By Hanning Mbabazi
Kampala: Deputy Solicitor General Christopher Gashabirike has slammed sexual harassment accusations levied against him by Samantha Mwesigye, a Senior State Attorney at the Ministry of Justice.
In a full statement accessed by this Website which Gashabirike submitted to the Investigating Committee, he rubbished Mwesigye’s allegations, calling them blackmail. His statement reads thus;
The Sexual Harassment Committee,
Ministry of Justice & Constitutional Affairs,
P. O. Box 7183
RE: IN THE MATTER OF SEXUAL HARRASMENT ALLEGED BY MS.SAMANTHA MWESIGYE SSA, AGAINST MYSELF
I refer to the letter that I received from the Secretary of the Sexual Harassment Committee which was set up to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment brought against me, dated 13th May 2019 (which letter I received on 14th May 2019). In the said letter I was asked to respond to the allegations that Ms. Samantha Mwesigye made against me. First of all, I welcome the opportunity that I have been given to explain my side of the story in this very traumatic matter.
I realized early in time that as an official of Government, it wasn’t in my place to take my rebuttal to social media and other mediums of communications outside official communication channels, hence my painful self-restraint. All this has caused me so much pain and suffering that I would never wish for anybody, but it is what it is. As you can imagine it has not been easy at all for me or indeed for any of my family members to keep calm and collected as my tormentor took to all manner of media outlets to try as much as possible to paint me as the worst person who ever graced the earth. I hope and pray to God that He keeps me steadfast in walking the straight and narrow path of remaining sane and composed in the face of all these un-erstwhile attacks on my person and I believe that one day, only one day, the reasons and motive for all this attack on me will be revealed.
I joined the service of Government in 1984 where I served at the Department of Immigration at the Ministry of Internal Affairs until 1996. I then got the opportunity of serving my current employer the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as a State Attorney in 1996 where I have diligently served, rising through the rank from State Attorney to Senior State Attorney in 1998, Principal State Attorney in 2002, Commissioner DLAS in 2009, Director DLAS in 2013 and finally, to the newly created position of Deputy Solicitor General in December 2018, a position I currently hold. In all this length of service I have served selflessly and with total dedication. I have also worked with, supervised, managed and mentored very many officers, both ladies and gentlemen. It therefore pains me very much that in all that time, I never had anyone malign me in this way and particularly accuse me of sexual harassment. I therefore feel very offended by the allegations, but I guess my feelings and emotions are not relevant because in this situation I stand in the “dock” as the accused and accused for sexual harassment.
I believe the allegations of sexual harassment by Ms. Mwesigye is that I made overt or covert requests to her to have a sexual relationship with her, a fact that I totally deny. I also believe from the myriad of social media exchanges and posts that she variously sent out, that my harassment against her took the form of me removing her from contracts committees and denying her opportunities for International travels which according to her are avenues for making money. I wish to categorically state that I have never disadvantaged Ms. Mwesigye in any way and particularly knowingly, because I believe every officer in the Department needs to have an opportunity to take International travel and also sit on the number of Committees that would leave them with still enough time to carry on their normal duties for the Directorate. I believe the starting point of my rebuttal should be the long email that Ms. Mwesigye sent to me on Monday, 11th June 2018 at 10:31am. I note that the said email is part of the evidence that Ms. Mwesigye has submitted as proof of her allegation that I sexually harassed her. I have attached a clear copy of my email exchange with Ms. Mwesigye for the record and it is marked annexure “A” to this letter.
As you will note, it was from the said email, that I first received a formal complaint from Ms. Mwesigye that I had overtly or covertly made sexual advances towards her which as she says, she did not want. In the said email my accuser made her points known and made allegations which totally took me aback. I initially took the view to just ignore the same because I had no interest whatsoever in having any sexual relationship with Ms. Mwesigye. But after a couple of days, the email kept bothering me because of the gravity of this false allegations, and so I decided to send her an email response which largely carries exactly what I know to be the true position of what took place and indeed this culminated into the current unpleasant situation where I have found myself. The said email chain carries our full discourse on this matter and I invite the Committee to read the emails in their entirety then make a finding whether anything in the said email evidences my sexual harassment of my accuser. As you will note from my email, I considered Ms. Mwesigye a colleague and a friend as indeed is the way that I used to consider and treat all my colleagues, be they ladies or gentlemen, in the Directorate which I used to head. I had never had anybody come up to me to tell me that I had acted in any inappropriate manner towards a colleague or a subordinate. This is very unfortunate therefore.
What I recall to be my point of departure with my accuser, was the manner of her dressing which I found unacceptably revealing and seductive to say the least (and feel free to call me old fashioned). On two occasions when she came to my office in an attire I deemed inappropriate, I called in my Secretary to be present and I in the presence of my Secretary told Ms. Mwesigye that her dressing was inappropriate for the office she held and I chased her out of my office. That may be considered conservative on my part and if that is what is being construed as sexual harassment, I leave it to the Committee to make its determination. I also recall another instance when Ms. Mwesigye came to my office and she had dyed her hair red. I also told her on that occasion that such hair color was not acceptable and was certainly unprofessional for a lawyer of her standing. I on that occasion also asked her to leave my office and not come back until she’d gotten back her normal hair color. My worry about this which I shared with Ms. Mwesigye was, assuming His Excellency the President called the Attorney General for a meeting and the AG in turn asked that I send him one of my Officers, if I sent Ms. Mwesigye with that hair color, in what light would that cast our department?
In some circles again I may be construed to be conservative or old fashioned, but I am willing to live with that too if that is the yardstick for sexual harassment. Finally, as the Head of the Directorate then, it was my obligation to ensure that we serve our clients as best as we could by giving them resource persons who best serve their needs. Sitting as the Head of DLAS, that to me was the guiding principle. Given this principle, I deployed various State Attorneys to sit on various Contracts Committees as well as attend various meetings of Government in Uganda and abroad and I did so in the full awareness of their respective competences, workload, attitude to work, their ability to deliver and above all, their propensity to work well and serve the needs of the client Government Departments. This criterion is important in explaining why Ms. Mwesigye was assigned on and off certain contracts Committees or meetings as well as on foreign travels. With specific regard to whether I had motive to remove Ms. Mwesigye from contracts Committees because she refused my sexual advances (which I deny I made), I maintain that I did not. It is true however that I had situations in the past where Ms. Mwesigye failed to get along with clients to whom I assigned her, and I was forced to remove her, but I then deployed her elsewhere.
The three that I can vividly recall where:
- a) UNEB where the then Secretary Mr. Mathew Bukenya specifically called me and asked me never to send Ms. Mwesigye back again because she was very rude to him and disrespectful. I obliged and withdrew Samantha from UNEB after discussing the client’s protestation. Find a copy of a letter that I wrote to UNEB apologizing for Ms. Mwesigye’s misbehavior and assigning a new officer to replace her, attached hereto and marked “B”.
- b) Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the PS then also called me and raised the complaint of Ms. Mwesigye’s rudeness and disrespect as well as her inability to deliver on the said Ministry’s assignments on a timely basis; and
- c) The Privatization Unit where they asked me specifically to give them a different resource and they followed it with a letter asking me to nominate a resource other than re-nominate Ms. Mwesigye who was serving then. The letter from PU is attached and marked “C”.
It is sad that I didn’t insist on requesting or keeping letters relating to the above complaints for a “rainy day”, but I also assumed then that placing them on Ms. Mwesigye’s file would unduly prejudice her. The above are purely the circumstances under which I removed Ms. Mwesigye from some of the contracts Committees. There was never any ill will on my part and neither was I doing so in the hope that I would get any sexual advantage over her in the said situation.
But I would very much appreciate for Ms. Mwesigye to be truthful as well and tell this committee and the world how many Committees exactly she sits on. For the purpose of transparency in the allocation of or assignment of DLAS staff on MDA contracts Committees, I can confirm that there is only one staff who sits on five (5) Committees. The rest are either on 4, 3 or 2 because these people all have fulltime jobs working for DLAS, so sitting on those Committees cannot be a job in itself. I have attached a spreadsheet that shows all the Committees that DLAS staff have been nominated to serve on. You will be happy to note that Ms. Mwesigye sits on four contracts Committees of various Government ministries, Departments and Authorities. Find a copy of the list of DLAS staff and all the contracts committees that they each sit on, attached and marked “D”. I can state without fear of contradiction that NO OFFICER IN DLAS HAS EVER SAT ON 16 CONTRACTS COMMITTEES AS MS. MWESIGYE IS ALLEGING!
Now with specific response to the four salient issues that you raised, I wish to respond as follows:
- a) Denying her travel opportunities abroad-
My response is that this is not true. I am pleased to attach some of the documents that I could retrieve in this short time, showing DLAS nominating Ms. Mwesigye to travel abroad on several occasions. I have collectively attached and marked them “E”.
I also need to add that no single officer including myself has the preserve of travel abroad, and when I was in-charge of DLAS, I tried my best to make sure that as many officers as possible got these opportunities and not on the basis of rank or right, but purely on the basis of merit, competence and equity. Where Ms. Mwesigye’s competencies merited her to represent Government on foreign travel, I made this fully available to her even after she had made these grave allegations against me. I reiterate again therefore that Ms. Mwesigye’s right to travel or lack thereof was never based on me seeking sexual favors from her or barring her from traveling at all by reason of ill will.
- b) Removing her from Contracts Committees:
I reiterate again that Ms. Mwesigye sits on four Contracts Committees which is the second highest number of Contracts Committees that any officer sits on. I also reiterate and confirm that she did not get to the said Committees by extending any sexual favors to me or to anybody else in the Ministry that I am aware of.
I genuinely believed she earned her pips and I assigned her to them on that basis. The ones she lost were either due to routine changes, or due to the circumstances that I have highlighted earlier on. I have also attached some of the nominations that I made for her to sit on some of the contracts committees of government ministries, departments and agencies and collectively marked them as “F”.
- c) Sending her love notes while assigning her work, such as “with love from Gash”:
I categorically deny this allegation for the following reason. All the work that I assign is picked up from my desk by my Secretaries and it would be most absurd of me to stick a love note on work I have assigned to Ms. Mwesigye, to be conveyed by my Secretaries.
As far as I am aware, I have not addressed any love note to Ms. Samantha Mwesigye at all. Only God and her know where she picked it from, if she is not the author herself. The note that she has been waving around is not addressed to her as far as I saw and in the least, is a desperate attempt at creating evidence that I had any interest in my accuser, a fact I vehemently deny.
d) Ridiculing and embarrassing her in a department meeting where she said I accused her for falsely accusing me for sexual harassment:
With regard to this allegation, I wish to confirm that yes, this matter came up in our Directorate meeting around September 2018 or there about and yes, I raised the matter in the meeting. This I did for two reasons which I will shortly explain below. Did I raise the matter to intimidate Ms. Mwesigye? Absolutely not.
Anyone in their right mind would know that I would have been walking a tight rope with the full risk of losing face as the Head of Department by bring out facts of my supposed “crime”. But it was a risk that I gladly embraced because I believed that it was the only reasonable way of addressing the character assassination that my accuser had carried on for long, since our email exchanges in June 2018. I am very glad that in her own documents which she submitted to your committee, she explains what happened. In her own document, she admits that she shared the email she sent to me in confidence with two or so of her colleagues in the hope that they wouldn’t tell me, but unfortunately I got to know. Find an unclear copy of the document that I got from the complaint that you sent to me, which I have attached hereto and marked “G”. I can confirm that various other officers came to me and told me that this email as well as the rumor of my supposed sexual harassment of Ms. Mwesigye had become routine and the question I therefore ask is this; was it okay for me to keep quiet as Ms. Mwesigye painted me in bad light and belittled me, or should I have rather addressed the elephant in the room? I chose to address the elephant in the room.
My two reasons for raising this matter in the meeting were therefore:
- Ms. Mwesigye wrote to me the long email alluded to above, alleging that I had made sexual advances towards her in both covert and overt manners. My short answer was that I had noted her email and I genuinely wondered whether it was necessary to write whatever she wrote in that email. It was never an admission of what she alleged against me.
Unfortunately, Ms. Mwesigye commenced on a smear campaign, showing the said email to whoever cared to read it in the department and construing my brief response as an admission of the allegations therein.
So even without me raising this matter in the Department meeting, I had become a subject of whispers in the corridors of DLAS and probably beyond. In her own emails which form part of the documents you shared with me; I am glad she admits and recognizes that a few of her confidants brought it to my attention.
So basically, Ms. Mwesigye made all these revelations to people with the intent of totally tarnishing my reputation and inciting hatred towards me, but in the hope that I would never know. Yet she now feels very offended that I brought it up at the meeting where my motive was to ask her colleagues to also hear me out then make their own informed opinion whether I indeed committed the crimes that I am being accused of. What else did she want me to do?
- Secondly, I had gotten complaints from Junior Lawyers who out of no fault of their own had replaced Ms. Mwesigye on contracts Committees. One of them a young lady State Attorney whose name for respect I won’t mention, was mercilessly attacked by Ms. Mwesigye and accused that she had taken her place on a Contracts Committee because she was now “my girlfriend”. This puzzled me a lot when I learnt that the State Attorney had contemplated absconding from her job because of bullying and on allegations of sexual harassment. I stopped and asked myself, had Ms. Mwesigye herself been appointed on the said Committee because she had been my girlfriend? At the meeting I was concerned that people shouldn’t be maligned, harassed or abused because of my deeds if indeed I had committed the offence that I was being accused of. I told Ms. Mwesigye that let her harass me and not any other officer since she had personally declared that she would stop at nothing to destroy me. So all that I am contending with now point to the motive she confessed about, that is to destroy me.
For this allegation therefore I have no apology to make because I did not intimidate Ms. Mwesigye in the said meeting. I had a Directorate whose coercion I deemed very important and that is what I communicated. If Ms. Mwesigye construed it as a tool of blackmail or coercion, that is very sad and very wrong. But I respect her opinion because she too is entitled to her opinion.
Lastly and before I take leave of this matter, I have seen two pieces of “evidence” that Ms. Mwesigye is inviting your Committee to convict me on for alleged sexual harassment. These are;
- a) A stick-on note which she alleges she has very many such copies of, which I allegedly used to send her while assigning work to her, and
- b) A long list of supposed telephone short messages or exchanges which I don’t know whether they are WhatsApp messages or SMS messages but which she says bears my sexual harassment of her. It is very unfortunate because I don’t know of any love notes that I addressed to my accuser. I deny this allegation because I haven’t written love notes to her.
On the SMS or WhatsApp message exchange, I have no way of verifying whether indeed those are chats we have had in the past with Ms. Mwesigye or not. In this era of technology, people are able to manipulate anything to get what they want. I am therefore going to also validate this with my telephone service provider for efficacy. Be that as it may however, I invite you to look at the chain of messages exchanged. Even if you were to assume that the chat is indeed between me and Ms. Mwesigye, you will note that 99% of the subject of the chat relates to office matters and how best as a Directorate we were trying to discharge our obligations, on some occasions under very difficult and treacherous circumstances. Then out of the blue it is alleged in the middle of that serious discourse, that I sent a message “love you”. That message if at all is totally unrelated to the matters that we were stated to have been discussing and secondly, it is totally ignored by Samantha. There is nothing in that whole chat to show that I cajoled her, intimidated her or harassed her or even begged her to have a sexual relationship with me. I totally do not recall ever sending any such message to Ms. Mwesigye. I can bet that if Ms. Mwesigye had anything by way of text messages, love notes, emails or anything whatsoever (even a stone tablet like for Moses in the bible), she would have summarily executed me personally I believe, and it would have been in your hands long ago, given her self-confessed hatred for me. I have counselled myself to live with the fact that in this world, not everybody will like you and some will even outrightly hate you, and that is just a fact of life. Ms. Mwesigye is under no obligation whatsoever to like me anyway. My accuser has been all over social media maligning me and saying how I sexually harassed her from the time she joined DLAS for clerkship in 2005. I have sat back and asked myself again, if this were true, why would she have chosen to come back and seek employment in the same Ministry and in the same Department where she knew I worked?
On the contrary Samantha’s uncle, a man I respect very much, asked if I could give his niece a place to do clerkship. I told him to tell her to apply and if she meets our selection criteria, she would be given an opportunity to do her clerkship in any department of our ministry. True to fate, she was shortlisted on the clerkship list and again by fate, she was sent to DLAS where I too was serving. Note that at the time, I was just but a Principal State Attorney like any other and I wasn’t her overall supervisor. Having completed clerkship and qualified as a lawyer, Samantha worked in a law firm (owned and run by a lady like her by the way) for about a year of two and all the while, Ms. Mwesigye came a couple of times to our offices requesting that if there was ever an opening, she would very much want to come back and join the Ministry of Justice as she wasn’t being treated well at the law firm where she was working. I told her that if we advertise, she is free to apply. Indeed around 2006 or 2007 I believe, when I was still a Principal State Attorney with no influence whatsoever, the Ministry did advertise, and Ms. Mwesigye applied to join as a State Attorney. Lucky for her she was shortlisted, interviewed and indeed she got appointed as a State Attorney. At the said point, she was at liberty to go and serve in any directorate in the Ministry, but for reasons only Ms. Mwesigye can explain, she offered to come and work in DLAS where I was a Principal State Attorney.
I now invite this Committee to inquire why someone who claims to have been sexually harassed my me through clerkship, as a State Attorney and also as a Senior State Attorney, would wait and only turn up in 2018 to make these grave claims that she now levels against me, when she had every opportunity in life to keep away from the alleged aggressor or tormentor. I pray that you carefully look into the motive of my accuser and see her for who she truly is, a person who has decided that her preoccupation will be to destroy me at all costs. For what reason, I still fail to understand. It is also very curious how conveniently she brings up all these claims at particular key occasions. The first time Ms. Mwesigye brought up all these allegations, is when she first learnt that I had applied to become Deputy Solicitor General and clearly from her own audios that she sent on social media, some of my superiors were far from amused about me humbly applying for an opportunity that had presented itself in the Ministry and for which I felt I was fully qualified. I find that no coincidence whatsoever.
The next important milestone is slightly over a week ago, after I had been shortlisted to sit interviews for the position of a Justice of the Court of Appeal. I genuinely hoped and believed that my departure from the Ministry of Justice would give a sigh of relieve to whoever may not have wanted me to stay around. Even in this instance as I try to work out my exit by applying to join the bench so I can further my legal career and hopefully give Ms. Mwesigye and whoever else doesn’t want me in the Ministry space to do whatever they want, I am yet awakened to a myriad of false allegations that I sexually harassed Ms. Mwesigye. I was utterly amazed by all these theatrics and I know that one day all these theatrics will be seen for what they truly are. For respect and given my oath to secrecy I can only say as much.
Ms. Mwesigye has been on the media talking of the properties I own and asking that my wealth or lack thereof should be investigated. I welcome this too because I know I have complied with the leadership code to the letter. But I also don’t know what a person who has worked for 35 years is supposed to have or not to have. But since she knows my income more than I do, she is at liberty to controvert all my declarations of wealth filed over the years. She also states (in the stead of my deceased parents), that I should have retired sometime back. Because she believes I am beyond the age of employment in civil service I guess. Of what relevancy is this to the allegations of sexual harassment, if I may ask? This is a clear demonstration that her motive is different from what she is portraying to the media to malign me and tarnish my image which I have worked hard to build and preserve over the last 35 years. I finally wish to state that I wish Ms. Mwesigye well in her endeavors because I have lived long enough on earth to know that even the greatest storm wanes at some point and the sun always, always, comes out. In this too, I know that the truth will prevail and I rest my faith in knowing that I have done nothing at all to deserve this treatment from the said lady. On the contrary I feel that I have been treated most shabbily and I am actually the victim of harassment by whatever description, in this whole debacle. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are so gullible and they pass judgment without giving the other party a hearing.
I also rest in the knowledge that I am no longer Ms. Mwesigye’s supervisor, so she doesn’t have to worry about ever working under my supervision. I also pray to God that she genuinely believes in whatever dirt she has rolled me through and that there is no ill motive at all behind all this. I therefore pray that this Committee carefully considers our respective presentations and finds for me because I truly have no intimate interest whatsoever in Ms. Mwesigye, I confirm that I have never at any one time sexually harassed her either covertly or overtly as is alleged, I have never maligned her and denied her any rights to serve this country be it on contracts committees or in taking trips abroad or in Uganda, and I maintain my total innocence in the face of all her allegations against me.
I so pray.
Yours faithfully, GASHIRABAKE
Mwesigye, who works with the ministry of health, shocked the nation early this month when she went public about her sexual abuse, by revealing that for more than 10 years she had been harassed by her boss, Christopher Gashirabake, the director of legal affairs in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. She, however, added that her complaints had been ignored by the relevant authorities, noting that she had been denied justice wherever she sought it.