Why leaders poured water on Gen Otafiire
They expected the President. Instead, they received Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire. And tempers flared!
The result of this was chaos, a humiliation and dousing of the minister in water, arrests and chants of disapproval.
This was on Saturday afternoon. And the 864 Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA) members, including district chairpersons, mayors, council speakers and sub-county chairpersons, who had convened at Namboole stadium, near Kampala, did not even want to listen to, let alone see, the minister. But why?
Mr Emmy Agaba, the chairperson of Buyanja Sub-county in Rukungiri District, said they wondered why Gen Otafiire, whose ministry is suspected of peddling attempts to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution, was sent to meet them.
"We left our homes knowing that we were to meet the President. Then why was this changed to meeting [Mr] Otafiire? Besides, why could the President not send the prime minister, but chose [Gen] O tafiire?" Mr Agaba asked.
Police officers arrest one of the district leaders who was suspected of leading others to pour water on Gen Otafiire. Photo by Joseph Kato
Closed door meeting
Mr Solomon Okecho, the Lobotongo Sub-county chairperson in Tororo District, alleged that prior to their Namboole meeting, ULGA executives held a closed-door meeting with President Museveni and Gen Otafiire and discussed the age limit removal.
"ULGA executive met the President and we were told removal of age limit was part of what was discussed. We took it as a rumour but when we saw [Gen] Otafiire coming as the President's representative we became suspicious. We could not allow him divert our agenda," Mr Okecho said.
The ULGA president, Mr Godfrey Mutabaazi, denied discussing age limit removal during their meeting with President Museveni.
"The meeting was to discuss how we could hold a successful meeting with him. We left when he had promised to attend in person. Even me I was not expecting Gen Otafiire to come on his behalf. As ULGA we don't engage in partisan politics," Mr Mutabaazi said. However, the senior presidential press secretary, Mr Don Wanyama, said Mr Museveni's itinerary did not have the ULGA meeting.
"That item (meeting with local government officials) was not on the President's schedule. The President was in Agago District to launch a health facility and later in the evening was at the launch of Kitabi Seminary Old Boys Sacco at Hotel Africana," he said.
The programme line-up for the Namboole event, a copy of which this newspaper has seen, did not have President Museveni scheduled anywhere. It just indicated "…Interaction with Chief Guest" as the last item.
Mr George Kipruto, the chairperson of Kaptoyoy Sub-county in Kween District, said they wanted to meet the President and present their grievances to him.
"Can you imagine we came here last night and we haven't been given even Shs100 for upkeep? The organisation of the meeting was haphazard. Look, even our
tags were not labeled!" he charged, adding: "We knew Otafiire was just going to make us laugh and nothing else."
The Binyiny Town Council chairperson, Mr Francis Tuken, said they expected the President at the function because in the last term (2011-2015), he skipped the meeting, yet they had a bone to pick.
But speaking at a judiciary officers' assembly at the High Court in Kampala later in the evening, Gen Otafiire played cool his humiliation at Namboole.
Chaotic scenes at Namboole before Gen Otafiire met his fate. Photo by Joseph Kato
"Do you know why the chairpersons were not prepared to talk to me, they refused to talk to me because they knew I had not come to announce increase in their salaries…
"So they said, you go away… They just chased me and told me to leave and I was very happy to go because my answer was I was not going to increase their salary. That is what I was going to tell them. They knew, they could see it in my face and they said aaah aaah , this one is having bad news and we don't want to listen to him," Gen Otafiire said.
Otafiire speaks out
But speaking separately to this newspaper, the minister said he had taken good news to the leaders but they did not allow him to deliver it. He did not say what good news he had.
"It is not true that what I was going to share was related to lifting age limit. That was not on my agenda neither was the President going to speak anything about it [in case he attended]. In fact, they did not chase me but they chased the President who had sent me to represent him," Gen Otafiire said.
Asked whether he was considering taking any action against the leaders for embarrassing him, Gen Otafiire said: "Those people were arrested by police. It is now the work of the police but for me I don't have any interest in it. Those who splashed water on me were lucky because they did it when I was leaving the venue. Had any one of them confronted me, I would have stood my ground."
Ms Rose Gertrude, the ULGA secretary general, said the leaders had expressed issues about low pay but no one listened to them.
And their only chance was meeting face-to-face with the country's chief executive officer.
Police arrested two leaders Mr Okecho and Mr Michael Osinya, an LC3 chairperson from Namayingo District, suspecting them to have poured water on Mr Otafiire.
In the melee, Mr Okecho and Mr Osinya's jackets were ripped off, attracting more chaos as the LCs demanded for the release of their colleagues. Police let free the duo.
A police source who declined to be quoted since they have been restricted from speaking to the media, said they would pursue the case if at all Gen Otafiire lodges a complaint.
The meeting ended prematurely with a promise that another meeting shall be communicated after the confirmation of President Museveni's attendance in person.
Contents of the invitation letter (edited)
Since my ascendance to the Office of President of the Uganda Local Governments Association, the Local Government Leaders have been requesting for a meeting with HE the President of Uganda.
The Objective of the meeting is to develop strategies through which the Leaders can support and contribute effectively to the implementation of Vision 2020 for the attainment of a middle-income status by our country Uganda…
The theme of the meeting is Uganda Vision 2020 and Addressing Middle income opportunities, barriers and the role of local governments.
ULGA shall work closely with the Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in the process of organizing this meeting.
HE the President of Uganda has been invited and requested to attend in person and interact with you….
Signed by George Mutabaazi, the president ULGA
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