UNOC defends appointment of Muhwezi daughter as COO

15 Mar 2024

KAMPALA: The Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) has explained that the recruitment of city lawyer, Samantha Muhwezi, as their Chief Operations Officer went through a legal process.

Daily Secrets has learnt that despite reports that the board was removed by President Yoweri Museveni over the illegal recruitment of Muhwezi, UNOC says she did not pass through the back door.

Samantha is daughter of Jim Muhwezi, the minister for security. The mother, Suzan Muhwezi, heads the controversial AGOA project.

“The Board of Directors at UNOC has not been removed by President Museveni or any other authority,” said UNOC in a statement. 

UNOC explained that the laws only allow the board to superintend for only terms and that was the reason the President appointed a new board.

Consequently the new board was vetted by Parliament’s appointment committee earlier this week.

 “The current Board was reappointed for their second and final non-renewable term inFebruary 2020, and their tenure lapsed in February 2024, in line with the law and UNOC’s governing documents,” UNOC said.

“Therefore, any assertions regarding the removal of the UNOC Board due to recruitment irregularities are completely baseless and misleading.”

A quick search of Muhwezi indicates that she previously worked with Total, where she resigned from before taking on the new position.

Sources indicate that Museveni tasked UNOC officials with giving a satisfactory explanation why a lawyer and not a technical candidate took up the position.

In their explanation, UNOC said the role of COO cuts across various sections

 The role of UNOC COO was advertised in January 2024 and ran for two weeks in accordance with UNOC’s Human Resource policy. 

However, Samantha’s appointment attracted resistance from a top official at UNOC blew the whistle to Museveni.


The top UNOC official told Museveni that the position of COO required a highly experienced engineer. 

“I am going to consult,” Museveni responded to the UNOC top shot before requesting a thorough briefing on the matter.

The officials in the Ministry of Energy wrote to the President, saying the position of COO is strategic and multidisciplinary. 

The departments which report to the COO are Technical Services, National Content, Health & Safety, Supply Chain and IT. 

The Energy Ministry further informed Museveni that given the above multidisciplinary departments, there is absolutely no requirement for the COO to be an engineer.

This would mean that only the head of technical services could ever progress to the position of COO, yet the other heads are equally capable and are at the same level as the head of technical services.

Technical services are not only engineering services. 

Currently on the Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP projects, Human Resources, legal advice, financial advice, environment support and every other type of discipline, have been provided by TotalEnergies, CNOOC and even Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation as a technical service where Samantha played a critical role. 

Samantha was instrumental in TotalEnergies’ achievements for the projects, leading the pipeline negotiations across Uganda and Tanzania, since 2016. 

She was also part of the select TotalEnergies team at every State House signing. 

Museveni was informed that Samantha resigned from TotalEnergies contrary to reports that she was fired.

Officials said Samantha left the French oil firm with an exemplary certificate of service and remains on very good terms with TotalEnergies, a key partner for UNOC.

The President was further informed that the COO is a strategic position that requires visionary thinking backed by practical experience and strong relationships to extract value for Ugandans. 

Upon receiving the briefing, the president reportedly ignored the top UNOC official’s request to interfere with Samantha’s appointment. 

A top government official warned that the continued internal intrigue in an entity as vital as UNOC, while first oil is on the horizon and desperately requires attention to achieve it, is very disappointing.

“UNOC must be united and focus on the task at hand: to extract value for Uganda in the very short construction period left and build capacity for its future projects,” said a source who preferred anonymity to speak freely. 

UNOC is a limited liability company wholly owned by the Government of Uganda. 

Its overall function is to handle the Government of Uganda’s commercial interests in the petroleum sector and to ensure that the resource is exploited in a sustainable manner.

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