In the eight months since being fired last September, Prime Minister AMAMA MBABAZI has been quietly meeting his supporters and opposition politicians with increasing frequency. On Monday morning, the former premierNRM secretary general met the Mbabazi Western Brigade led by Ellady Muyambi. Journalists also attended part of the morning event at his Kololo residence. Sadab Kitatta Kaaya recorded the exchange between the brigade members, journalists and Mbabazi. Below are excerpts.
Muyambi to Mbabazi: The reason we came to see you is that we know [that] currently you have no job. We [feared] that you may die of hunger and [decided to carry] some small gifts and we get to know exactly… because when we met as leaders of the Mbabazi Western Brigade, we decided that we will be sending more food for you.
Another thing which they [supporters] agreed on was a resolution to support you as a presidential candidate for 2016 [and they asked us] to hand over to you this certificate to show that they are with you and are really doing everything possible for you to become our president come 2016.
Many of them have already organized themselves into committees and are mobilizing their fellow colleagues [but] they also want to know from you the challenges and fears you face so that they can see how [to handle] the struggle.
The brigade is structured into wings: we have the elders, youths, women, young girls and students’ wings. Some of us here are part of the bigger leadership of the brigade. We are just representatives [but] our colleagues want us to take feedback from you.
Mbabazi: Well, thank you very much for coming and for the gifts. They present a powerful symbolism in our tradition that when you go to visit, you go with something of material value. This is the first time we are meeting as a brigade I’ve heard about you, I have seen some of you but we had not met in this kind of gathering by representatives of your [brigade] in western Uganda.
So, I’m very pleased to meet and I hope we can have an in-depth discussion with you to get to know exactly what you are up to, how you are organized and hopefully make one or two comments.
Thank you so much for having confidence in me [endorsement certificate]. You see, each time I hear people say you have the capability to be this and that, it gives me strength it gives me courage to know that people appreciate what I do. I want to tell you that I have taken note of your view.
Obviously, I have received many presentations of similar nature and at a right time, I will give you my response.
Joseph Kiiza, group spokesman: Before you see off the [journalists], there is something which our people want to know [from you]. The issue of NRM registration because we have been convincing them that you are still a g supporter of NRM. They want you to come out clearly on the ongoing re-registration of NRM members.
Mbabazi: The other day I was at Makerere University, I was chief guest at the handover of the students’ guild, and they asked a similar question. My answer to that question is this I am in NRM. There are some voices from both those who like me and those who don’t like me, [urging] me to get out of NRM for many reasons.
My answer to those that have come to me and my answer to your question now is that I am in NRM I am a g member of NRM I have absolutely no intention of leaving NRM. You people, why should I leave? You know very well that I have given everything I could to build NRM, so why would I get out of it now? I am not going to get out of it at all.
As I said at Makerere the other day, NRM fought for freedom, [and] democracy. All the things we have done are very well known not only in Uganda but the world over. One of the things we fought for is freedom of expression, freedom to have an opinion. So people should feel free to have opinions in NRM and to express them. Don’t hold back if you have an opinion.
If you can’t express it in NRM, where else can you express your opinion freely? And this does not mean that if we have a difference in opinion, we are dividing the party. Those who push that line are trying to limit the freedom of expression. That you cannot have a different opinion from me, from her… and that if you do, that means
there’s division in the party? Of course not!
Democracy means that people are free to express themselves and if you don’t have consensus right from the beginning, the democratic way is through the vote. You vote and the majority carries the day and the minority respects the decision of the majority.
But the majority should also respect and listen to the opinion of the minority. That is what I believe, that is what we fought for, among many other things. I started a long time ago to fight for these things and I still believe in them.
The Observer: You are rumoured to be contemplating a run against President Museveni in the NRM primaries for the presidential flag bearer. Is it true and if yes, won’t it be against the sole candidacy resolution you adopted as a caucus in Kyankwanzi last year?
Mbabazi: First of all as to whether I will stand or not, I have repeatedly said, for any position whether president or branch [NRM village] chairman, that decision will be announced at an appropriate time.
I am happy that the NRM leadership has finally come out with our election calendar [NRM electoral roadmap], so that means now you don’t have to continue waiting for too long to continue speculating. If you want to stand at the branch, time for nomination is set already.
The NRM parliamentary caucus has one mandate in the NRM constitution. “To consider and make decisions on behalf of the party on matters before Parliament.”
It has no mandate beyond that. Therefore, the resolution of Kyankwanzi was simply an opinion expressed by that caucus and it carries no weight more than an opinion of an individual. Of course, it is an important opinion but nevertheless, it is an opinion which is not binding to the party, unless the appropriate organs of the party, which are mandated to take such decisions do consider them and take those decisions.
Daily Monitor: The NRM is registering its members anew after failing to get access to the old register which you are accused of hiding. What do you say about the register and the fresh registration of members?
Mbabazi: First of all, I have absolutely no problem with the registration, and I want to call upon all supporters of NRM to use this opportunity to register. It has no problem at all. Secondly, that entire story you have been hearing is false. I have not previously commented about this but the register which the NRM made in 2010 is still in place and of course it is available to the party.
You see, it is only people who don’t have enough information that make those allegations. Let me explain under the NRM constitution, it is the branch at the village that has the responsibility to recruit and register members. No one else. Not even the national chairman has that mandate.
And it is the responsibility of the branch to maintain that register at the branch. They also have an obligation to pass on a copy of their register to the district NRM office and the national secretariat at the centre. It is true therefore that the NRM secretariat at the centre has the register which is the sum total of all the registers of the branches of Uganda.
But this is just doing a clerical job the secretariat cannot add or remove [members] from that register. Let’s assume that someone wanted to hide this register. It is simple go to the districts, get the names. In one day, you will have the register composed. The clerical bit of it will be done [you’ll be left with] just entering the names into the computer.
Point number three, I want you to note that this register was made in 2010. Of course it needed an update because over the years, we have had young people who have become of age we’ve had people crossing over from the other parties we have lost some through death or defection to other parties because I have heard of some who have crossed to the opposition.
Certainly, there was need for this exercise to update the register. The registration is perfect, it is in order [because] there is no way anyone would have relied on a register of 2010 for an election of 2015.
I have not talked about it before. You are making me to begin talking… eventually when I begin, I will explain and some people will feel ashamed of themselves for what they have been saying.
Kfm: There are reports about you meeting with some key opposition figures. What exactly are you talking about?
Mbabazi: Let me first correct [the impression created by [Mr Muyambi] that I was not employed. That is not exactly accurate
I am not in government anymore, but you know I am still the MP for Kinkiizi West. Therefore, as an MP, I have a lot of responsibilities, and of course I get some remuneration. I do meet many people I am a political leader [and] one of those in NRM who believe in the Movement ideology of total unity of Ugandans. I have never abandoned it.
So, even if we have different opinions, I think there are many things that we have in common there are so many issues that one of these days I will talk about that obviously bind us together irrespective of our political opinions. And I think this demands that we continue with the spirit of working together in order to achieve what we agree needs to be done.
The Observer: During your time as NRM secretary general, the party incurred a huge debt to compile the 2010 register and we have heard NRM leaders denying knowledge of that debt. Can you tell us the truth about that debt?
Mbabazi: There is a matter in court claiming that a service was rendered to the party and the party has either neglected or refused to pay. Since it is before court, it is a matter I cannot discuss. We’ll leave it for the court to determine.
But I can also say that it is absolutely false to say that my daughter Nina is the one sitting on the register and that she is demanding payment of Shs 3bn before she releases the register. That is absolutely false. It is true that Nina did volunteer NRM depends on volunteers to do many things.
She was one of the volunteers and incidentally didn’t work under me. There were many other [volunteers]. So the fact that they produced the register does not mean that they are the custodians of the register.
Source : The Observer