Discontent is mounting in Uganda’s diplomatic ranks after President Museveni ordered that ministers who were recently appointed ambassadors should be paid a staggering Shs 15m yet long-term serving diplomats continue to take home a paltry Shs 1.5m.
The situation is so serious that some diplomats have quietly expressed their “deep frustration with how our government is managing our affairs.”
President Museveni made his decision in a confidential letter dated August 1, 2017 addressed to Public Service Minister Muruli Mukasa.
According to the restricted correspondence which ChimpReports has seen, Museveni further directed that the ministers retain their previous entitlements even while serving in new diplomatic positions.
“As you are aware, I have appointed some former ministers as Ambassadors,” wrote Museveni in his letter titled, ‘Emoluments on Personal to Holder Basis.’
“I, therefore, direct, if it is not against any law, that they maintain their remuneration, personal to holder, like when they were ministers, minus of course elements like the constituency allowance because they no longer have constituencies,” Museveni instructed the Public Service Minister.
Ministers are entitled to chauffeur-driven cars, health insurance policies, and security guard among other entitlements.
In his letter, Museveni told Muruli that, “Alternatively, they (ex ministers appointed Ambassadors) could do with a salary equivalent to Shs 15m per month which is what Permanent Secretaries are getting now.”
The development is said to have been received with “anger” and “disappointment” in the diplomatic community.
“We’ve served with honour and under very difficult circumstances,” said a female diplomat deployed in Europe.
“For anyone to imagine that we don’t deserve the same amount like the former ministers is demoralizing and discriminatory,” she added, preferring anonymity so as to speak freely.
Observers say the recent development could ignite restlessness among diplomats who are tasked to promote Uganda’s image abroad and encourage investors to visit the East African country.
Museveni has consistently urged Ambassadors to use their offices to attract Foreign Direct Investment and tourists to grow Uganda’s economy.
A crestfallen diplomat said “our Minister Sam Kutesa has been lobbying for better salaries for diplomats but his pleas fell on deaf ears. What’s happening now is a rude awakening that perhaps we are not equal.”
It remains unclear how Museveni reached his decision but inside sources suspect the new ministers lobbied for the favour.
The Ministers who were recently appointed Ambassadors include Crispus Kiyonga, Alintuma Nsambu and Barbara Nekesa Oundo.
Once the president’s directive is implemented, a long serving ambassador will need to work for ten months to earn what each of the former ministers will be taking home after just 30 days.
ChimpReports was unable to speak to Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa when we posted this story on Thursday evening.
The Head of Public Diplomacy at the Ministry, Margaret Kafeero said she couldn’t comment on the matter as she was yet to read the president’s letter.
Museveni directed Muruli to “sort it in a rational manner on the basis of maintaining some of the benefits the individuals were getting previously minus the elements that are no longer applicable.”
Meanwhile, an insider said the president should have turned down requests from the new ministers.
“What the issue has been is that the first time a Cabinet Minister was appointed to an Ambassadorial rank; it was Hon Rugunda. But his appointment clearly indicated that he remained a full Cabinet Minister hence retaining his emoluments,” said a diplomat who sought anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“All the others haven’t had such a written proviso on appointment but one or two have somehow managed to use Rugunda as a precedent.”
The source indicated that Museveni “feels a need to streamline that issue,” adding, “What I don’t understand is why he would pinpoint Permanent Secretaries’ salaries rather than compare with Ministers who are not MPs.”
“The best thing to do is end this discrimination and give all envoys equal pay,” he said.