Activists petition court to ‘expel’ minister Sam Kutesa from gov’t

Activists petition court to 'expel' minister Sam Kutesa from gov't
Minister Sam Kutesa

Two more activists have petitioned the High Court (Civil Division) for orders to compel Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa to vacate his office.

Sam Kyomuhendo and Ronald Tugume want court to declare that Kutesa is unfit to hold a public office over various bribery and corruption allegations. In his affidavit, Tugume states that while serving as the president of the United Nations Assembly in New York, Kutesa solicited and received a bribe of $500,000 (about Shs 1.8bn) around May 2016 and other things from former Hong Kong’s Home Affairs minister, Patrick Ho Chi Ping who has since been convicted and jailed. Ho also offered another $500,000 bribe to President Museveni around the same time.

According to Tugume and evidence submitted in US courts, Kutesa received the bribe on May 6, 2016 from HSBC Bank in Hong Kong through an intermediary Deutsche Bank in the New York through to Stanbic Bank in Uganda.

In exchange, Kutesa, promised to help Ho to access President Museveni and gain business advantages for China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), a Shanghai-based multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in multiple sectors, including oil, gas, and banking contrary to Ugandan laws.

The applicants contend that the said bribe was characterised as a donation or contribution for a ‘foundation’ that Kutesa wished to launch such that the Chinese company would support the re-election campaign of Museveni whom the minister referred to as his brother-in-law.

On his part, Ho emphasized that the energy company expected assistance from minister Sam Kutesa with respect to ‘major projects’ ranging from infrastructure, energy, agriculture, finance and banking in Uganda. Kutesa then assured Ho that Museveni would work with the Chinese on various projects, including the potential sale of a ‘Ugandan Bank’ to the energy company.

According to the US attorneys, Ho explicitly offered to “partner” with Kutesa and Museveni and/or their “family businesses,” making clear that both officials would share in CEFC China’s future profits.

The applicants contend that Kutesa’s conduct contravenes some laws in the Constitution and the Leadership Code Act of 2002. They also state that Kutesa’s conduct compromises his integrity and is harmful to public good. The applicants also accuse the agents of the Ugandan attorney general who is also a respondent in the matter, of failing to investigate and prosecute Kutesa in as far as the law of equality is concerned.

READ: Hong Kong official pleads not guilty to bribing Sam Kutesa

A US judge found Ho guilty on March 26, 2019 and sentenced him to three years in jail on two counts of International money laundering. Justice Lorreta .A. Preska also found Ho guilty of four counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FCPA by his actions. Ho has since appealed against the sentence citing poor health and good conduct while he was on remand.

This is not the first time activists are suing Kutesa seeking a declaration that he is not fit to hold public office. On December 18, 2018, Brian Atuheire, a political activist filed a case seeking court to compel the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to institute criminal charges against Kutesa.

READ: Ugandan MPs demand for Kutesa resignation over bribery allegations

This case is fixed for hearing before Justice Dr Andrew Bashaija on May 13. President Museveni has since admitted that indeed minister Sam Kutesa received the money in question, but said the minister told him that he thought it was a gift.