By Sania Babirye
Two Ugandan Citizens have gone to the high court seeking an order to declare foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa unfit to hold a public office and consequently immediately relived of his ministerial seat and also banned from ever holding a public office for allegedly receiving a 500,000 US dollars during his one tenure as the United Nation President of the General Assembly.
The applicants including Ronald Tugume a resident of Masajja in Makindye Division Wakiso district and Sam Kyomuhendo have dragged Kutesa who is also Member of Parliament for Mawogola constituency and the government through the attorney General on grounds that they are concerned citizens who are empowered by the 1995 constitution of Uganda to defend the constitution and also hold their elect leaders accountable.
Minister Kutesa served as a UN chairperson in 2014 and was elected president of the UN general assembly during its 69th session which role he served from September 2014 to September 2015.
However, the applicants claim that they have decided to ask court to relieve Kutesa of his cabinet duties because his actions per the constitution of Uganda and the leadership code act are illegal criminal and Immoral.
That the said bribe was given by Hong Kong home affairs ministe Patrick Ho Chi Ping to Kutesa, allegedly disguised as a donation for kutesa’s alleged charity foundation and also support President Museveni’s re-election campaign despite president Museveni having already been elected in February 2016.
That the bribe was to ensure that China obtain business advantages for the energy company in its efforts to secure and contract ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sector.
And that since then, Ho has been found guilty of giving a bribe and sentenced to three years in a court in New York USA).
Ronald Tugume who swore an affidavit claims that after reading court documents relating to the trial of Patrick Ho in Newyork (USA), it was stated that Kutesa while serving as foreign affairs minister in 2016 received the said bribe from Ho in a bid to secure business dealings in railway services, infrastructure construction, fishing, Hydro energy, banking and finance for the Chinese conglomerate.
Tugume further claim that the said bribe was paid via wire transfer from HBSC bank in Hongo Kong (China) through an intermediary HSBC, Deutche Bank in New York (USA) to Stanbic bank in Uganda in May 2016.
That Patrick Ho was found guilty after his trial in New York before US district judge Loreta Preska and sentenced to three years in prison.
That the court documents which are now public documents used in New York district further show that in or about 2016, after Kutesa had resumed his role as Uganda’s foreign affair minister, that he indeed solicited for the said bribe from Ho purportedly for charitable foundation, he wished to launch and that Ho caused the energy NGO/company to wire 500, 000 us dollars to an account in Uganda designated by Kutesa, through a New York bank.
The documents are also said to show that Ho, while being grilled over the said monies variously referred to his payment as a donation to the re-election campaign of the President of Uganda who had already been elected and as a donation to support Kutesa.
These also claim that in the said alleged court documents, Ho also promised to have the families of Kutesa and the President of Uganda future benefits, including proposing to partner in Lucrative joint ventures if Kutesa assisted the Chines energy company in obtaining businesses in Uganda and also help the said company to acquire a bank in Uganda.
That Ho emphasized that he will only pay the said bribe if their energy company is assisted in major projects from infrastructure, energy, agriculture, finance and banking in Uganda
These have now asked court to declare Kutesa unfit to hold a public office and also a permanent injunction against Kutesa to immediately vacate office of foreign affairs minister on grounds that Kutesa solicited for the said bribe and assured Ho that President Museveni would meet with china’s energy officials and that the Ugandan government will work together with the energy on various projects including the potential sale of Ugandan bank to the energy company.
And that his actions of receiving the said bribe”gift ” contravenes article 233 (2) of the constitution and that of the leadership code act of 2002 since this money was never declared to the inspectorate of Government as a “gift”.
These further claim that Kutesa’ conduct compromised his integrity which is detrimental to public good.
These also want court to declare that government’ failure to investigate and prosecute Kutesa,contravenes article 21 of the constitution that provides that all persons are equal before and under law and that all issues above are of public concern sufficiently great since Kutesa is a minister of foreign affairs.
In December 2018,the attorney general William Byaruhanga exonerated Kutesa over the bribery allegations in a preliminary report presented to parliament.
He stated that Kutesa and his wife Edith were indeed the directors of the energy foundation and that it was a legal foundation that was incorporated on the 24th of July 2015 and received the said donation from Hong Kong based NGO China Energy Fund committee(CEFC) but only to continue championing the 17 sustainable development goals that he was working upo during his tenure as UN General Assembly President.
He also told parliament that it was true that Kutesa’s name had been mentioned in the indictment and featured in the course of Ho’s trial but he was never an accused suspect.
A federal jury in New York court found Ho guilty on all eight accounts of money laundering and bribery over oil rights in Chad and Uganda for CEFC.
He apparently gave out millions of dollars to African officials to seek business favors.
While responding to the allegations, president Museveni stated that he ha heard about the allegations and directed the attorney general to investigate the said allegations but also maintained that Kutesa had informed him about the money and that it was meant for charity work.