UN base: Uganda sends lobbyists to Europe, Americas

Desperate to retain the United Nations service centre for Africa, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry is dispatching teams to lobby major world powers to overturn a recommendation to shift the UN base from Entebbe to Nairobi.

Finance and Economic Planning minister Matia Kasaija without delving into details told Parliament on Tuesday that government had decided to send teams to majors to lobby.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and we are doing everything within our power to retain the UN service centre at Entebbe,” Kasaija said.

Kasaija spoke after Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo raised on a matter of National importance, demanding for a statement from government on the efforts being taken to ensure that the UN base is not shifted to Nairobi, Kenya.

Outside Parliament, the minister told journalists that the list he had received had about 7 teams that are going to travel to Europe and the Americas to speak for Uganda’s case.

“The message they’re taking is that Uganda in this region qualifies beyond any shadow of doubt because we have been assisting [in keeping peace] in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia, taking that facility away from us is not being appreciative of our contribution to the peace process in the region,” Kasaija said.

Minister Matia Kasaija during Wednesday’s plenary sitting of Parliament.

On Monday, The Daily Monitor reported that President Yoweri Museveni had written to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, expressing Uganda’s displeasure and protest over his recommendation to drop Entebbe as a UN regional service centre.

Museveni reportedly said the decision was unfair and prayed that it is not effected.
Kasaija confirmed to Parliament that Museveni had indeed written to Guterres, and his letter is going to be followed by lobbyist groups.

“We cannot afford to lose that base; over 400 jobs are being lost,” Kasaija said.
“We are not begrudging our sister neighbours [Kenya] but really our efforts in the region should be respected and appreciated,” he added.

About $11.3m (Shs 418.1bn) worth of revenue is likely to be lost once the base is shifted but some MPs are holding the government to blame.

“UN has been paying a lot of money in rent for the centre, this money was meant to improve the facilities at Entebbe but when you look at the support services at the airport, the road is as if was eaten by rodents, the airport itself is not being attended to,” said Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko.

Guterres’ recommendation to relocate the UN base from Entebbe to Nairobi was contained in his May 1 report to UN’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).