Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered cellphone companies to block social media after the 2016 general election. PICTURE: REUTERS
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered cellphone companies to block social media after the 2016 general election. PICTURE: REUTERS

The CEO of MTN’s Ugandan business, Wim Vanhelleputte, was deported to Belgium on Thursday.

The cellphone network confirmed via Twitter that a report on the website of Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor that said internal affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo had ordered Vanhelleputte to leave the country indefinitely.

“To ensure business continuity, we have appointed Mr Gordian Kyomukama, currently chief technology officer, as acting CE. Our focus continues to be on delivering the best quality products and services to our customers,” MTN Uganda said in a subsequent tweet.

The expulsion of MTN Uganda’s CEO follows those of chief marketing officer Olivier Prentout, head of sales and distribution Annie Bilenge Tabura, and mobile money GM Elsa Mussolini in January.

Daily Monitor reported that there is an ongoing investigation against more MTN staff for allegedly using their positions at the company to compromise national security.

A possible reason for MTN running foul of Uganda’s government is it may not have blocked social media as tightly as ordered by president Yoweri Museveni the day after the country's 2016 general election.

“Some people misuse those pathways. You know how they misuse them — telling lies,” the BBC reported Museveni saying. “If you want a right, then use it properly.”

According to the BBC, opposition politicians found ways around Museveni’s restrictions.

Museveni’s three decades as Uganda’s president have recently been challenged by the popularity of a musician, who uses the stage name Bobi Wine and whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.

He was among 30 opposition politicians who were charged with treason and claim to have been beaten and tortured in custody.

“MTN Uganda is fully committed to respecting and operating within the laws of the country,” the company said in a tweet on Friday morning.

MTN said it “has not been notified of the grounds for the deportation and is working hard to establish precise reasons for the deportation. We are understandably concerned about these developments and are engaging with the authorities to seek understanding that would lead us to resolving this matter.”

laingr@businesslive.co.za