Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni eats humble pie and orders deported MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte be allowed back into the country without a fuss

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni
  • President Museveni has also ordered the Immigration Department to remove him from the Stop List.
  • Mr Vanhelleputte, who was deported in February over allegations of undermining state security, is expected back in Uganda on Thursday aboard a South African Airways flight.
  • His removal from the Stop List also marks a dramatic reset of relations between Kampala and the South African telecoms giant, whose top leadership had been accused of spying for Rwanda.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has been forced to eat humble pie and allow deported MTN Uganda chief executive officer Wim Vanhelleputte back into the country. President Museveni has also ordered the Immigration Department to remove him from the Stop List.

Mr Vanhelleputte, who was deported in February over allegations of undermining state security, is expected back in Uganda on Thursday aboard a South African Airways flight.

According to a letter seen by The EastAfrican, the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Control has been directed to allow Mr Vanhelleputte back in Kampala without any fuss.

“This is...to direct that he is immediately removed from the immigration Stop List, and accordingly be allowed into the country. By copy of this letter, the In-Charge Immigration/Security at Entebbe Airport are accordingly asked to allow him access and immigration clearance through Entebbe VIP lounge. Treat as urgent,” reads the letter from the office of the Internal Affairs Minister dated May 29 and stamped “Very Urgent.”

Mr Vanhelleputte’s return is, however, likely to put security chiefs on the spot, after separate investigations exonerated him. His removal from the Stop List also marks a dramatic reset of relations between Kampala and the South African telecoms giant, whose top leadership had been accused of spying for Rwanda.

The fate of the other deportees—French national and former MTN Uganda chief marketing officer Olivier Prentout, Rwandan Annie Bilenge Tabura, who was head of sales and distribution, and Franco-Italian citizen and general manager for mobile financial services Elsa Muzzolini is still unclear.

Progress has also been made towards resolving a separate dispute between MTN and Uganda over licence fees, with President Museveni reportedly directing regulator Uganda Communications Commission and the Finance Ministry to work out a uniform formula for determining licence fees in the sector, ahead of the renewal of MTN Uganda and market rival Airtel’s licence applications, which have been pending since late 2018.

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