For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Ugandan economist Keith Muhakanizi who on April 13, 2023 succumbed to cancer while receiving treatment in Milan, Italy. PHOTO | NMG
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Uganda's iconic economy guru Keith Muhakanizi dies of cancer
Friday April 14 2023
By NELSON NATURINDA
Keith Muhakanizi was either arrogant or a true patriot of Uganda. It really depended on whom you asked. When he appeared before Ugandan legislators to explain some policy, the MPs said he had denigrated them. Yet his longevity in public service indicates he was a loyal servant.
The Ugandan economist on Thursday breathed his last, worn out by a long battle with cancer.
“I am shocked to hear the death of Uganda’s Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi. I was aware of his illness, but it was being managed. He came to see me before his next round of treatment and it is sad that he didn't make it,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said, referring to his post as permanent secretary in the office of the prime minister.
During his time, Muhakanizi is said to have been one of the few officials who could tell the president to his face: ‘Your excellency, we cannot do that’ or even interrupt him while he talked. Only a few Ugandan elites have that privilege against the country’s long-term ruler.
He is credited as the driving force that worked hard in the early 2000s to get Uganda out of HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country), where the country relied on foreign aid, loans and grants accessed under strict, unfair and with bad conditions from the IMF, World Bank and other donors.
Muhakanizi’s life journey
Born in 1959, he went to good schools studying at the prestigious Ntare School in Western Uganda, afterwards he joined Makerere University and later Williams College in Massachusetts, USA. Muhakanizi studied commerce and got a master’s degree in development economics.
He succumbed to cancer on Thursday while receiving treatment in Milan, Italy. He had been flown to the Italian city on Sunday.
But Keith Muhakanizi is more known in Uganda’s Finance Ministry than in the country’s office of the prime minister. He was one of the longest-serving officials at the helm of Uganda’s economic decisions through the ministry of finance. As director of budget, later deputy secretary and secretary to the Treasury, most of the decisions taken from loan requisitions, budget cuts and accountability lay in his hands.
Muhakanizi was the last man standing in the trio that drove Uganda’s economy.
The others, former Ugandan permanent secretary in the finance ministry Chris Kassami and former Bank of Uganda governor Tumusime Mutebile (who held the post of secretary to the Treasury in succession from Mutebile to Muhakanizi), passed on earlier after spending decades in the ministry.
Muhakanizi is credited for his instrumental role in the formation of the macroeconomic policy and planning, financial and private sector growth in the country. However, some economists say the fallen official, together with Kassami and Mutebile (referred to as the architects of Uganda’s revival economics), had too much power and enough time to build and ruin Uganda's economy.
His biggest expertise was in public finance management, budgeting and economic policy, playing a key role in the formulation and implementation of Uganda’s National Development Plans, the Public Finance and Management Act and The Bank of Uganda Act. He was instrumental in the country’s successful completion of the HIPC initiative.
To many Ugandans, Muhakanizi was a very arrogant man. He was one time accused of denigrating the country’s MPs who summoned him over issues in the finance ministry, describing some of them as mere high school leavers who could not understand complex financial issues. But friends describe him to have been a humble, obedient, listening and advisable civil servant with a rich sense of humour.
A few years back, when he faced Uganda’s parliament over allegations of misappropriation of pensioners’ money in which billions of Uganda shillings were lost, Muhakanizi said he would quit his job if he was named in the scam.
Muhakanizi has gone at the time his docket is on fire over the misappropriation of iron sheets meant for Karamoja.
As the permanent secretary in the country’s office of the prime minister, he was supposed to bring his subordinates to order and his last communication to them was to follow procedures as stipulated in Uganda Public Service Standing Orders 2021 and management of public resources.
In a February 15 circular, he directed that requisitions from user departments shall be originated and or endorsed by the head of the department before submission to the accounting officer. In addition, where requests have been originated by ministers/political leaders, local government or other stakeholders, technical assessments of the requests shall be carried out by the responsible department before approval by the accounting officer.
Keith Muhakanizi on the spot.
LC I chairperson sues Muhakanizi over flawed land transfer
February 12, 2022
Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister is in trouble for allegedly benefiting from an erroneous land transfer.
Geoffrey Bwambezo, the LC I chairperson of Kagaga village in Kasagama sub-county, Lyantonde district has filed a civil suit before Masaka High Court accusing Muhakanizi of unscrupulously taking over his land measuring 152 acres.
Bwambezo has jointly sued Muhakanizi together with the Registrar of Titles who he accuses of conniving to maliciously cancel the title of his land found in Kasambya village before transferring to the first defendant.
Through his lawyer Charles Beinomugisha of Atlas and Company Advocates, Bwambezo wants Masaka High court to help him repossess his land.
He also asks the High court to issue an order barring Muhakanizi from grazing animals on the disputed land until the matter is resolved.
Bwambezo alleges that he bought the said land in 1986 from the late Elias Kiggundu, and wonders how his title was cancelled and the land allocated to another person without his consent.
Bwambezo says he earlier complained to the Ministry of Lands but his concerns were not addressed hence pushing him to seek court redress.
Julius Burore, the Masaka High Court Deputy Registrar has authorized the complainant to proceed and serve the respondents with the plaint papers to enable them to file their defence statements by February 25th, 2022.
The Registrar also indicates should the defendants fail to make appearances before the court or send legal representatives, the matter may be heard and adjudicated in their absence.
Mr Godfrey Bwambizo, claimant of Lyantonde land. PHOTO/FILE
Family claims Muhakanizi Lyantonde burial ground
A family in Lyantonde District has laid claim to the proposed final resting ground of fallen economist and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Muhakanizi.
The family of Mr Godfrey Bwambizo alleges that Muhakanizi used his political clout to wrest the 61-hectare piece- of-land where the fallen economist’s country home squats. The land is located at Plot 20 Block 64 Kabula, Kasambya, in Lyantonde District.
Mr Bwambizo told Monitor yesterday that whereas “condemning a dead person … is not good in our African culture … I am fighting for what rightfully belongs to me.”
He added: “Muhakanizi forged transfer forms and secured another title deed without my consent.”
Mr Bwambizo said he bought the disputed piece of land from Erisa Kiggundu in 1986, using money he got after selling his cows.
Mr Bwambizo alleges that Muhakanizi approached him in 1996 with a request to rent the disputed piece of land for one year at Shs400,000. He says to his dismay, after accepting the deal, it was brought to Mr Bwambizo’s attention that Muhakanizi had reportedly processed a title.
“I tried to settle this matter through negotiations when [Muhakanizi] was still alive, but he proved to be arrogant,” Mr Bwambizo told Monitor, adding, “I went to court and it is unfortunate that he has died before the court case is concluded.”
Muhakanizi, 64, died in Milan, Italy last Thursday where he had been flown for specialised treatment. He battled cancer for a long time.
Although Muhakanizi was born in Rwesisi Village, Buyanja Sub-county in Rukungiri District, Lyantonde has played host to his countryside home. A posh house, ranch, and tree plantations squat on the vast acreage of land.
According to a burial programme released by both the family and government, Muhakanizi’s body is expected in the country tomorrow.
Mourners will then keep vigil at the deceased’s Kampala home in the suburb of Bugolobi.
A funeral service will then be held at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds before he is buried in Lyantonde on a yet-to-be-announced date.
President Museveni has since directed that the deceased be accorded an official burial.
Mr Charles Beinomugisha. Mr Bwambizo’s lawyer, told Monitor that although the law allows one to be buried on a piece of land he claims ownership of, it will be traumatising for Muhakanizi’s family to exhume his body if it is proved that his client rightfully owns the disputed land.
“Should it be established later that the deceased is not the rightful
owner of the land then plans will be made to exhume and rebury the
deceased elsewhere,” Mr Beinomugisha said.
Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, a lawyer and confidant of the late Muhakanizi, however described Mr Bwambizo as an imposter, a crook, and a shameless opportunist.
The former deputy attorney general told Monitor that Mr Bwambizo secured a loan from the defunct Uganda Commercial Bank and bought a lorry and tractor, but failed to manage them.
“The loan was not serviced at all, and nothing was repaid to the bank. The loan became a bad debt and was transferred to Non-Performing Assets Recovery Tribunal (NPART) for management. NPART gave notices requiring [Mr Bwambizo] to make good the loan. He failed, whereupon they advertised the land for sale,” he revealed.
He proceeded to add: “On seeing the advert, Keith approached that man, asking him whether he intended to redeem the land. That man told him clearly that he was not in position since he had no money. With this knowledge, Keith proceeded to negotiate with NPART and paid for the land, took possession and developed it.”
Mr Rukutana further revealed that when he was still deputy attorney general, Mr Bwambizo sought his services as a mediator.
“I summoned Keith to my office. The three of us sat and went through the matter. Keith narrated the above story in [Mr Bwambizo’s] presence, and he conceded to all the facts. Keith produced all his documents of title, the sale agreement, receipts of payments, and the certificate of title,” he said.
He challenged Mr Bwambizo to present the suit number, the proceedings, and or the stage at which the court case is.
“I don’t speak for Keith’s family, but I want to assure that crook [Mr Bwambizo] that neither me nor any other friend or family member will waste his or her time on this greedy opportunist who seeks to profiteer from death. On the contrary, we are instituting both criminal and civil proceedings for computer misuse, libel, defamation, and bringing to disrepute the estate of the dead,” Mr Rukutana said.
Government to accord PS Keith Muhakanizi official burial