Wafula, Rugunda for Lukwago Talks

Government and opposition negotiators are set begin face-to-face talks about the return to City Hall of embattled Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago in January.

The Observer has learnt that the talks will kick off in the second week of January, as part of a government commitment made in Parliament on December 19 to return Lukwago to office by February 2015. Leader of Opposition in Parliament Phillip Wafula Oguttu will lead the opposition team negotiators while Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda will lead the government side.

On December 23, Oguttu convened a meeting of opposition legislators to agree on a way forward. Lukwago also attended of the meeting held in Oguttu’s office at Parliament, where the opposition team was constituted.

“Yes we have put in place a team but I will not tell you anything,” Oguttu said.

An MP familiar with Oguttu’s meeting said they agreed with government to keep details of their engagements out of the media so as to avoid creating a winner-loser picture in the eyes of the public. Asked about the talks on December 23, Rugunda did not give away much.

“Why do you want to grab the food before it is ready? Don’t go into details of things that are going to be discussed,” said Rugunda, once Uganda’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The Observer on December 22 reported that government had agreed to reinstate Lukwago as lord mayor. Rugunda’s disclosure was the outcome of talks chaired by deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on December 19 between a team of government ministers led by Rugunda and an Oguttu-led team of opposition MPs.

This was one of the desperate steps government undertook to have Parliament pass the much needed World Bank loan of $ 175m (Shs 500bn) for the second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Programme phase II (KIID II). Rugunda however, said on December 23 that the engagement he had on December 19 with opposition MPs did not agree on anything conclusive but rather the framework and the principle of the talks.

“In principle, we have agreed to meet and talk but no dates have been fixed,” Rugunda said.

He said the talks will be about issues of governance while cases before court will not be discussed because that would be sub judice.

“We will leave the courts of law to decide the cases their own way,” Rugunda said.

Donor pressure

During the meeting, Rugunda reportedly told MPs that government needed to resolve the leadership issue at KCCA to ward off mounting pressure from the donor community. The World Bank loan is part of the issues that Lukwago highlighted in his October 24 letter to representatives of the donor community in the country.

In the letter, Lukwago told donors of an alleged plan to embezzle a sizeable percentage of the loan. He claimed that planned works under KIID II had been over inflated and overpriced.

“Small junction improvement works which can be done for less than $200,000 and from KCCA’s internal budget are being priced between $2m to $3m,” Lukwago wrote.

2016 elections

Besides the donor pressure, government could have been pushed to resolve the KCCA leadership question in a bid to brighten NRM’s 2016 electoral fortunes in Kampala.

In November, Museveni was told by a delegation of NRM leaders from Kampala that the party’s chances of winning votes in Kampala had been diminished by the activities of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jenifer Semakula Musisi and some NRM politicians.

During the November 24 meeting at State House Entebbe, the NRM leaders from all the five divisions of Kampala told Museveni that because of the leadership wrangles at KCCA, NRM candidates stood no chance in the next elections.

Kampala Central division chairman Godfrey Nyakana said he would go to court if government failed to resolve the impasse.

A day after we published the story (Lord Mayor back in February on December 22), Musisi told a press conference that Lukwago’s presence at City Hall was the least desired thing at the moment.

Additional reporting by Siraje Lubwama.

Source : The Observer

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