As the government dilly-dallied with the renewal of the MTN license, veteran journalist-cum-political fixer, Andrew Muhanga Mwenda got hold of his mighty bazooka – the pen. The old man of the Clan, as he refers to himself these days, would write a lengthy article. The object – or was it the hidden instructions – of the writer, was to justify the MTN’s license lifespan extension.
Mwenda has the ear and eye of the President and, most especially, the ears and eyes of the First Son, Gen Kainerugaba Muhoozi. President Yoweri Museveni, in particular, has gone on record, though privately, to refer to Mwenda as ‘my’ strategic advisor. This revelation, irrespective of the fact Mwenda isn’t one among those officially appointed and or publicly known advisors.
Consequently, it came as no surprise at all for those privies to these things, when MTN ended up getting its license extension wish granted by the government of Uganda. Beyond that and other challenges not mentioned here, Mwenda has helped a great deal in fixing the big quarrel between Gen Paul Kagame and his peer, Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
After holding the nitty gritties of the private talks with Kagame, Mwenda would hand over the mantle to Muhoozi to simply go ahead and seal the peace talks. The peace talks at the level of Muhoozi and Kagame have since, thankfully, cooled the temperatures which had hitherto been seemingly threatening to boil over.
And this, to the untold detriment of the two historically close-knit countries as well as it’s respective people. Such was the height the diplomatic row had escalated that it was threateningly giving way to a possibly an outright war between the two principals. But thanks to Mwenda’s negotiating skills, oration plus charm, such a bloody war scenario has since been avoided by the two principals.
Before Muhoozi could come in to reap the resultant fruits, it ought to be repeated, Mwenda had helped to do the rigorous job of smoothening the ground first. The rest now belongs in history. Coming fast to our instant conversation in issue and as you must have heard already and know now, Umeme’s power concession isn’t going to be renewed beyond its current expiry date coming in December, 2005.
The government of Uganda has already issued out the requisite termination notice to the South African power concessioners to alert them about the bad news. The government faults Umeme for doing a shoddy job and overpricing power. That one being unnecessarily a charge, since it’s the job of the government itself to bill the consumers via its own agency known as Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).
As we have already stated, the Uganda’s power concession to be such a lucrative one just as that one of MTN is, Umeme hence, aren’t expected to accept to lose the money-spinning machine without putting up a good fight. That big fight to retain the concession is, of course, going to be joined in by many outside forces with a sharp eye for money. Those outside forces are, without even necessarily stating it, going to do everything in their power to try to change the tables in favor of Umeme.
Rightly or not, one of our own senior colleagues in Andrew Mwenda is of such outside forces who, it would seem, have joined the big fight on the side of – who else – but, of course, Umeme itself. Mwenda as it was in respect of the jigsaw involving the MTN license’s extension, isn’t a stranger to fights like this one involving the retention of Umeme’s quickly expiring concession.
Subsequently, writing under his latest copyrighted Independent Magazine’s Last Word column, Mwenda puts his immense wit up to the service of Umeme as he compellingly tries to justify why the idea of the cancellation of the South African’s concession is awfully a bad one. Expediently and compellingly titled; ‘The electricity disaster coming’ Mwenda’s piece leaves nothing to debate as in regard to the author’s intention about penning the same.
But this isn’t in any way to discount the good points Mwenda puts across as he looks to sway Ugandans towards Umeme’s case. Here is among what our friend Mwenda writes as he tries to belatedly promote Umeme’s case to retain the power franchise. But whose Umeme concession’s fate as you, I and everyone else knows by now, the government of Uganda has since, already sealed and, accordingly, tossed its keys away into the ocean.
That procedurally sealed fate of Umeme notwithstanding, the veteran soldier of the pen and wits argues how the end of Umeme concession is going to mark the beginning of a return to the bad days when Uganda was experiencing untold power disturbances. Mwenda contends that for the government to accept to nationalize the power sector again, is for the country to equally accept to blindly jump from the fire into the flying pan again.
Bemoaning the country’s lack of money which has grounded whatever else it’s trying to work on currently, Mwenda questions the penniless government’s wisdom in taking up yet the more costly projects such as managing the power sector. Pointing out the grounding of NSSF’s critical projects, as one among numerous costly blunders which are being occasioned by the government’s own red tape and endless multiple investigations leading to wastage of money and time, Mwenda shudders to think about what is going to happen to the power sector should the inept government end up nationalizing the sector again.
Pointing out the successes of Umeme among which have been a cut back in power outages plus wanton theft of public funds as was happening under the formerly government-controlled Uganda Electricity Board, Mwenda prophesizes that more and more ills are what is going to befall the power sector should the government end up nationalizing the sector.
Because it is quite a lot easier to make critical decisions under the private sector setting, Mwenda notes, things such as securing the much more needed loans faster and utilizing the funds so realized faster and effectively, is most likely going to be grossly affected, if not, reversed when the government nationalizes the power sector again.
In a nutshell, what Mwenda is trying to argue is that the consumers of power in Uganda are going to be thrown back to the shabby treatment from which Umeme had struggled and, was still struggling, to rescue them from. But, much as what Mwenda is putting across in favor of Umeme’s retention of the power business could be compelling a case to ignore, it’s highly doubtable that he is doing that outside the financial consideration for himself. Whether the government is going to kowtow to Mwenda’s and such other nice arguments in favor of Umeme’s retention of the concession, time will tell.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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