Kampala. When President Museveni returned from a tight scheduled trip in Teso sub-region last Saturday, it is said another meeting awaited him over his erstwhile press secretary Tamale Mirundi.
That meeting would resolve to draw the curtains on a 13-year-tenure of a press secretary who once described himself as “the President’s barking dog”. Mr Museveni had tasked Sabiti Muzeeyi, the deputy commander of the Special Forces Command (SFC) to bring Mr Tamale to State House Entebbe where a meeting was organised. Tensions were high.
Sources say at the meeting attended by Ms Linda Nabusayi (deputy press secretary), who has since taken over Mr Mirundi’s role; Maj Edith Nakalema (President’s private secretary); Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso (advisor on security matters) and Lucy Nakyobe (State House comptroller), a recording was played for the President, in which Mr Mirundi appears to be insulting his boss and applauding Mr Amama Mbabazi.
Mr Mirundi confirmed to Daily Monitor yesterday that recordings had been played for the President but insisted they were “doctored”.
He, however, added that this was not the first time “doctored recordings” were played for the President.
“Those who doctored the tapes are fools wasting time. Do they think Museveni believes them? I am recorded by Internal Security Organisation, State House and another private company, I also record myself. One time Mengo took a doctored recording too but Museveni rejected it,” he said.
Mr Mirundi’s protestations that recording were doctored opened a pandora’s box, resulting in accusations and counter-accusations.
Mr Mirundi says this was the second recording, adding that the first one, where he appears to insult the First Lady Janet Museveni, was given to the President two months ago.
Mr Mirundi denied abusing the First Lady when the President asked him: “So you have now started abusing my wife?”
Mr Mirundi told the President: “These women want to kill me. Mzee, let me just go. I cannot take it anymore.”
A concerned Museveni asked: “What can I do to protect you?”
He explained that a waitress at Dewinton Road in Kampala had intimated to him that she had been approached to serve him poisoned beer, allegations Daily Monitor could not independently verify.
President Museveni, however, ordered that Mr Mirundi’s security be beefed up and thereafter re-assigned Ms Linda Nabusayi to the new role of press secretary.
Mr Mirundi was henceforth appointed presidential adviser on the media.
Sources close to State House, who requested anonymity, intimated to this newspaper that the recordings on the First Family could have angered the President.
Intrigue in the palace
However, the apparent recordings of Mr Mirundi are perhaps a tip of the iceberg given the intrigue and palace wars inside State House.
The former press secretary, however, blames his sacking on former premier Mbabazi’s invisible hand.
“You can join Mbabazi without knowing you have joined him. In fact, people are now calling me to say Museveni supports Mbabazi because he sacks those who are combative on Mbabazi,” Mr Mirundi said.
“You people don’t know how Mbabazi works. He has people in intelligence and even State House. He can fight you without you seeing him. Ever since I began attacking him, my problems have increased. The happiest people with my sacking are the Mbabazi group and the Opposition because I have been a headache to them,” Mr Mirundi said.
Mr Mbabazi’s spokesman, Mr Benjamin Alipanga, said there was no merit in Mirundi’s blaming his woes on Mr Mbabazi, declining to give credit to the “wild claims” by commenting further.
Ms Sarah Kagingo, who until recently was the president’s special assistant in charge of social media and left State House to run her own PR firm, Softpower Communications, said: “Tamale is not a thief, he is actually a very kind and cooperative man. I worked cordially with him for the short time I was in State House. We shall miss him.”
And several staff of the Presidential Press Unit (PPU) Daily Monitor contacted spoke highly of Mr Mirundi.
Mr Tamale also claims that his working style has not been well-received by the Presidency, minister Mr Frank Tumwebaze.
Mr Tumwebaze declined to comment on the matter.
The Presidency minister, like many others on Mr Museveni’s Cabinet, have suffered Mr Mirundi’s verbal attacks during his radio and TV talk shows.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) director Jennifer Musisi, Mengo establishment, the Catholic Church and Muslim factions, were not spared either. All that passed as if that was the President’s message, and Mirundi, a messenger.
The money wars
Mr Mirundi, in one of the apparent recordings which he claims were doctored, alleges that on June 30, a meeting was held in which a firm claiming to be doing Barack Obama’s public relations presented a proposal of Shs4 billion to handle Mr Museveni’s social media.
He claims when the President asked where Mr Mirundi was, Brig Nalweyiso walked out and called him. He refused to appear. Maj Nakalema called and he insulted her, before hanging up.
Mr Mirundi called it a scheme to profit from the elections and take advantage of Mr Museveni’s scanty knowledge on online services.
“Nabusayi is a clever woman. They tried to use her to fight me and failed. We knew each other before she even joined State House, having worked in the media. She is up to the task,” said Mr Mirundi.
He added: “I am a politician. I was in Opposition and the President called me 13 years ago to work with him. There has been a move to overhaul PPU, originally it was recruited from the civil service and there is need to revolutionise.”
For President Museveni, however, to sack or retain Mr Mirundi was a question of a delicate balancing act.