Uganda's participation at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting hangs in balance after it emerged that the country has defaulted on payments of its annual membership contributions in excess of Shs2 billion.
Although an invitation to attend the October 28-30 summit in Perth, Australia, has since been issued by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, non-payment of the contributions has placed the country, the 2007 Chogm host, in disrepute.
Uganda's High Commissioner to the UK Joan Rwabyomere admitted in e-mail correspondences that "it's the practice at the High Commission to forward all correspondences concerning government business to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kampala."
Ambassador James Mugume, the foreign affairs PS, said in an interview that government was working round the clock to clear its arrears.
Declining to state just how much Uganda owes, Mr Mugume said: "We have some arrears and they are being processed by Finance [Ministry] right now. The idea is to have all those monies cleared by the weekend."
Membership fee mandate
Every Commonwealth member is required to make annual contributions to the running of the Commonwealth Secretariat, figures that are understood to be computed according to the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of the member state.
Ambassador Mugume said Uganda pays "around £200,000 (Shs 880m) per annum."
Although government declined to say when Uganda last paid its member contributions, this newspaper understands that payments were last issued in 2009, as President Museveni handed over Uganda's two-year chairmanship of Chogm to Trinidad and Tobago. Since then, however, the country has defaulted on payments which now stand at Shs2.6 billion.
Commonwealth publicist Esipisu Manoah said in an email interview that while "we are unable to discuss the position of individual member countries", the secretariat invokes "effective mechanisms", through what is known as the 2003 Abuja Guidelines, to encourage members settle outstanding arrears including through agreed payment plans.
President Museveni is understood to have delegated Vice President Edward Ssekandi to attend the summit in Perth, although it is still not clear if his decision has anything to do with the defaults.
However, Ambassador Mugume said the "idea" is to clear all arrears before Mr Ssekandi can travel. "Don't worry, that will be done," he said.
Uganda hosted Chogm in 2007, a historic meeting that soon got shrouded in controversy over allegations of abuse of funds meant for the summit's organisation.