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May 22, 2008
Otafiire fails to sort out Ssembabule mess
Kutesa accused of blocking new CAO

By Michael Mubangizi

The leadership deadlock in Ssembabule district has taken another twist with the new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) being denied access to the office.

Even the intervention of the Minister of Local Government, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire has not helped the acting CAO, as the incumbent still refuses to vacate office.
On May 14, 2008, Otafiire appointed Paul Walakira acting CAO and directed the acting CAO, Patrick Karinkiza, to hand over to him immediately. But Karinkiza has reportedly defied this ministerial directive.

Karinkiza told The Weekly Observer on phone early this week that he could not hand over to Walakira as his letter had some “irregularities.”
“The letter did not recognise Ssembabule CAO, so Walakira was recalled. I cannot refuse to hand over office because I am just acting for the CAO who is on sick leave,” he said.

Otafiire’s intervention came after the Local Government Permanent Secretary, Vincent Ssekkono, had written two letters about Walakira’s appointment.
The LC-V chairman, Herman Ssentongo, says the Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for Mawogola County, Sam Kutesa, has frustrated the smooth hand over.

Ssentongo told a press conference at Parliament buildings last week that Walakira cannot assume office because he has not been approved by Kutesa.
Although Ssekkono admitted that there was “a problem” he could not confirm to The Weekly Observer whether Kutesa had a hand in this stalemate.
“We can’t run the ministry in newspapers, there is a problem and we are handling it,” Ssekkono said before hanging up.

On April 15, 2008, Ssekkono wrote to Walakira transferring him from Mbale district where he was Deputy CAO to serve in Sembabule as acting CAO, effective April 21, 2008.
According to Ssentongo, Walakira reported for duty but Patrick Karinkiza whom he was meant to replace refused to vacate office, allegedly on Kutesa’s orders.
But Karinkiza denied because being backed by Kutesa.
“I am just a simple civil servant. Hon. Kutesa is too international to involve himself in this local politics. I have not refused to hand over but Walakira’s letter had some problems which had to be corrected,” Karinkiza said.
The anomaly in the letter was also confirmed by Walakira when The Weekly Observer contacted him on phone.

Walakira admitted that his first letter wasn’t clear, as it didn’t tell Karinkiza to hand over to him.
“I am not yet CAO there. We were sorting out a few things. I will know the fate on Thursday (May 22, 2008) that is when I will comment,” he said.
But Ssentongo alleged during the press conference that Kutesa doesn’t want a Muganda to take over the district administration.

Asked about allegations that he was rejected because of his tribe, Walakira was evasive.
“I wasn’t confronted directly,” he said.
On April 29, 2008, Ssekkono wrote another letter to Karinkiza confirming his appointment and directing him to hand over to the latter.
But Karinkiza, reportedly stuck to his guns.
When Ssekkono’s letters were ignored, Otafiire intervened and wrote another letter on May 14, 2008 confirming Walakira’s appointment.
“This is to confirm that Mr. Paul Walakira has been posted as acting CAO to Sembabule and to direct that the acting Assistant CAO Mr. Patrick Karinkiza who has been acting CAO hands over immediately to him for smooth management of the district,” Otafiire’s letter read in part.

But even Otafiires directive was ignored.
The Weekly Observer has learnt that Walakira has since been appointed CAO of Apac district to replace one who has gone for further studies.
Ssentongo said the absence of a CAO puts the district in a crisis.
“There is a crisis. The absence of CAO puts the management of a district in a quagmire. A lot of malpractices can arise in the district! Who is now in-charge of the Shs 12b for Sembabule district?”

Kutesa denies

But Kutesa denied any wrongdoing. When The Weekly Observer contacted him on phone last week, Kutesa said: “How do I refuse? I have no part in it…I don’t even know what the man (Walakira) looks like.”

Kutesa said that Ssentongo has problems with his councilors and he has failed to sort them out.
He also rubbished allegations that he rejected Walakira because he is a Muganda,
“That is stupid. I am not a fool to tow that line and anybody who brings a tribal card in Sembabule will fail,” he said.

During the same press conference addressed by Ssentongo, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo wondered why the Minister of Foreign Affairs was interfering in Local Government affairs.
“He is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, now he takes on powers of Local Government minister, Permanent Secretary, district CAO; last time he appointed a returning officer,” he charged.

The genesis

The controversy over the Sembabule CAO started in September 2007 when then CAO Robert Twesigye went on sick leave, leaving Karinkiza temporarily appointed CAO until November 17, 2007.
Twesigye is still on sick leave.
The district is also plagued by lack of a functional District Service Commission and complete district executive.
The chairman, Ssentongo, doubles as District Secretary for Technical Service and Secretary for Production, portfolios that are supposed to be occupied by other councillors.
Ssentongo said the people he appointed to run the above mentioned committees declined the appointments on Kutesa’s directives, forcing him to run them.
“It’s not that I am power-hungry,” he explained.
Ssembabule politics is dominated by two factions; one led by Kutesa and the other by Ssekikubo.
Kutesa’s favoured LC-V candidate, Dr. Elly Muhumuza, has twice (2001 and 2006) lost to Ssentongo, who belongs to the Ssekikubo faction.



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