How deported MTN boss return was negotiated

MTN Uganda chief executive officer Wim Vanhelleputte. COURTESY PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo yesterday said the ministry would implement the President’s decision.

Kampala. The negotiations to have the deported MTN Uganda chief executive officer Wim Vanhelleputte return have been ongoing for almost three months.

Vanhelleputte, who was deported in February, returned to Uganda yesterday. MTN first got a green light to have Mr Vanhelleputte back in a meeting with President Museveni on March 13 at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo in Kampala during the Africa Now Summit 2019.
A source close to the presidency said Mr Museveni told the MTN delegation led by the company’s group chief executive officer, Mr Rob Shuter, that he didn’t want the children of Vanhelleputte to lack fatherly care.

“He told them that he didn’t want his Bazukulu (grandchildren) to suffer,” the source quoted Museveni.
The source added that the President allowed Mr Vanhelleputte’s return so that he rejoins his family in Uganda but the issue of resuming his job at MTN Uganda had not been concluded. Sources said that during the meeting, the President told the MTN delegation that Mr Vanhelleputte should make a written commitment that he would “never be involved in politics again” in Uganda.

“The President said if he gets involved in politics again, he would not be deported but tried here,” the source said.
However, in a statement issued yesterday, Mr Shuter said: “MTN confirms that the President has exercised executive discretion to permit MTN CEO Wim Vanhelleputte’s unconditional return to Uganda.”

Mr Museveni’s senior press secretary, Mr Don Wanyama, in a tweet confirmed the development.
“Following discussions with the MTN Group top management, the President has exercised his executive discretion and allowed the MTN CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte, back into the country. He is expected to resume his duties,” Mr Wanyama said.

Mr Vanhelleputte departure followed the deportation of the telecom company’s chief marketing officer, Mr Olivier Prentout (French), Italian Elsa Mussolini, the general manager for mobile money and Annie Tabura (Rwandan), the general manager for sales and distribution in January over what government called activities that undermined national security.
Mr Vanhelleputte later petitioned court challenging his deportation and the process used by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ship him out.
He contended that he was never accorded a fair hearing.

It is not clear whether this case, in which he is seeking damages for alleged illegal detention and deportation, will continue in court.
Sources say Mr Vanhelleputte’s return was reached when Mr Shuter returned to Uganda this month and met Mr Museveni again.
During the last meeting, a government source said the MTN officials and Mr Museveni also discussed the unresolved issues about the MTN licence. The telecom company is operating on 90-day temporary licence.

Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo yesterday said the ministry would implement the President’s decision. “Once the decision has been taken, the rest is to effect the mechanics of the decision,” he said.
On Wednesday, Gen Odongo wrote a letter directing that Mr Vanhellepute be allowed back in Kampala and his name be removed from the immigration stop list.
There are reports that separate investigations had exonerated him.


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