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Inside the rise and fall of Obore at Parliament

Chris Obore was head hunted for the job at Parliament after an initial ad and recruitment process was quashed for lack of qualified candidates. But intrigue in Parliament has seen IGG come into the picture to kick out Obore, yet, ironically, his replacement is in office without following the due process

ANALYSIS | Chris Obore’s fate got intertwined with plans for constitutional amendments aimed at scrapping Age Limit to allow President Museveni stand for re-election in 2021 when he is past 75 — which started way before the incumbent had even won the 2016 presidential ballot.

According to information available to Crime24, Obore was head-hunted after the government and Parliament moved to look for a specific characters in the director of Communication and Public Affairs, a new docket the Office of the Speaker was creating with the approval of Public Service Commission.

However, with most of the threats he was hired to counter appearing to be done with, the sword of intrigue has been jabbed right through his ribs.

Sendo Cleaners

Obore’s foray into Parliament started with plans to amend the some clauses in the Constitution as well as other profiled threats to government. Parliament had foreseen that it would face a strong opposition both within and among the citizenry if it scrapped Age Limit.

In the director of communication at the time, Parliament was looking for a person who would not only sway public opinion in favour of the institution but also counter Amama Mbabazi’s candidature since the threat he posed was not immediately discernible then.

In Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, who had always taken the flak for passing controversial bills, was meant to take the mantle of Speaker. His boss, Rebecca Kadaga, was to be reassigned after a section of NRM party leadership complained that she always conveniently left the country just in time to stay away from controversial debates and bills.

To work closely with Oulanyah was to be someone heading the Communication and Public Affairs seat in Parliament. The recruitment drive started in earnest.

However, things did not go to plan. Kadaga threw tantrums and accused everyone in NRM of ganging up against her. Museveni was moved by her tears and decided to give her another chance on condition that she sat through hot bills. And passed them, too.

For the communication job, Parliament needed someone who would counter public protests both on social media and in the mainstream media. Initially, Parliamentary Service Commission advertised the position of Director of Communication and Public Affairs (CPA).

Hellen Kaweesa, who had acted as public relations manager for three years prior, was looking to step up her job title and description and had dully sat and ‘aced’ the interviews. She was awaiting her appointment letter when Kadaga received orders instructing her about the calibre of person needed to head the new directorate.

Out of the blue, Kaweesa was accused of having no result to show for while she held the top job for three years. It was also alleged that she had connived with a human resource manager — who now works at a top foreign embassy — to rig out other applicants who had lined up for the job.

But in reality, a decision had been made that Kaweesa wasn’t the kind of person who would fight for the image of Parliament that was expected to be seriously dented during the scrapping of Age Limit and other controversial amendments aimed at tilting the ground for President Museveni’s continued stay.

Head-hunting

The original interviews were voided and Parliament was directed to head-hunt public affairs communicators who could command public attention, discuss policies and debate issues in the media.

Those head-hunted include Daniel Kalinaki, the Monitor Publications Limited general manager, Onapito Okomoloit, then at public affairs director at Nile Breweries, and senior journalist Charles Mwanguhya, bureau chief of The East African newspaper.

But along came Gen Kale Kayihura, then chief of Uganda Police Force. He nominated Chris Obore for the top job. Someone also nominated Maurice Mugisha, then NTV news editor, while Andrew Mwenda desperately worked on installing Simon Kasyate on the job.

But Gen Kayihura wielded more powers than any of those who sent recommendations. Besides, he was working directly on the instructions of members of the First Family who had worked on having Amama Mbabazi thrown out of government.

Kayihura approached Kadaga with his nominee. At first, the Speaker didn’t even give it a second thought. She rejected it outright. She had never taken to any liking for Obore, a man who talked endlessly and whose investigative news articles often rubbed many the wrong way.

“Let’s put sentiments aside and look to the bigger picture,” Gen Kayihura reportedly told Kadaga and explained why Obore was the right person to fight Mbabazi’s presidential dreams. She began to pay attention at the mention of Mbabazi, her nemesis of sorts.

“Besides,” continued Kayihura, “there is the issue of amendments to the Constitution. You’ll need someone who is not afraid to roll in the mud just to clean up the image of Parliament. There is none like Obore in this.”

Until this point, Mwanguhya was ahead of the rest for the job. In fact, some sources have suggested that his appointment letter was ready. But Kayihura’s intervention had changed the game plan.

According to Obore, he was contacted in May 2015 about the job offer. He accepted it the following month and in August, he was on the job.

Ouster

The marriage of convenience had been sealed. How the convenience lasted, though, depended on many factors, one of which was Gen Kayihura’s powers. The other was on how long Kadaga would continue to sit on her pride and work with a man she had rejected.

There was already intrigue in Parliament as some who felt they had been ignored for the job took matters to heart. Then there was a clique whose activities at Parliament was affected by Obore’s arrival as sweeping changes were made in several departments. Jointly, they compiled a dossier and sent to the IGG, citing irregular recruitment of the CPA director (Obore).

Matters went to a head when Obore openly criticised Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s handling of Land Commission Inquiry. She promptly filed her displeasure with Kadaga, who was told Obore was working to undermine her office in favour of her deputy, Jacob Oulanyah.

Along with the dossier on Obore’s recruitment sent to IGG were other documents and complaints Justice Irene Mulyagonja had compiled about Parliament in general. They included the controversial procurement of a camera at Shs119 million.

The Shs119 million camera remained gathering dust at the time IGG started investigation. However, Mulyagonja appeared to have focused on the CPA job and how Obore came to hold it.

There was no longer Gen Kayihura in the picture, Amama Mbabazi had turned out less threatening than a passing cloud, and Wafula Oguttu, the former Opposition chief whip who had seconded Obore’s nomination, was no longer in Parliament.

Kadaga saw a convenient and fertile ground to dig in after appearing to fail to get Obore’s absolute loyalty. Obore had maintained his job description and appeared to ignore certain quarters of controversial issues involving individual office bearers.

When IGG office first leaked dossier and the fact that it was investigating a raft of issues in Parliament after receiving minutes from Parliamentary Commission, this news website contacted the Inspectorate and received a confirmation that the Shs119 million camera deal was among those being investigated.

However, with Kadaga showing her cards openly to the extent of moving to create a new office and recruit a personal press assistant, IGG appears to have taken the cue that the issue of Obore took precedent.

Did Chris Obore recruit himself to that parliamentary job? Of the interview finalists, who is complaining of having had better qualifications and was pushed aside in favour of Obore? asked a Facebook user.

These questions certainly did not matter once the fact that IGG office had a dossier on Obore reached Mulyagonja’s deputy George Nathan Bamugemereire. Obore had dared criiticise his wife Catherine on Facebook. This was an opportunity from the heavens.

This increased to the cocktail of odds against Obore and IGG’s office pushed for his indictment with more fury than they have ever pursued any case.

At the centre of IGG’s issues with Obore’s job status is that the original job advertisement sought for the prospective employee to have a minimum of 10-year experience in public service, Degree in Mass Communication, Communication Studies, Journalism or Arts with Communication and Public Relations and Master’s Degree.

By the time of his employment, Obore only had a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication from Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU). He only graduated with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Governance in May 2018 — after the IGG’s investigations had commenced.

The IGG seized upon this and, on March 18, wrote to the Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige, indicating that Obore’s recruitment was irregular and in contravention of the Parliamentary Service (Staff) Regulations, 2001.

The following day, Kibirige wrote to Obore, who was still mourning the passing on of his son barely two weeks earlier, asking him to vacate the office as his service had been terminated.

She directed Obore to show in writing, within 15 days, why he should not be terminated as per the IGG’s recommendations. Tomorrow, Obore is expected to vacate the office.

Ironically, several officials in Parliament, including a deputy clerk, do not have the requisite education qualification going by the IGG’s yardstick, according to sources.

However, Obore has since filed for an injunction with Civil Division of High Court, seeking  restraining orders to the Parliamentary Commission from implementing the Clerk’s decision to terminate his employment until the matter is determined.

Through his lawyers, Kampala Associated Advocates, Obore says there is an eminent threat of Parliament implementing the disputed decision yet his matter has a high chance of success, should court fail to grant him the reliefs he is seeking.

Of more controversy in the issue is that the job requirement the IGG has based on was voided the moment Parliament cancelled initial interviews and opted to head-hunt the prospective director for CPA. In head-hunting, quite often employers look for skills required to execute a job requirement.

This will probably be among the issues Obore will raise in court if Parliament cannot prove that he has been failing to execute his duties yet admit that he had time and dedicated himself to gaining the higher qualification he previously lacked when being head-hunted for the job.

According to Mulengera news, a local online website, Mulyagonja on Wednesday said she only investigated and submitted a report with recommendations to Parliament.

“We have duly submitted the report to the leadership of Parliament and what happens next is their business. The final decision is theirs and not ours,” Mulengera quotes Mulyagonja as saying.

On April 15, court will hear Obore’s application, which is as good as the quest to seek compensation for wrongful dismissal because, even while pursuing this recourse, he must be aware that Kadaga is not the kind who accepts defeat.

Besides, the water has already flowed under the bridge, making it almost impossible to see any scenario where the two can work together again.

Even still, how will Kadaga and the IGG reconcile the fact that they are kicking out one man under the pretext of irregular recruitment while having recruited a substantive replacement without the same due process they fault?

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