Following the recent spate of deportations of high profile MTN top management leaders notably: the chief marketing officer, Mr. Olivier Prentout (French), the mobile money general manager, Ms. Elsa Mussolini (Italian) and the General Manager for sales and distribution, Annie Tabura Bilenge (Rwandan) at MTN Uganda, the company has been braced with more deportations and expulsion. On February 14, 2019, Uganda felt it was not done yet and hammered the last nail in the coffin of MTN top management by ruthlessly arresting, handcuffing and subsequently deporting MTN-Uganda Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wim Vanhelleputte (Belgian). In a letter signed by Internal Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, the MTN Uganda boss is to stay outside Uganda indefinitely. This development came on the heels of the decision by the MTN board on February 12, 2019, to fire its controversial yet powerful Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Anthony Katamba purportedly, for cases related to indiscipline and backstabbing of his colleagues.
The deportations are linked to the so called “classified investigation” that began in July 2018 after the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) raided MTN call centre in Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb and confiscated the company servers where the government at the time purportedly claimed it had received intelligence information relating to espionage, tax evasion and money laundering.
Intriguingly, Uganda’s Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga revealed that the four officials were deported due to charges related to national security while Ugandan intelligence-run tabloids were awash with news that the deported officials were linked to the activities of supporting subversive activities backed by a foreign government (which they did not specify) using MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) and unregistered SIM-cards.
Reading from these strings of deportations of different nationalities, one gets compelled to unravel the truth behind these fascinating unwanted developments. The truth of the matter is that deportations of the said officials were triggered by a grand corruption scheme orchestrated by afore-mentioned Anthony Katamba in connivance with Ugandan top leadership where they sought a bribe of Shs 2 Billion from MTN in order to renew the MTN Uganda operating license which was due to expire on October 28, 2019.
Corruption and bribery had been a norm for Katamba during his tenure at MTN-Uganda. Before his sacking, Katamba was well known to be nursing a long-cherished ambition to become CEO of MTN-Uganda and his bribery demenour was informed by this desire.
In order to ultimately realize his dream, Katamba is said to have attempted to eliminate the deported officials by hatching a sinister plan of creating a whatsapp group featuring all deported officials at the height of the controversial tax that was imposed on MoMo. Katamba intended to collect evidence (conspiring with leaders in both political and security system) intending to implicate them. Indeed, before their deportations, the handsets of the deported officials were seized by Ugandan security operatives looking for said “incriminating evidence” but to no avail.
The recent firing of Katamba, unlike what the media indicated of backstabbing and indiscipline, is linked to the fact that he had started to step on the toes of top Ugandan leaders. A case in point is that he implicated the current ICT Minister, Frank Tumwebaze and Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for having sought a bribe of Shs 2 Billion while meeting MTN officials in Dubai in 2018. This did not auger well with the two leaders especially Godfrey Mutabazi, who in one of the meetings warned the outgoing MTN CEO that he does not want to see Katamba in the future meetings that he would participate in.
The deportation of the officials therefore should be understood as plan to cover-up for the rot within Ugandan system especially the deeply entrenched bribery and corruption scandals while tactically using espionage as a scapegoat to deport the officials. Whereas the deportations of other officials took everybody by surprise, what did not surprise many was the deportation of a Rwandan Annie Tabura, whom Uganda was wary of her being in the top executives of MTN. It was actually, long over-due given incessant hostility and harassment meted out on Rwandan nationals by Ugandan authorities.