KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s foreign minister faced growing calls for his resignation Thursday following allegations in the United States that he accepted a bribe shortly after finishing his term as president of the U.N. General Assembly.
Sam Kutesa allegedly accepted $500,000 from Hong Kong’s former home affairs secretary, Chi Ping Patrick Ho, who was charged in New York on Monday with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and international money laundering. Prosecutors said the bribe paid to Kutesa was meant to secure business advantages for an unidentified energy company.
Ugandan lawmaker Moses Adome, a ruling party member, said Kutesa should “resign or step aside” to protect the country’s image abroad.
Officials should not hold important posts “just because they are related or so close to the president,” he said.
At least three other lawmakers have called for Kutesa’s resignation, and opposition leader Kizza Besigye said he should face censure proceedings in the national assembly.
Kutesa has denied the allegations, saying his interactions with Ho were “in fulfillment of his official functions” as president of the U.N. General Assembly.
Kutesa, who held the U.N. post between 2014 and 2015, is a wealthy businessman widely seen by critics to have benefited from his close ties with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Kutesa’s daughter is married to Museveni’s son.
Ahead of his election in June 2014 to the largely ceremonial but prestigious U.N. post, Kutesa faced opposition from critics at home and abroad who said past allegations of corruption made him an unworthy candidate.
Lawmakers in this East African country censured Kutesa in 1999 over allegations he abused his office and peddled influence while he served as a deputy finance minister. But Museveni later appointed Kutesa to another cabinet post, and he has served as foreign minister since 2005.
More corruption allegations came over the years, including accusations in 2011 by an independent lawmaker who said Kutesa took bribes from foreign companies jostling for oil contracts in Uganda. He denied those allegations.