MTN officials deported for lack of evidence

By Alex Muhumuza

Reading through the Kampala regime’s several propaganda outlets, one would be excused for thinking its security agencies had outed a major spy network in Uganda, and as usual they point their fingers at Rwanda.

Softpower, a website that serves as one of the many propaganda and misinformation outlets of the Ugandan state – this one run by long-time Museveni regime insider Sarah Kagingo – has been publishing a series of articles implicating Rwanda in the cases involving three senior MTN Uganda staffers who were detained and deported to their respective countries. : Olivier Prentout, a national of France, Elisa Musolini of Italy, and Annie Tabura of Rwanda.

In these articles, Softpower has been busy regurgitating Uganda Police’s press release that the MTN staff were “engaging in activities that compromised Uganda’s national security” and that they were “using their employment as tools to achieve their ill motives,” and that, “their deportation has enabled us to disrupt their intended plans of compromising our national security.”

The most logical question to ask about all these sensational allegations by a known propagandist for the Museveni regime however is this: why are they making all these allegations, yet they let the alleged “spies” leave after only a couple of days? “In which world do you arrest suspects, accusing them of such a serious offence as endangering national security, but let them go in less than 48 hours?

What makes everything bizarre is that in most criminal cases the authorities are in a rush to apprehend suspects and witnesses to the crime; however, the Ugandan authorities are busy deporting the suspects and witnesses. What this communicates is that there is no evidence against the alleged suspects and that the aim is to humiliate MTN for whatever reason that the regime in Kampala is not telling the public.

Observers are wondering, why not charge these two individuals in courts so that the world can know and even hear the charges themselves? The fact is that there is no evidence, which explains why questions that every reputable media outlet is asking in this whole saga are not being answered.

The Daily Monitor in an article of Wednesday 23, said it asked the (Uganda) Immigration Spokesperson why “people deemed to have endangered national security would not be arrested and prosecuted instead of deportation,” adding that, “with police authorities and other security agencies unwilling to disclose wider details of the alleged crime, we could not independently establish how and when MTN employees incited violence. It was not clear why the suspects were not arraigned in court to face trial.”

“No government official explained how the two MTN officials had allegedly worked clandestinely to jeopardize Uganda’s security,” concluded the Monitor.

From the look of the Softpower article, one would suspect that by dredging up all the crimes they are trying to pin on Rwanda. Interestingly, the authorities in Uganda are saying that the Italian and French nationals were acting on their own; however, the Rwandan is charged with acting on behalf of her country! If there is an incentive for others to act on their own and there was any such possibility, then a Rwandan could also act on her own, if at all she did. Sarah Kagingo seems to think her readers have no brains.

She further attempts to frame MTN by attributing falsehoods to its press release. Kagingo implies that MTN admitted that its staff had transgressed and that it commits to abide by the law in future. However, the actual statement says that MTN officials were “arrested by unidentified security personnel,” which comes nowhere near to an admission of fault; moreover, if MTN officials don’t know who arrested their staff, who then did they confess the transgressions to? Sarah Kagingo needs to do better if she is to spin the regime’s lies to cover up systematic abuses.

Mafia Pat-down

Chimpreports, the other propaganda mouth piece that CMI relies on, was not to be outdone by Kagingo’s Softpower. Chimpreports also refers to “high value suspects” without asking why there is no trial against them to bring to light the evidence.

It then contradicts itself by revealing what might be the real reason for the harassment and deportation of the three people. The website went ahead to reveal that Prentout’s issues could have stemmed from how he “had annoyed some people in Uganda by sponsoring the Nyege Nyege festival”.

That, according to analysts, could be closer to the truth. After all these people – Prentout and Annie – work as marketing and sales executives. From these “none technical positions, how could they get the authorization to ‘eavesdrop’ on to the calls of anybody let alone those of senior officials of the government or army?,” said a former senior employee of a telecom corporation.

Other people say “MTN Uganda has refused to pay some hefty bribes to some ‘big shot Ugandan mafias’, and so ‘the mafias’ are making it pay!” Similarly, its contract to operate in Uganda is due for renewal and it seems like this is nothing more than a pat-down by what Chimpreports calls “Mafia patrons.”

This revelation is likely what placed the giant telco’s current troubles, only saw a golden opportunity to smear Rwanda with the mud, something that has become standard practice whenever domestic problems in Uganda worsen.

Why else would the authorities in Uganda be in such rush to get rid of the witnesses to the alleged crime? What do they fear they might say? Let the authorities take the evidence to court instead of tasking Sarah Kagingo to try this case in the court of public opinion. After all, these are “high value suspects.”