On Monday last week, I visited The Observer after a long time. The Observer is headquartered at Plot 1, Tagore Crescent in Kamwokya.
The Observer has a new neighbour to whom I will return later. When The Observer migrated from Ruth Towers on Clement Hill to Tagore Crescent, Mariandina clinic was one of the features we used for direction. “Do you know where Mariandina clinic is?” we would ask before advising our clients to walk or drive past it and then, “you will see our signpost.” This clinic is no longer there.
The fate that affects many black people’s businesses has befallen it – closure after the death of its founder. Dr Charles Ssali of the Mariandina clinic became famous in the 1990s when he claimed he had discovered a cure for HIV/Aids patients. The state clamped down on him when he refused to disclose details of his new drug.
The other neighbour to The Observer, the Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), founded by our dear First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni, is no longer as vibrant as it was.
UWESO is The Observer’s immediate neighbour. Its activities no longer attract huge media coverage like before. I tried to do some research about the organisation over the internet and the recent information I got was that Shs 1 billion had been raised during a fundraising at State House in April 2017.
President Museveni was the chief fundraiser and gave UWESO Shs 300 million. I think I will ask Mama Janet the next time I see her in parliament to talk about UWESO and what really happened.
The last information I had heard about it was that it had refused to account for some donations. When donors asked for accountability, the founder demanded to know from them if they suspected her. The donors pulled out and maybe that is the reason this neighbour to The Observer remains largely quiet.
Let me return to The Observer’s new neighbour - Operation Wealth Creation - at this stage. As you all know about Operation Wealth Creation, it is headed by Gen Caleb Akandwanaho, mostly known as Salim Saleh, President Yoweri Museveni’s young brother.
On the main road from Mulago to Kamwokya is where Operation Wealth Creation is now headquartered. In an earlier article, I told you that Operation Wealth Creation is an illegal outfit established through an executive order from State House, which has since expired.
Because of its legal status, Operation Wealth Creation couldn’t access money. But through trickery, National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), whose budget averages about Shs 450 billion a year, was asked to surrender Shs 270 billion to Saleh’s Wealth Creation circus.
I also told you that more than Shs 70 billion of its now Shs 270 billion annual budget was used to buy vehicles for retired military generals who had just been recruited and trained to serve under Saleh.
I did not know that millions of this money would also be used to rent a posh office for Operation Wealth Creation. The abuse of people’s taxes and power by the Museveni family is very annoying. But this article is not about that.
It is essentially about the failure by the Museveni family to successfully run any private enterprise. It is not a secret anymore that the wife didn’t find her effort to save orphans (UWESO) either rewarding or sufficient.
She jumped into politics to represent the people of Ruhaama, got appointed Karamoja minister and now she heads the education docket, one of the ministries with the biggest budgets.
For me who knows that she illegally joined Makerere University for her Bachelor of Education degree, I thank the Almighty for having enabled me to go through school before she was appointed.
The point I make here is that even if UWESO still exists, it has no activities to speak for her. Maybe it now operates like a security outfit. Salim Saleh founded Divinity Union and at one time traded in cereals.
But I think even this one folded. Maybe a fundraising at State House, at which Museveni will be the chief fundraiser, will resuscitate it.
You need no expertise to know why this family loves the state and power. Mr Museveni himself speaks proudly about his farms but all his employees are paid for by the state. The farms’ veterinary doctor is a senior presidential advisor on veterinary and that is how he picks his monthly salary.
In fact, I laugh each time I see Museveni teaching people how to work. I am willing to issue a public apology if someone tells me a private enterprise this family has successfully run without using taxpayers’ money.
Why then shouldn’t they celebrate Uganda’s 56th independence anniversary. Isn’t Uganda their private enterprise?
The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.