Uganda Airlines: Anger isn’t about Jenifer, but the arrogance of NRM

Author: Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • What Ugandans see is that taxpayers’ money is being spent on unproven people.   

Methinks the real issue here is impunity; akin to that of a man who walks into your house and sleeps with your wife, without a care in the world. 

Then, when all is said and done, he has the temerity to demand that you warm the bathwater for him and also serve him tea, adding that he likes his tea strong on the milk, light on the sugar – and his egg fried, sunny side up. 

And when you take issue with him, he is surprised and offended! Calls you disrespectful, a bad neighbour and vows to put you in your place.

I had never heard about Jenifer Bamuturaki – who, it must be said, appears to go by some other names as well – until online reports claimed that the President was vowing to ‘punish’ Joel Ssenyonyi, the chairperson of the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), for being a ‘saboteur’ of progress.

Didn’t know whether there was something serious in the story, or it was the President’s carelessness with facts. So I began working backwards.

That is how I came to know that Ms Jenifer Bamuturaki is CEO of Uganda Airlines, which, everyone knows, is haemorrhaging monies by the billion every other day. If you convert this to the Obote currency that Mr Museveni changed, we’d be talking about trillions lost. 

Cosase, inter alia, was following up on the Auditor General’s report that flagged the airline seriously: inadequate qualifications of key staff, unaccounted for funds, procurement regulations that are not followed, and heavy loss-making with no good news in sight. At the heart of the mess is the fact that the airline sought to recruit a CEO; and as people were busy preparing to compete, the President ordered the appointment of Ms Bamuturaki who, both the AG, Cosase agree, doesn’t meet the citation quota. 

The phenomenon of a loss-making airline, with a person deemed unqualified at the helm just hasn’t gone down well with many people. 

And then the sheer injustice of flouting the law for the sake of someone who, people think, is by no means unique, stellar or special. 

The public outcry about Ms Bamuturaki though seems more to do with the way the matter has been handled than her lack of merit – as per the requirements laid down for that position.

Two things. One, if the President had appointed acclaimed entrepreneur Amos Wekesa as CEO we wouldn’t have this hullabaloo. Wekesa doesn’t even have a university degree, but has defied that to succeed immensely in the tourism industry. Nobody would have complained, even with a flouted recruitment process because they know what Wekesa can do. So the issue is not the CEO’s qualifications.

What’s hurting Ugandans more is the arrogance demonstrated by the new CEO and the appointing authority: that law or no law, they can do what they want and we the people can do nothing about it. That’s called impunity. What Ugandans see is that taxpayers’ money is being spent on unproven people appointed in violation of established rules at the expense of more qualified personnel and to the detriment of the nation.

It is this arrogance that makes many Ugandans angry that they are being taken for granted, just because the rulers that be, wield guns in their hands and because of that, they control just about everything.
Uganda Airlines was established by Idi Amin (a ‘swine’ who ‘lacked vision’) in 1976; it was preserved by Milton Obote (another ‘swine’ who ‘lacked vision’) and grounded in 2000 by a government led by the ‘only man with a vision in Uganda’ – Mr Museveni. The chief saboteur of the airline is, therefore, well-known. 

And with such methods of work as displayed so far (exorbitant salaries, unprofessional recruitment, poor management leading to loss making and fighting anyone who tries to oppose the corrupt tendencies), it isn’t difficult to see why the airline collapsed in 2000…and why it will collapse again, very soon.

Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda