Mbabazi – I Can’t Be Stopped From Contesting [interview]

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was a guest on Voice of Kigezi, Kabale. Predictably, he spent much of the time answering questions about his differences with President Museveni and the Kyankwanzi resolution that endorsed a sole candidacy for the president.

Edris Kiggundu listened in and transcribed a translation of the recording.

Many people are asking themselves what is happening after Kyankwanzi? NRM supporters are worried they think the NRM is going to break up because of [the disagreement] between Museveni and you.

Thanks very much. It’s true according to press reports that there is fear among people because journalists have portrayed a picture or mind that shows that there is division between President Yoweri Museveni, chairman of NRM and Rt Hon Amama Mbabazi, prime minister of Uganda and NRM secretary general.

There is no problem between me and President Yoweri Museveni. I don’t know any problem but even if there’s one, listeners should know that I have worked with President Yoweri Museveni for a long time. Recently when I was in a meeting [in Kyankwanzi], I saw young people showing me how to behave towards Museveni. I sat and listened but wondered.

I have worked with Museveni for over 40 years there is no problem [between us]. But in those years we have not had the same ideas, imagine two people with the same ideas all the time, there must be a problem.

Our way of working is unique. We agree to disagree. Not having the same ideas does not mean we don’t agree. We discuss and agree. My relationship or workings are not known to people. He [Museveni] did not write about this in his book but I will write my own book explaining where we have come from with President Yoweri Museveni.

When did you start working with Museveni?

I started working with President Museveni directly in 1974. But before, I was involved in the armed struggle against President Idi Amin. I was not working with Museveni. Ours was clandestine work we had our leaders like Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who used to get in touch with Museveni and then report to us in the background.

I was at Makerere and our leader was Dr [Ruhakana] Rugunda. He would tell us what he got from Museveni. We would discuss and transmit our ideas back. We [Fronasa] later joined Dr [Milton] Obote who was working with President Julius Nyerere and we thought Amin could be defeated easily but he was not. Many people died though I can’t explain that today.

After that defeat, we refused Obote’s ideas. He did not lead us well. As Fronasa, we chose our away, but in 1973, Amin’s forces attacked us and many people were killed publically even in Kabale stadium and others countrywide.

After that, President Yoweri Museveni who was in western Uganda, fought with Amin’s soldiers, he killed two but his other friends were unfortunate. There was discontentment among members of Fronasa. In one meeting where I was not, it was decided that we stop fighting. That is when Museveni went to teach in Tanzania, (late Eriya) Kategaya in Zambia and others elsewhere.

When he [Museveni] started teaching, he looked for other people like Godfrey Kazungu, a classmate at Law School. Kazungu called me on phone we discussed what had happened and saw our problems. We pledged not to repeat those mistakes.

That’s how we started the war that led NRAM to win in 1986. We decided on how to handle the situation, he [Museveni] went out but I stayed in Uganda mobilising for guns. In this 40-year journey, let people leave these issues for me and Museveni to handle.

So, what really happened at Kyankwanzi?

Let me explain what happened in Kyankwanzi. It was a parliamentary caucus meeting. Every year we go for a retreat, MPs have a duty to make sure they fulfill their promises. We attend these retreats every year. Even this year, the president in his speech, in fact in one sentence at the end of his speech, he said he had heard of cliques, which could destroy our party.

The next day we went to Ngoma farm. After lunch, MP Evelyn Anite was asked to thank the president for the meal. But she immediately brought the idea that the president be supported as a sole candidate. We had not discussed it. President Museveni had taken us to Ngoma to show us cattle. Later we went back to Kyankwanzi a document [outlining the resolution] circulated and was signed.

I asked: “who is heading these cliques?” they said it’s me I said if President Museveni knew I was the one, he would have contacted me. When I talked to him [before the meeting], he said there were some reports he wanted to verify.

After Kyankwanzi, we had meetings at State House, Entebbe. In the caucus I was attacked by these young fellows like junior ministers Nekesa Oundo, Rosemary Najjemba, Hatwib Katoto and others [that I was planning to stand against Museveni].

I said there is no truth [to the reports that I am planning to stand as president]. I said if there is any MP I have contacted about my presidential ambitions, he should stand up. No one did.

I said what I know is the issue of [me standing down as secretary general] which comes up every time we meet. I said during the last campaigns in 2010, some people spread rumours that I would not contest the post of secretary general. My wife [Jacqueline] went across the country and explained that I was still in the race.

I won but after 2011, more meetings to remove Mbabazi were held. So, when my wife heard that NEC was being called, she did go around again and mobilised to make sure I am not removed. In the caucus meeting at State House, a junior Minister Najjemba said: “how can you fail to control your wife or wives, what kind of secretary are you?”

It is amazing this lady has had a marriage breakup. She has a second man. I looked at her but forgave her. There were other people attacking me but President Museveni stopped that debate.

Later, I met with the president with my wife and Hope Mwesigye. My wife explained what has been going on and all these things about me standing for the president. Museveni said he had not heard anything [concrete] but rumours.

Secondly, the president told me “the way you reply when asked whether you want to be president, you answer as if you want to be president.”

I said there was nothing stopping me from standing as president. Others have been standing. I said all these years I have worked with you, in times of war, in government, you have been a good leader, the day I want to contest for presidency, I wouldn’t go out, I am a disciplined cadre. There won’t be two parties. I will remain in the movement.

People should not be worried. In the movement, everyone who wants to stand is at liberty. The caucus wrote to me on the sole candidate idea, I forwarded it to CEC. CEC said it took note of the idea of the parliamentary caucus. The president did not say he accepted what he was asked. CEC recommended that those who want to stand must be forwarded by NEC. CEC said NRM fought for peace, democracy and others.

People have a right to stand. Time will come and we shall announce those who want to stand.

There were media reports that you cried in the meeting with Museveni.

I also heard the rumours in the media that I cried before Museveni. Those are stories without a basis. I also heard that my wife knelt before Museveni. Those are imaginations. Have you ever heard a Mukiga lady kneeling for a man, maybe God (prolonged laughter).

But it is true we have met Museveni as a family and we have found these to be rumours.

You have enlisted some journalists that will propel your candidacy. That is what the papers reported.

I grew up in a family of saved people. Are there journalists from Voice of Kigezi on that list?

The host says there is Prossy Nyitera…

Can we call Prossy Nyitera so that she tells us how I bought her and where we met? If she got this money, you will tell me. Radio is an important thing. People believe what you say but don’t behave like those young people herding in the fields.

I said you cannot be president without asking for the vote from people. But I emphasised that I am a disciplined cadre. Say whatever you want but I have my way of doing things.

The Kyankwanzi resolution says no one should contest for the presidency apart from Museveni. You signed on it and it means if you want to contest for the presidency, you would be undisciplined…

You have now asked me the same question for the second time. Please don’t ask me a third time [prolonged laughter]. Anyway, everyone has a right to have an opinion. The caucus was right to have an opinion.

If I want to stand for president, no one can stop me, but I said I follow the NRM. I don’t play around. I have worked with Museveni in times of war and in government and I have trust in him and he trusts me.

When the motion was brought, it simply said “MPs have trust in Museveni”. If I had trouble with that, I would not have signed it. There should not be any worry among our people. But I will continue to come and explain. This week, the NRM electoral commission led by Rugunda will go on a retreat after which they will come up with a roadmap that shows when people can come and stand for offices.

Some NRM youths who refused this resolution were arrested by police…

The police should stop harassing these people. It is not their job to arrest someone because of his thoughts. They must do their other work. I have said before that it is okay for people to have trust in me. It is their opinion. Police should stop [these arrests] and should avoid entering this [political] sphere.

Some NRM youths in Mbarara are prepared to take you to court if you don’t stand for the presidency…

I have not heard about that. But this shows we have brought this country from far. If there is a law then they [people] should take aantage of it [laughter].

Your powers as NRM secretary general were clipped in fact some people take it that you were sacked.

I also heard some people say that the SG had been chased by the caucus (he laughs). How can it do that? They don’t have authority. Let me ask you Mr Duncan Ssalongo (the host), “can you baptise people”? No way.

The president gave a statement [about the secretary general] and I assure those who elected me that I have faith in you and also know I will keep serving you. In the SG election (in 2010) I got a landslide victory. Ugandans put trust in me because the five people who stood against me did not get even half of my votes.

It is true the Office of prime minister is busy and that of SG. We agreed on how to handle this. We agreed that we get someone in charge of mobilisation [Richard Todwong] to help me.

But that Todwong replaced me is a lie. To the contrary, I am the one who suggested his name to President Museveni and we agreed.

What about reports that NRM MPs are supposed to be going to the sub-counties to hold conferences aimed at publicising what was discussed in Kyankwanzi?

No, CEC said an MP has a right to hold meetings in the constituency but if it’s a conference of the party, we must follow the NRM rules. We agreed that we use the NRM organs. How do you bypass district and sub-county party leaders?

It is good we go to explain to the people the progress government has made but as a party, we must use all party structures. We shall agree on the message to tell the people about what government has done.

There are reports that there may not be elections in 2016 because Parliament wants its term extended to deal with electoral reforms…

I have not heard [about the extension] but who and why do they want to disfranchise people? If that idea comes to Parliament, dust will be raised and I will not support it.

Amama then starts to answer questions sent through Facebook and twitter.

People are asking me about Kanungu bridges and roads. I have said so much on this subject. I will not reveal what is in the budget but Maria Kiwanuka (Finance minister) will announce something on these bridges and roads.

We shall change the way budgets have been handled. Actually by June, we shall have discussed budget estimates so that on 1st July 2014, government will begin spending. About the Kanungu bridges, someone [contractor] went to court and court put an injunction [on the rehabilitation]. We believe in the law but people will continue suffering because of this.

I have been saying this in cabinet but I am tired. Courts cannot stop such. Many people suffer because of one person. I am very angry. This must change and you will hear me.

Let contracts continue as someone is seeking litigation. If we are in the wrong, we shall pay them but we don’t want to stall projects.

The quality of telecommunications is poor. There are many dropped calls, unsolicited SMS…

I will direct minister [for ICT] to call for standards in telecom companies because Ugandans are suffering. If they don’t adhere, they risk having their licences suspended.

What can you say about the rampant unemployment?

Our education is lacking. It is colonial education. Our children don’t have skills that can support the job market. We are training clerks like in the colonial era.

I launched Skilling Uganda with the hope that our education should change. Jobs are with industries.

But we have no industries…

Why don’t we have them [industries]? Now we are working on bettering our roads. As we do this, our products will be marketed further and the youths shall be catered for. The youths should have trust in NRM. With skills, industries and supporting infrastructure, we shall be there. Take aantage of the Livelihood Youth Programme (LYP).

A number of NRM district offices are closed. Has the party run out of funds?

Yes, we have trouble with finding enough money. I will meet NRM administrative officers in Kampala on Tuesday.

Source : The Observer

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