Conflict Of Interest? United Nations Will Look Into Business Deals Between UN And Private Company Of Sam Kutesa, Presumed GA President
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
Responding to inquiries by The Black Star News about a possible conflict of interest involving Sam Kutesa the presumptive new president of the General Assembly, a UN spokesperson says officials will look into any contractual arrangements that may exist between the global organization and Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS), a company in which Mr. Kutesa is an owner.
The Black Star News asked that the UN look into whether the arrangement could be through third parties.
ENHAS, the Uganda-based cargo and luggage handling services business first negotiated a deal to handle 10 United Nations-operated airports in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, according to media reports.
A United Nations spokesperson on Friday couldn't immediately determine the existence of, or provide details of, any contract between the United Nations, or a sub-contractor on behalf of the UN, and ENHAS.
The Black Star News also inquired about the duration or value of any contract or contracts that may exist. The spokesperson said the UN would require time to respond.
The United Nations Legal Counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, did not respond to an e-mail message sent through an aide.
It also wasn't clear what kind of vetting procedure was conducted by the UN and whether the organization was aware of Mr. Kutesa's ownership in ENHAS.
The United Nations has in the past been roiled by major controversy on how it handled contracts, especially during the 1996 so-called Oil-for-Food Program, when Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was under a sanctions regime. That episode tainted the organization's reputation for years.
The scandal eventually led to an investigation headed by former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, who "stated that it was UN mismanagement and failure of the world’s most powerful nations to end corruption in the program that allowed Saddam to fill his coffers."
Ironically, going by the 2006 media report of when Mr. Kutesa's ENHAS and the UN negotiated the deal, that would be the year after the International Court of Justice had ruled that Uganda was liable for destruction of lives and property following its invasion of Congo and occupation of parts of the country.
Mr. Kutesa's company, ENHAS, apparently profits from a conflict his own government helped launch when it first invaded Congo in 1997. Uganda's occupation lasted close to 2005. Human Right Watch documented atrocities --massacres, mutilations, and mass rapes -- committed during Uganda's occupation.
The International Court of Justice awarded between $6 billion to $10 billion as reparation to the Congo, which has not yet been paid.
Separately, on June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported that Uganda's president, Gen. Yoweri Museveni had asked then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to block the International Criminal Court's own investigation of the same alleged crimes committed by Uganda in the Congo.
Mr. Kutesa was already foreign affairs minister.
At the time ENHAS was negotiating the 2006 deal to provide services for the UN airports in Congo, the company's general manager Tytens George was quoted saying: "The UN is looking for a successful contractor to develop the skills of the DRC nationals. That is exactly what we have done in ENHAS and we want to replicate the same in Congo." The comments appear in an article dated October 23, 2006 in AllAfrica.com under the headline "Uganda: ENHAS Gets UN Airports Deals."
According to the article, ENHAS was "also finalizing a deal to handle another 10 UN airports in Sudan."
ENHAS's website lists UNMISS, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan as a client, and currently the airport at Juba is controlled and guarded by the Ugandan military.
Questions had been raised as to why Uganda had sided with South Sudan president Salva Kiir in the civil conflict with former Vice President Riek Machar. The ENHAS and Mr. Kutesa's role now present the possibility of financial motivation. The UN expanded its operations in South Sudan with thousands of more soldiers after the conflict erupted in December 2013; this would presumably provide more work for ENHAS as troops and supplies are shipped in.
Mr. George did not return an e-mail message this week asking: what Mr. Kutesa's shareholding in ENHAS amounted to; who the board members were; and, whether Mr. Kutesa was still Chairman.
Mr. Kutesa did not respond to similar questions submitted for his attention via e-mail message to a senior official at Uganda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
ENHAS, the Ugandan company, was founded in April 1996. At the time he was censured by Uganda's Parliament in 1999 for enriching himself through "serious conflict of inetrest" Mr. Kutesa, who was then junior minister of finance, was also the Chairman of ENHAS.
The Black Star News reported Thursday that Kutesa was censured in a vote of 152 - 94 after Parliament found that he had abused his position as a minister to strip the country's national airline, Uganda Airlines, of its most valuable assets for the benefit of his private company, ENHAS.
Parliament also found that he removed the names of co-directors from Uganda Airlines as signatories on joint accounts and retained his name as well as those of associates, and added Gen. Salim Saleh, brother of Gen. Museveni.
Mr. Kutesa also threatened the life of the acting general manager of Uganda Airlines, Dick Turinawe, after a dispute involving financial reports, Parliament found, and according to a sworn affidavit filed by Mr. Turinawe.
Uganda Airlines had entered a 50/50 partnership with ENHAS. Afer the airline was stripped of its assets, it collapsed in 2000.
Kutesa also engineered a sale of Uganda Airlines' shares to ENHAS, at a below market price, costing the Uganda government several millions of dollars, Parliament found. The low valuation was performed by a company in which Mr. Kutesa had an interest, and his partner in the deal was Gen. Salim Saleh, the president's brother, Parliament found.
Mr. Kutesa is scheduled to be confirmed as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 11.
His private business, ENHAS, which lists three major United Nations' operations -- MONUSCO and UNAMID, in addition to UNMISS -- as clients presents a possible conflict of interest.
The Black Star News asked the UN spokesperson to look into all contracts ENHAS may have with the organization beyond MONUSCO, UNAMID, and UNMISS.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for the United States Mission to the UN didn't respond to questions sent for Ambassador Samantha Power, inquiring as to whether the U.S. would support Mr. Kutesa's bid, given the apparent conflict of interest.
Neither the United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, nor France's Permanent Representative, Mr. Gerard Araud, responded to similar questions.
A campaign on Change.org appealing to Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke Mr. Kutesa's U.S. visa, citing the many corruption allegations against him, Uganda's military aggression against neighboring countries and his support for the homophobic law signed by Gen. Museveni on Feb. 14 has garnered 8,775 signatures as of today.
At one point on Wednesday nearly 100 people were signing per hour; when the rate slowed down Thursday, supporters expressed concern. A Change.org spokesperson said there wasn't anything wrong with the petition.
Supporters of Mr. Kutesa have also launched a Petition drive on change.org asking backing for his candidacy without refuting or challenging the details in the original petition.