Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa has ordered Ugandan diplomats to return to their respective missions.
“A number of Heads of Mission have been in the country during the period leading to and after the recently concluded general elections for various reasons,” said Kutesa in a directive dated February 18.
“This is to direct all Heads and Deputy Heads of Mission still in Kampala to report back to their duty stations as soon as possible and in any case not later than the end of this month,” he said.
Kutesa’s order comes at a time the government is on the receiving end of intense criticism over human rights abuses and the management of the recently-concluded elections.
“Those on leave should consider it cancelled and to be taken at a later date,” charged Kutesa in a strongly-worded memo to all heads of missions.
ChimpReports understands majority of diplomats have not been at their stations since December, 2019.
The diplomats returned to Uganda for the Ambassadors’ conference in Kampala which was postponed.
They pretended to wait for it and then got locked down due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdown waded into the elections.
Some of the diplomats claimed fear of COVID-19 in their respective missions but sources say many continue to hang around the president politicking.
“These diplomats are in Kampala writing articles in local newspapers and giving political interviews. Yet we are being destroyed abroad,” said a government official who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
Asked how the diplomats’ absence was affecting their respective missions, the source observed: “Heads of Mission are the political mouthpieces of Embassies. They are allowed to be partisan. In addition, their rank gives them the leverage to seek important appointments at very high levels of their host Governments. If both the Ambassador and deputy are political appointees, then both leave the stations at the same time, it affects the operations of the embassy as it happened in Beijing.”
Uganda’s Ambassador to China, Crispus Kiyonga resigned to run in the MP elections while his deputy Henry Mayega stayed in Kampala during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Lower ranking career officers are forbidden from being openly partisan.
Uganda has lately turned into a punching bag of western countries and human rights groups as diplomats who are supposed to explain government positions continue to enjoy cappuccinos in Kampala’s high end restaurants.
“When Heads of Mission leave their stations unattended they create a vacuum and you know what happens to vacuums,” said a concerned retired diplomat.
Before the European Union Parliament threatened sanctions against Ugandan government officials, Ugandan Ambassadors were sent talking points to engage people of importance in their capitals.
Interestingly, the diplomats were not in station.
“I cannot tell whether it (EU resolution) could have been avoided but at least Kampala would have known it was coming,” said a government official.
“Ambassadors should do what they are paid to do, where they are paid to do it. Ugandans were stranded abroad. Ambassadors were in Kampala,” said a source.
“Missions are being run by administration Attaches and third secretaries. That’s what informs the tone of Kutesa’s letter.”