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Between MTN CEO and the Ugandan Government

The sudden rift between the Ugandan Government and the South African Telecom giant MTN is raising questions all over the country. The rift has developed so deep to the point of deporting The Telecom CEO
Wim Vanhelleputte.

Sudden deportation

Ugandan police say the head of telecommunications company MTN Uganda – a unit of South Africa’s MTN group – has been deported for national security reasons.

The company’s chief executive, Wim Vanhelleputte, was put on a plane to his native Belgium on Wednesday evening.

There has been no official explanation.

Last month, three foreign nationals working for MTN Uganda were also deported.

One of them, Elsa Mussolini, said she had been accused of inciting violence and funding the Ugandan opposition politician, Bobi Wine.

The musician turned politician is a critic of President Yoweri Museveni.

MTN was taken unaware

South African telecoms giant MTN has said it is unaware of the reason behind the deportation of its CEO from Uganda.

Reports emerged on Thursday night that Wim Vanhelleputte, a Belgian national, was driven to the international airport and forced onto a flight out of the country.

The authorities say it is in relation to an on-going investigation into claims that staff at the company have worked to undermine Uganda’s national security.

In January, three other senior managers were also deported.

At the time, Elsa Mussolini, the company’s former General Manager for Mobile Financial Services, said she was deported over accusations she had been funding the operations of the opposition politician Bobi Wine.

But MTN, which operates in Africa and the Middle East, says it has not been given precise reasons for its CEO’s deportation.

The company has also been locked in a public row with the government over the renewal of its operating licence.

President Yoweri Museveni questioned why the industry regulator had set the renewal fee at $58m (£45m) – down from $100m.

Last month, President Museveni met the MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

After the meeting, the president tweeted that the company needs to list shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange to ensure some of its profits remain in the country.

He also accused MTN Uganda of under-declaring call volumes to avoid paying tax.

The company said in a statement that it is fully committed to respecting and operating within the laws of Uganda.

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