Uganda deports MTN chief over ‘national security’

KAMPALA (AFP) – Uganda has deported the Belgian head of South African telecoms giant MTN’s local branch, the company said yesterday, making him the fourth employee to be kicked out of the country this year.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said that MTN Uganda’s Chief Executive Wim Vanhelleputte had been deported on Thursday night “over national security”.

In a statement issued yesterday, MTN confirmed the deportation but said the company was not aware of the reasons for the move.

“MTN has not been notified of the grounds for the deportation and is working hard to establish precise reasons for the deportation,” said MTN Uganda’s communications manager Valery Okecho.

“We are understandably concerned about these developments and are engaging with the authorities to seek understanding that would lead us to resolving this matter.”

Vanhelleputte had been in the role of CEO since July 2016 at the Uganda branch of MTN, which operates in 22 African countries.

In January, Uganda deported three senior MTN executives accusing the employees of using their positions to “compromise national security”.

Marketing Chief Olivier Prentout, a French national, Annie Bilenge-Tabura, a Rwandan who was head of sales and distribution, and MTN Uganda’s general manager, Elsa Mussolini, an Italian, were thrown out of the country after being questioned by security agencies.

At the time the police spokesman told AFP that Mussolini was questioned on “incitement to violence” without giving further details.

The expulsion of a Rwandan national raised questions about whether the move was linked to on-going tensions between the East African neighbours who have regularly traded accusations of espionage.