At least 14 newly-appointed ambassadors and deputies are stranded in Kampala because the government is short on cash to facilitate their relocations, officials have confirmed.
“Whereas we have successfully dispatched most of our ambassadors to stations where they were posted, we have constraints due to financial pressures the ministry is facing to move some of the individuals to their duty stations,” State minister for International Affairs Oryem Okello said.
President Museveni in August last year, made wide-ranging changes to Uganda’s diplomatic representations overseas, appointing more than a dozen election losers, who stood in previous polls on the ruling NRM ticket, ambassadors.
Retired career ambassadors Harold Acemah and Paul Etyang criticised the Executive’s decision to load the Foreign Service with political failures, arguing that it suffocates career growth for younger profesionals.
“The embassies are Uganda’s windows abroad. If you send someone wanting, the damage that they do is enormous and irreparable,” Amb Acemah told this newspaper in an earlier interview.
However, the law gives the President the prerogative on who to appoint as his emissary.
Information available indicates that ambassadors yet to move to their duty stations include the retiring Makerere University lecturer, Prof Joyce Kikafunda, the Ugandan High Commissioner-designate to the UK, and Kintu Nyago; President Museveni’s former deputy principal private secretary.
Others are former Bukoto East MP Chrysostom Alintuma Nsambu to Ottawa, Canada; Abraham Ismat, Khartoum; Stephen Mubiru, Kuala Lumpur; Elizabeth Napeyok, New Delhi; and Nimisha Madhvani, Paris.
Mr Richard Angualia, Uganda’s new envoy to Egypt, presented his credentials to President Mohamed Morsy last Thursday.
“There is no news,” according to Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume, who said diplomatic etiquette requires that new appointees are never named until approved by prospective host countries.
Mr Mugume said a lengthy bureaucratic process – of parliamentary vetting, contract signing and approval by host countries – coupled with limited resources meant they could not promptly bankroll relocation of the ambassadors.
The government requires $24,000 (Shs61.6 million) to ship household items and book air tickets for each ambassador’s family, according to official estimates.
The practice in Uganda is to first cater for the incumbent diplomat so that they leave the station to create space for a replacement. While they remain in Kampala, officials say they have not drawn any salaries.
Because the ambassadorial changes were made in the middle of a financial year and had not been budgeted for initially, Mr Mugume said, the ministry was unable to bankroll all the relocations simultaneously.
“Otherwise, the only other option would have been for us to ask for supplementary budget allocation to expedite the process,” he said.
The government now plans to ensure all the ambassadors are at their new stations by July when the new Financial Year begins.
Ugandan ambassadors are usually rotated every two to three years, but Mr Mugume said yesterday that in the 10 months, the newly-appointed ambassadors have spent without doing work will not affect their tenure because it will be tied to the actual date they report in office.
Mr Nyago, the deputy permanent representative-designate to the United Nations in New York, was optimistic as he explained away his presence on Kampala streets 10 months after his appointment.
“I should be leaving very soon. I am just finalising one or two things,” he said.
This newspaper understands that the President has also re-arranged some of the diplomatic postings since announcing the reshuffle last August.
Mr Nsambu, initially assigned to Asmara, will now move to Canada partly because Uganda has failed to open an embassy in Eritrea as earlier envisaged.
Mr Abraham Ismat, a newcomer diplomat, will now head to Khartoum instead of Tokyo where Betty Akech has already reported.
Ms Akech was originally meant to move from Khartoum to Beijing, but following guidance by some Foreign Affairs officials, she was dispatched to Japan instead so that Amb Charles Wagidoso stays put in China.
The changes in duty stations, which bureaucrats say is normal, were according to our investigations prompted by perceptions within government that some of the designated envoys were inexperienced.
Some analysts have questioned returns on investment in our overseas missions, most of them housed in dilapidated buildings.