US government asks Uganda to strip its UN diplomat of immunity

Tuesday January 12 2016


Kampala- The United States has asked Uganda to strip one of its diplomats at the United Nations Permanent Mission of diplomatic immunity to facilitate his prosecution.

Multiple sources have told this newspaper that the US government wants Mr Robert Mugimba, the Third Secretary, to answer charges brought against him by his house help, Ms Rachael Nuwamanya.

Ms Nuwamanya, after working for the diplomat for 17 months, for the second time disappeared from home, but this time headed to a shelter for abuse victims in Manhattan, alleging she was being underpaid.

Investigations by this newspaper show that diplomats posted abroad routinely tap relatives and friends as domestic servants, housing, feeding and accommodating them, and pay them salary in what in the local context would amount to significant compensation and goodwill.

However, the quasi-formal arrangement is increasingly causing trouble for the Ugandan diplomats because the pay they offer the domestic workers, even when reasonable by Ugandan standards, is below the strictly-regulated minimum remuneration threshold in the West.
In an interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala, Mr Mugimba said: “It [accusation] is false. These are [a result of] personal wars and intrigue.”

By invoking intrigue, the diplomat raises a problem widespread across Uganda’s overseas missions, ruining personal and professional relationships as well as careers of Foreign Service officers.

A source, which asked not to be named owing to the sensitivity of the matter, said Ms Nuwamanya filed the case as a pretext to obtain a Green Card as she seeks to live in the United States.

We could not independently verify this claim.
Washington conveyed its request for a waiver of Mr Mugimba’s immunity to Uganda government through the US Mission to the United Nation in New York, according to the source.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume said they are handling the matter administratively.
Mr Chris Brown, the spokesman for the US embassy in Kampala, in a reply to our email enquiry, noted that: “I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. I would refer you to the government of Uganda for further information and a clarification of Mr Mugimba’s current status.”

Mugume responds
Separately, Amb Mugume in a response to our series, sought to clarify that it is “not that we enjoy the tension” gripping Uganda’s embassies abroad, and that President Museveni does not interfere in their work.

He said they are yet to resolve work differences between Uganda’s envoy to Paris, Ms Nimisha Madhvani and accounting officer Dorah Kutesa, wife of the UPDF director of Doctrine, Maj Gen Pecos Kutesa, because they need to evaluate findings of an ad hoc team tasked to resolve the matter, and not because they are second-guessing the president’s position on the matter.

Both Paris embassy principals are close to the head of state, the appointing authority, and the permanent secretary said it is not automatic that any accused staff should be sacked.
“The President has given us authority to manage and guide the missions…our job is to manage the tensions,” Amb Mugume said.

Our series, Embassies in Crisis, has documented intrigue and infighting at all key Ugandan embassies and the unending conflicts between politicians posted to head and supervise career diplomats who despise them.

Amb Mugume said Heads of Missions, who chair the quarterly budget and finance committee meetings, should respect spending according to itemized budget and not seek to alter expenditure mid-way.

Under the revised Public Finance and Management Act, officials can only re-allocate up to 10 per cent of the Budget but only with parliamentary approval.

The PS said Richard Laus Angualia, Uganda’s ambassador to Cairo, resigned to vie as a Member of Parliament and not because his life was in danger.