The story of Security Minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, and his continued occupancy of Nommo Gallery, is back. On Tuesday, Parliament directed that the bush war veteran vacates the Nommo Gallery, which he, through his company, Creations Limited, has been illegally occupying since 1998.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s quit order followed the release of a report by the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development, which revealed that Gen Tumwine owes in excess of Shs1.6 billion in accumulated rent arrears.
His refusal to pay rent has been dragging on since August 2013 when it emerged that he had been occupying the facility for more than 15 years during which he had accumulated rent arrears of between Shs800m and Shs1 billion.
Rather than pay up or quit the premises, Gen Tumwine penned a very lengthy letter in which he tried to justify his continued illegal occupancy of the premises by telling how he, after the NRM had shot its way to power, had invited many artists to return from exile; involved Makerere University’s School of Fine Art in painting to depict what was prevailing in Uganda; organised various arts exhibitions; and how he used personal resources to maintain the Nommo Gallery compound. But those actions did not grant him ownership or a right to defy the owners when they asked him to pay or quit or do both.
If Ugandans and the Arts industry had earlier been grateful to the General for what had appeared to be selfless sacrifices, which depicted him as a true patriot and nationalist, those credentials have since been badly watered down. They are now perceived as acts of selfishness for which he has since repaid himself by occupying the gallery rent-free, for two decades now.
We concur with the Speaker of Parliament that Gen Tumwine’s refusal to leave the premises smacks of impunity, which must be condemned and rejected. We hope that President Museveni has taken note.
Five years ago when this matter came up, Gen Tumwine defied the directive to pay or quit and it is highly in doubt that he will do so now.
However, he could look back to the events of August 2011, when his bush war colleague, Gen David Sejusa, who was the Coordinator of Security Services, did the right thing and vacated the Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) house on Plot 2 Mabua Road in Kololo. Gen Tumwine, too, should do the right thing and quit.