The rise and the rise of Jennifer Musisi

POLITICS | Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) executive director Jennifer Semakula Musisi on Monday ended her seven year tenure unceremoniously by tendering in her resignation to President Museveni.

Topping the reasons as to why she decided to resign Musisi alluded political interference or lack of political support.

“One of the main challenges,” Musisi wrote in her 21-page letter dated October 15, 2018, “has been to reconcile the competing interests between political perceptive/ decisions and the strategic plans, policies, regulations and work plans of KCCA technical team.”

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As a result, according to her “it has increasingly become difficult to achieve set targets.”

The enmity between Musisi and the political wing at KCCA headed by Erias Lukwago, the Lord Mayor. For the years Musisi has been the top technical officer in Kampala she had several ferocious battles with Lukwago.

The gist of these battles was: who is the boss of the other. Many times they ended up in the courts of the law but still there could be no solution to the impasse.

In fact in 2013, Musisi responded to High Court Judge Yasin Nyanzi’s ruling that Lukwago was still Lord Mayor despite an impeachment process by shutting down KCCA headquarters and all its activities.

In a hastily convened press conference at 6.30pm, Musisi said: “Already, since the decision of the learned judge earlier today, there have been efforts to mobilise the public to invade City Hall, supposedly to re-instate Lukwago into office. Obviously this poses a serious risk to the staff and property of the authority that I am empowered to protect and safeguard”.

She added: “Unless the safety of our staff and government property under our custody is assured, it’s difficult for our operations as the implementing arm of KCCA to continue blindly in the face of these increasing threats. Consequently, we are shutting down the technical operations of the authority until further notice.”

Despite the differences Musisi had with Lukwago and councillors majority of whom are from Uganda’s biggest opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), she never even pondered to resign her Shs43 million a month job.

After all Musisi never took any orders from the Lord Mayor or the councilors- so she could ignore them. Even when she claimed, without evidence, that as a result of her work she was being targeted by city hit men, she never tendered in her resignation

Musisi’s strength and power, to do as she pleases, stemmed from the appointing authority, President Museveni, and also during that time she either had the support of the Minister in charge of Kampala or that particular minister let her do whatever she wanted.

Height of confidence

In 2012, the Musisi-Museveni love affair was at its peak to the extent that Musisi was even emboldened to take on Museveni’s former all powerful Principal Private Secretary (PSS) Amelia Kyambadde. The two rumbled over KCCA’s forceful demolition of structures in Centenary Park in Kampala- during the process traders lost a fortune.

Kyambadde, now minister of trade and industry, responded by likening Musisi to a ”terrorist”. But later when she came to the realization that perhaps Museveni had blessed whatever Musisi was doing, the minister ate a humble pie, withdrew her comments, saying that she was “misled”.

In the same year, in rather hyperbolic terms, the president showed how much he believed in his new carder saying at the annual Women’s day celebration that if he had “1,000 Jennifer Musisis, Uganda would be a very fine country”

In 2010, Musisi had been snapped up by the hawk-eyed Museveni from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) where she was the commissioner for legal and board affairs and she was given task to head the technical wing of the newly instituted KCCA.

Unlike KCC which fell under the Local Government, it’s replacement KCCA was now directly under the administration of the central government following the enactment of the KCCA Act, 2010.

The first minister Musisi worked with was Kabakumba Masiko but their relationship wasn’t tested. By December 2011, Kabakumba had resigned both her ministerial positions. She had held dockets of presidency and that of Kampala.

Kabakumba jumped instead of being pushed after being accused of stealing a transmitter and other broadcasting equipment belonging to Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), the public broadcaster, without paying for them. This had happened while she was still information and national guidance minister.

Police had recovered a stolen UBC transmitter from a radio station known as Kings Broadcasting Services in Masindi. The radio is owned by Kabakumba.

On 15 August 2012, Museveni appointed Frank Tumwebaze as minister for presidency and minister for Kampala city and in him, Musisi got a partner.

In this context it can be argued that he was God sent. Tumwebaze literally let Musisi run the show at city hall and when he was needed the Kibale county Member of Parliament would simply agree with the Executive Directors position.

The two ganged up against their common opponent: Lukwago. They ensured that Lukwago was dragged to Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s commission of inquiry where they accused him of abuse of office and misconduct.

High Court later stayed the implementation of Justice Bamugemereire’s report after the indefatigable Lukwago challenged it. Be that as it may, the duo ensured that Lukwago never returned to office from 2013 until he was re-elected back to office in 2016. Lukwago didn’t do anything during that term.

At this time even the councillors who had initially supported the ouster of the Lord Mayor had lost patience with Musisi, accusing her of being highhanded and bullish.

This was apparent in 2014 when Frank Kanduho, at the time the councilor representing Uganda Law Society (ULS) at City Hall, reported Musisi to Tumwebaze on behalf of several councilors who felt that the authority was going astray.

Though he was among the councilors that voted to impeach Lukwago, which gave Musisi a free reign as the city supremo, Kanduho lamented to Tumwebaze that any councillor who criticizes KCCA managers is isolated.

“Whoever raises a legitimate concern pointing at or questioning the governance and accountability fog and mist that there is in KCCA is always threatened with the censorship blackmail of ‘so you, too, want Lukwago back…so you too are working to fail the ED?,” Kanduho wrote.

“No one is allowed to question this or demand some explanation. We even have no forum to ask any accountability-related question. Whoever attempts to speak in ways and means the chief steward considers anti-establishment, is blacklisted as part of the bad elements working to facilitate Lukwago’s return. Animal Farm at play here.”

All this was ignored by Museveni and the greater extent Tumwebaze who was concentrating on his duties as minister in charge of presidency and this made Musisi happy as her agenda was executed without any hindrance. There was no reason to resign.

Beginning of the end

But nothing lasts forever. In the 2016 elections Museveni and his ruling NRM were humiliated at the polls in Kampala. In complete U-turn, Museveni pointed at Musisi as some kind of scapegoat.

He said Musisi’s highhandedness in evicting vendors led to this humiliating electoral defeat which so Lukwago return at City hall together with a coalition of councilors of FDC councilors.

Musisi never recovered from this incident as she grew milder and nearly inconspicuous. The pomp of the earlier years, which had been spurred by Museveni, was all gone.

Adding insult to Injury, Museveni in the new cabinet replaced Musisi’s ally Tumwebaze with Beti Olive Kamya who had just lost her bid to reclaim the Lubaga North constituency.

Kamya, reeling from defeat unlike Tumwebeze, was never going to let Musisi run the show. She wanted to show Museveni that she was also working, this rendered Musisi inconsequential. As predicted, the honeymoon between Musisi and Kamya never lasted.

In 2017, Museveni’s new recruit, Kamya labeled Musisi “a populist and poor manager”. This was after the 2015 KCCA (Amendment) Bill was tabled before parliament by Kampala junior minister Benny Namugwanya Bugembe.

On top of clipping the powers and influence of the, Mayor, and the Executive Director, the bill also reasserted the minister as the most dominant person in the city, something that Musisi simply didn’t like.

In a letter, that was leaked to the media, Musisi wondered how Kamya could table such a bill before parliament without hearing from the executive director’s team.

Though Museveni surprisingly renewed her contract in 2017, it was clear that she was living on borrowed time. She was hated by the opposition who looked at her as Museveni’s enabler yet Museveni, her godfather, had also forsaken.

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