He is often accused of cracking down hard on local opposition but in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni sought to portray his government as a benevolent one that allows a level playing field for opposition politicians. Museveni, who was in the UAE to woo investors, discussed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s politics, his ruling NRM party’s 28-year hold on power, terrorism, and the controversial anti-gay law. Below are excerpts of the interview, transcribed by Deo Walusimbi.
Do you imagine that in your country you will ever hang out your dirty laundry as the United States has just done for the whole world to see with these rogue CIA torture operations?
Well, in Uganda, we always bring out the dirty laundry if somebody makes a mistake, we make him accountable that is why our army is very disciplined and if anybody makes a mistake, he will be held accountable and punished, we never have impunity in our country, that is how we have managed to bring stability to Uganda [because] without accountability, you cannot have stability.
We just talked about President Mugabe who has been in power for a long, long time and at 90 years old, he is again going to run for president do you think that is a good thing does that bring stability to your continent?
We never interfere in other people’s affairs the affairs of the Zimbabwe people are their own all we want is that they go to elections and if the elections are free and fair whatever they decide is their own.
What do you think?
We never give lectures to others as to what they should do.
What do you think about whether the elections are free and fair?
Well, there was the SADC [Southern African Development Community] team, which went to the last elections of Zimbabwe and they said that elections were free and fair and that is what we go by.
Alright let me ask you about your own situation. You have been in power since 1986 and as we have said, you have been credited with doing much for Uganda, but you have also been criticised for stifling political opposition and even though there are some opposition parties, there are no [presidential] term limits and you can run [for president] forever.
Is that a good thing and don’t you think you should allow opposition to compete on a level playing field?
The opposition in Uganda competes on a level playing field there is no opposition we stifle, the only time we restrain them, is when they are trying to damage property… in markets claiming that they are demonstrating. If they want to demonstrate there are free areas like stadiums and public squares where they can go and demonstrate and not damage people’s properties otherwise, we never restrain the opposition at all.
Do you think that being in power for 28 years is good for democracy don’t you think you should hand over power to somebody else to run freely?
The problems of Africa and the world are not just about whom, but what? What is being done what should be done? That has been the problem of Africa. As to who should run the country for the five years, that is decided through a democratic election every five years and if the people say [that] you should go ahead, I don’t see anything wrong with that and other countries in the world, don’t have term limits.
They don’t have term limits in Europe, the only difference is that maybe their parties are not popular like ours [NRM] is. Our party is very popular it is not surprising why it is, because we have solved so many of our people’s problems that is why they elect us [and] I really don’t see any problem with that.
Let me ask you about your troops [UPDF] who are active in the African Union and trying to battle al-Shabab there are huge problems you have seen the attacks in Kenya, why is it not possible to get rid and defeat al-Shabab?
We have defeated them [al-Shabab] in Mogadishu, Kisimayo, in the port-Barawe which we captured recently and they are operating from the areas which are not under our control.
What we need to do is either we send in more manpower or the Somali army becomes enabled to control the rest of the country because there are some areas which are not controlled [and] these are the areas where they are spilling from to cause problems in Kenya otherwise, we have really defeated the al-Shabab.
Are you alarmed by the problems you have said they are still causing problems?
I am not surprised because they have a wrong ideology they have got a pseudo ideology which they imported from the Middle East, the ideology of sovereignism.
In Africa we don’t care about people’s identity what we care about is common interest we believe that people of different identities, religions, [and] ethnicities, should live together and work for the common interest, but these people try to impose a sovereignist programme on others and we don’t accept that and we have defeated them.
These residual attacks are really desperate ones because they have failed to expand, we have chased them out of the major towns, they could be chased from the rest of Somalia if we either send in more manpower from the African Union troops or if the Somali army was able to stabilise and take control of these areas which are not controlled right now.
You know that the anti-gay law in your country drew a huge amount of condemnation from many of your friends outside and many people inside Uganda. It has been defeated and reversed are you pleased that it’s been defeated and reversed or would you like to see it passed again?
We are discussing that issue among ourselves in our party and when we decide how to move, we shall inform the public. We are discussing it internally within our party.
But you are the leader of your party you don’t want it to be passed again do you?
I don’t want to speak before we have reached a consensus. When it was initially passed, I did not sign the bill, later on I signed it because of some provocation from outsiders, because we didn’t like lectures which were emanating from certain quarters, but later on, we have been having very intensive internal discussions and when we conclude, we shall inform the public.
Source : The Observer