Deported MTN boss returns to Uganda after presidential pardon

By MICHAEL WAKABI

Thursday May 30, 2019
Deported MTN boss returns to Uganda after presidential pardon

MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte. President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the Immigration Department to remove him from the Stop List. PHOTO | MONITOR | NMG  

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has pardoned deported MTN Uganda chief executive officer Wim Vanhelleputte and 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 Thursday aboard a South African Airways flight.

READ MORE: MTN CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte deported

A letter from the office of the Internal Affairs Minister to the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Control, a copy of which The EastAfrican has seen, directs that he be allowed back in Kampala.

“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 dated May 29, stamped “Very Urgent.”

The surprise return of Mr Vanhelleputte who is married to a Ugandan, is likely to put security chiefs on the spot, after separate investigations exonerated him.

READ MORE: Was the MTN CEO Wim Vanhelleputte's deportation legal?

ALSO READ: Deported MTN-Uganda CEO sues government

His removal from the Stop List marks a dramatic reset of relations between Kampala and the South African telecoms giant, whose top leadership had been accused of spying for Rwanda.
Progress has also been made towards resolution of a separate dispute 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.

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 was not immediately established. But Mr Vanhelleputte is expected to take back his post at MTN Uganda, which has not been filled.