order to avert political ramifications in Teso, as Mukula’s sympathisers had reportedly started discrediting the government. He said although courts found Mukula guilty, others who were equally culpable were left free.

Mr Museveni reportedly started with a narrative that when in the bush, they fought to restore the rule of law, therefore he could not interfere with court processes. He also told the delegation that during the bush days, they frowned at members who loved soft life because to achieve soft life, it required a lot of money which is often hard to get.

He also reportedly told his guests that, knowing the dangers of people who love soft life, the NRM made it a philosophy and enshrined in its Constitution, the distaste for people who focus on luxury as they often ignore people’s affairs.

Mr Mukula is known for his love for good life. Several NRM leaders are equally known for their larger-than-life behaviour.

During the meeting, the President also called Ms Lalam Margaret, an aide to the First Lady, to explain the circumstances surrounding Shs54 million that was reportedly given to the First Lady. Ms Lalam reportedly explained that she is the one who received the money and duly accounted for it.

Then the President said he had been briefed by his legal team about the court process against Mr Mukula. He gave a copy of the brief to Teso delegates to read and get copies.

He told Emorimori not to worry about those spreading propaganda on Teso radio stations against NRM government, saying “ I will deal with those ones. They will stop it”.

After the meeting, the delegation left the President’s country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District, at night without a clear message from the Head of State. They, however, promised to seek another dialogue with Mr Museveni.

Although sources declined to be on record in order not to jeopardise the negotiations, the Soroti District NRM Chairperson, Mr Charles Elasu, confirmed it took place at Rwakitura on Thursday.

“Yes, the bishops and some opinion leaders met the President yesterday but I do not have the details,” Mr Elasu said in an interview on Friday.

When contacted for comment, Mr Jacob Opolot, the Teso Parliamentary Group chairperson, also the Pallisa County MP, confirmed the meeting took place.

“Yes I was there and I am going to meet the bishops shortly,” he said before hanging up.

Ms Linda Nabusayi, the deputy presidential press secretary, said: “We can confirm that the meetings took place but I will get the details after being briefed.”

Last week, a magistrate’s court of the Anti-Corruption Division found the former junior Health minister guilty of embezzling Shs210 million meant for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi). He was sentenced to a four-year jail term.

Mukula, who has instructed his lawyers to appeal, insists the prosecution was politically-motivated. His other co-accused; former Health Minister Jim Muhwezi and Mr Alex Kamugisha were exonerated by court while the fourth suspect, Ms Alice Kaboyo, a former State House employee admitted guilt and was fined Shs20 million.

The move by Teso leaders follows others by tribal leaders who have always sought the President’s intervention when their own is in trouble.