Friday, August 24, 2012


By Wafula Oguttu I won’t be in power for ever, says President Museveni Posted Sunday, January 1 2012 at 00:00 In Summary About two decades ago, on November 2, 1993, President Museveni, who had spent eight years in power, offered a rare interview to this newspaper. The interviewer, then Editor-in-Chief, Wafula Oguttu, sat down with the President in his office at State House, Entebbe, and for three hours, Museveni dressed in a grey track suit, spoke on a variety of subjects. We reproduce a shorter version of what was an 8,000-word interview revealing some stark contrasts between what the President believed then and Museveni now… Mr President, eight years ago you took power to do a job guided by the NRM’s Ten-Point-programme, How much ground have you covered so far and what still remains to be done? Eight years ago the biggest problem was disharmony in the society. Conflicts, either physical or emotional, or mental; people were not together. This disharmony was caused by the old politics, the old opportunistic politics which started exploiting religions especially and, to some extent, tribes. We think that we have healed (this disharmony). The [people] who are out of the national alliance are out on their own free will. Who are these people who are out? A few elements like Obote and some of his followers, but even these are very few as you know, because all the others have come back and are participating in politics. So I think that is achievement No. 1. People in parties like UPC have always maintained that they are not part of your arrangement. They are not serious. (UPC) say that when you say that NRM has formed an alliance, they would have wanted to participate as a group like you did. I don’t agree with that approach. It is not useful to have factions either under one roof or under two roofs because they will all lead to unprincipled struggles. However, the alliance I am talking about is that your background does not prejudice your chances of participation in this process. The old polarization was not on good grounds. If it was on good grounds I would not mind. If it was a conflict on principle, between right and wrong like the conflicts between us and Amin. Were you against Amin the individual or Amin the system; because you have been working with people who worked with Idi Amin? Not Amin as a person. What he represented. Amin represented a wrong position. He used the army to take over power. The army is a small group of people; what right do they have to govern the rest of society without the society’s consent? But you also took government using the military. Yes. As a temporary measure to restore democracy; that is why we call this government a transitional government, an interim government. We never said we have a right: to stay in power indefinitely. But we had to put out the fire and we could not put it out by peaceful means. This is where our legitimacy comes in. We are transient. We are not permanent. You have given yourself a lot of time for a transitional government. Because even unelected (rulers) like Idi Amin were here for about eight years. Now you have also been in power for about eight years? Well, first of all our transitional government has not been without participation. Very early on, we opened up for people to participate in (the political process in the) form of the RCs. Later on they went up to the national (parliament) level, the National Resistance Council (NRC). In any case even if we had not opened up, it was clear that our programme was a transitional one. But ours was not only transitional, but also participatory. You cannot say that Amin did any of that! So, apart from uniting Ugandans... That was one. The second achievement was the economy. But the peasants, if you look at them, have become poorer. I don’t believe that the peasants have become poorer. They have not become richer in a number of cases, but I don’t think they have become poorer. Because they are not even able to send their children to school. More and more kids are not going to school? Were they able to do it in the past? But wherever you have gone Mr President, people have told you they have “obwavu” (poverty) in their home. Yes they have “obwavu” but your argument and other people’s false position is this “bwavu” is a new phenomenon. That there was opulence in the past; that poverty has come now. My argument is that there has always been poverty. There is still poverty now. Poverty in the past was in an economy that had no hope of even overcoming that poverty. Poverty now is in a stable, macro-economic framework where there is hope that (we shall come) out of poverty. I am… May I... [Gestures to be left to finish his point] Let me first finish my point. The second point on economic recovery is that we have made achievements in infrastructure. We have repaired 1,500 km of roads. This is physical; you cannot (dispute that). Power generation: We have so far increased power generation by 60 megawatts since 1986 and soon we shall have it increased by another 30 megawatts which will make our contribution to the power output in Uganda in the last seven years to 90 megawatts. We are also planning to build another 200 megawatts dam. Then the stability of the currency, getting rid of the hunger for foreign currency. Now the tendency is not to reject the Uganda currency but actually to look for it. This is a (major achievement) because in the past whoever had the Uganda currency wanted to get rid of it in order to get dollars. They were willing to pay any amount of the Uganda shilling to get one dollar. What was the logic behind all this? So that they take the dollar out and invest it abroad. Now the attitude is the opposite; people are dying to get the Uganda shilling in order to invest it here. That is why you journalists need to be a bit more serious in your analysis, not superficial. It has been argued elsewhere that the middle class has benefited more from this arrangement than the ordinary people, the peasants, and you can see how they (the middle class) are building. Before you start to argue about who has benefited and who has not, you need to have stability. You cannot argue about who has eaten more than the other without having order in the dining room. The cooks must cook; there must be a dining table, there must be a place so that we can start arguing now who has eaten more and who has eaten less (laughter). But there was disorder and there was no possibility of cooking. There was no way you could generate wealth. So eating, eating what? There was nothing to eat. You say you have stabilised the economy, but last year’s budget some taxes were imposed, then you had to retract them. The same thing is going to happen this year. Do we lack proper economic planners? Well, there is some confusion among some of the planners. That is what happens even in other countries. There are arguments, differences in opinion, but all in order. So are you confident this order will continue? Of course it will continue. Now with this order, I have told these planners that they should have only three priorities. Infrastructure; including social amenities like education and roads, law and order, police and judiciary; so that there is no crime; people are secure, and then defence; it is also security but of a different kind. Within these three the people would do the rest. Mr President, you seem to be stressing more on foreign investors. Local investors are frustrated that you personally come in to help the foreign investors and not them also. But if they don’t complain how do I know? Because I have helped many local investors when I have known, but that I should not be the one doing it, it should be done automatically. That is my battle; to ensure that these people stop delaying anybody. How will this stability help the common man? Because there is also another confusing argument of saying; “Oh Mr. Museveni you have brought order in the dining room, but this one has eaten more than this one. Okay we shall see how we distribute the food”. Now what is the solution to the poverty of the homesteads? Because if the Ugandans are 17 million, and there are five people in each family, you can assume that there are four million families. Now the problem is that many of these families don’t do anything for cash, mainly because of lack of knowing what to do. They grow their potatoes, their bananas, eat them that is all. And this is because of poor local leadership. The leaders don’t advise them and because of lack of education, they don’t know what to do for themselves so they just sit. There was a time when government, including you, told them; “grow more cotton; maize, there is market”. Then they grew a lot of it, and the things were not bought; so, that is what discourages them; because what they produce is not bought All this is ignorance and poor leadership. For instance, I grew maize myself when the price was good. I harvested 200 bags of maize. When the price of maize went down, I stopped growing maize and went to something else. But there is a problem of lack of education. You have to be mobile in the economy. Because of lack of education they are immobile. Maybe it is because government has not tried to link our agriculture with our industry. If the government tried to do it, it would not manage. The problems are two; lack of an entrepreneurial mind, in these homesteads; the second is leadership which does not concentrate on incomes of the people; they just concentrate on politics. This year it seems there is a problem because even the economy of the middle class, which was doing better. People tied a lot of money in bungalows, especially in Mbarara and Kampala, which are not creating any money. There was a craze for building “dollar houses”, now that has also collapsed. But that is not a problem. This is good. That shows you that our policy is right. Our government did not control rent although people were crying for that in 1986. This attracted a lot of investment in housing. And now we have solved our housing problem for the middle income people. Now that middle income housing [is saturated], investment will go into the low income area; that is how you use the market; system to solve problems. Of course, some of them will experience hardships because they sunk money in houses and now the houses are not rentable. Although I think even this is a, temporary problem. This is a, temporary imbalance. I think it will correct itself. But on the other hand, these Ugandans need to develop sharper business acumen; to predict the market. Government should be leading the way at least in guiding them so that there is some way of knowing which area is better to invest in. But how do you advise? I want government to be out of this business. Because who are you to guide them? Because government has the money to do research and feasibility studies. This is what has been done in the Far East. Today there is too much unemployment in town, and government has been laying off people. I am not very sure about what was happening in the Far East but even in those economies one has got to be careful, because many people don’t know the factors that led to that growth. The presence of American bases is never talked about. All those were American bases. Japan, South Korean, Thailand, Malaya (a British base) the only one which has done well on its own is Indonesia but it has also got a big debt of $70b. Let us not be too excited. For me I prefer to move according to what I think is right. The other element we have done for the economy has been liberalization, because it puts the economy in the hands of the population rather than the hands of bureaucrats. And I think this is a good long term measure. These other problems, as long as there is freedom for producers and as long as there is a stable financial situation, as long as infrastructure is expanding, we shall solve these problems. Your, opponents from the east and north (of Uganda) have been accusing you of not balancing development, that you have concentrated on the West and South. How, can they give examples? Well that most of the important projects [your government] has put up in the south and the west and not their areas. What projects? We have tarmacked the road all the way to Soroti. We had to fight in order to tarmac that road, we were being shot at. Who tarmacked that road? Do you travel on it? We repaired the road (although we did not tarmac it) all the way to Karamoja. We have built the road to Kamuli from Jinja, All the roads in Iganga which are not tarmacked have been worked on. Iganga is one of the districts which got their road equipment early, the north, each district has got its own road equipment Gulu, Kitgum and Lira. Mbarara does not yet have its own road equipment, Masaka does not have. All those northern districts have their road equipment. The problem was money to put in fuel. Because of the insurgency, the revenue base of those districts shrunk and we were trying to support them with grants. They also say that you have given the most important jobs in government to people from the west and not “their children?” Now let me first finish what NRM has done, you are now diverting me. One; harmony, two; economic stabilization and recovery. There is still some poverty, especially among the peasantry in some of the areas. The cure for that is for them to use the infrastructure we have given them to produce and sell. The third advantage was to cleanse the image of Uganda internationally. Uganda now almost is a model in Africa. The other one is ideological. So what remains to be done, [why do] you want to remain in power? To consolidate and eliminate poverty, to do what has not yet been done; banish poverty in the rural areas and to expand infrastructure because now I want to cover the whole country with feeder roads. So these are very big issues. When I see these people running around, I pity Africa. When we came electricity generation which the British had left had shrunk to about 80 megawatts. In the next two years we shall perhaps have put it back to about 400 megawatts. But people don’t think about all this. Health; we have already done this in form of immunization. If it was not for HIV/AIDS, we could already have had a very big impact on the rural population. Some of your opponents have argued that your NRM is not a Movement; that it is your Museveni as benevolent dictator and people from your tribe. Let us first of all talk about the tribe. Who are the people from my tribe who are dominating the government, from what they tell you? Some people say westerners? Who are these westerners in proportion to the others? I remember a deputy minister from the north once told me that the most important ministries are either given to people from the west or Buganda and these ministries have big money. But that those from the north get small ministries. Like…Like what? Like Industry, like Defence, like Education, Finance, like Minerals [these are the ones westerners get). But even when you head a ministry you may not be the one who gives yourself money. Money is given to you by the Cabinet centrally. Even by Parliament. They say that those large ministries which automatically get huge sums of money are not entrusted to people from those areas. From which areas now? From the north and east Oh, but Omara Atubo was my Minister of State for Defence, have they forgotten that? If he misbehaved what could I do? I am the one who appointed him. I didn’t know where he was. He was certainly not anywhere. He was not active. But I used to know him when we were in the NCC (National Consultative Council), and I appointed him Minister of State for Defence. [Maj. Gen Fred] Okecho was Permanent Secretary for Defence. Are these from the west or from Buganda? Ogwal has been the Permanent Secretary of Education until recently. I don’t even know who the PS is now. Muzira has been the Permanent Secretary in Health, if they are talking about these big ministries. It is also said that the ministers who are seen as bad people by the public are the ones who are around you and the ones you give most responsibility. I am not convinced about the accusations about them because for me I see what they do, they do a good job. And I am not satisfied with malice. You see the problem is that some of these people are just envious. When they see that someone has become prominent, they want to shoot him or her down because they have got their own ideas that if we remain leaderless long enough, then their own chances of coming up will improve. They don’t want a leadership to emerge. Yeah, I want to talk about corruption. You have been very harsh to corrupt people in the NRA but you are very soft on politicians who are corrupt. Why is this so? Because we don’t have proof. You see in the army it is easier because there are more cadres there who know what they are doing than in the civilian section. Here you don’t get any facts. Just rumours. Also I think because the system had completely broken down. The CID doesn’t work. The Auditor General doesn’t do his work properly. We created the department of IGG, who unfortunately recruited young boys from Makerere who are well intentioned but they don’t know what to do; how to conclusively investigate a case so that you are sure when you take action. At times you have tried to justify corruption by saying [that the type of) corruption now is “better” because people spend money here and build houses. I no, no, that is just joking. But people have taken it that actually you are not serious about corruption? Yes, I am very serious, but even then [they used to] recycle money in a bad way. Because of the general security today, even when someone steals money there is no panic to run away. But that is not to say that there is no better way of recycling that if it could be kept in government, paid as salaries, they could build houses. But the real reason [for failing to deal with corruption] is the poor investigation so that you are sure. And the poor pay to these investigations? If he is used to getting Shs10 million on each case of corruption, how much are you going to pay him to win him from stealing? We have paid the people of Uganda Revenue Authority. But they are still corrupt from what I hear. Yeah. So I think the solution will have to be to scrap some of these things and bring in foreign agencies. Foreigners? Yes! People who come from more stable environment. Yeah, but you pay them a lot of money. If foreigners come you pay them Shs5 million; if you paid that to me I would also work without being corrupt. I am not sure if you are used to Shs10 million (laughs). Either that, because I hear that is what has been done in Malaysia, they brought in foreign people or do what I have started doing in the Revenue Authority by putting in people whom you trust politically and who, there are because of political conviction, fight corruption because they know its implications on the economy. Are you satisfied with your performance on that front? Some of them think that you are also corrupt? They could be but (you still have better chances of fighting corruption) if you put there someone with motivation. Of course there is no guarantee but if you mix them with others there could be a chance. Because of motivation, is committed to government and he wants you to succeed. Of course this is not the best because it is better to have professional people who will be politically neutral and serve all governments. If it doesn’t [work] then I will have to go for the foreigners (laughs) That would be most unfortunate Mr President? But really what can I do? They are thoroughly unethical and unpatriotic [Ugandans]. You are a leader and you should lead from the front. I agree, but must you remain oblivious to what the public says? I cannot remove anybody unless I am convinced that he is not fit. What they are talking about is rubbish. It is not true. It has nothing to do with the job to be done and I know that doing jobs is not easy. Mr President, even if you leave the ministers and go to the parastatals and the Authorities and Corporations and you take a look at the top, it is quite obvious. Fortunately I am the one who initiated the policy of filling parastatals by competition. It was never there before. They go for interviews and they get selected on merit. Still it is not perfect because the minister receives three names and decides on one. Are you confident that you will retain power next year if we have elections? I don’t care whether I retain power or not But are you confident that you will retain power? I am not bothered one way or the other. The fact is that the people get a chance. Why should I say “I am sure.” It is up to the people. If they want me to help them. I will offer myself because I want to finish these big programmes of stabilizing and restructuring the economy. And building the image of Uganda. But if the people of Uganda don’t vote me, I will be relieved, [laughter] I will be liberated. Why don’t you let the parties back and let the people reject them and why don’t you send an olive branch to the former leaders? The people will get the chance to reject the parties in the referendum or through the CA. But if you say that I should support, politically, a situation where NRM is a party, and there is DP, UPC—then even if NRM wins, it will no longer be a Movement of all the people. It will be a party itself. I am not interested in a section. I want all the people of Uganda together. NRM can win elections sure. If it became a party. But this will mean a failure for my strategy. Under the NRM system, how does somebody replace you as leader? Oh? We stand as leaders, three or five people. Because you are associated with the system as yours it might be difficult to dislodge you. No just stand as national leaders and whoever is voted for becomes the head of a united house. This is very simple, what is the problem? But whoever is elected becomes head of the whole united Uganda. Talk of a united house, why are you people in Ankole treating Prince John Barigye differently in respect to this question of the return of kingdoms? No again. There are no double standards. It is one standard. The amendment which we made in the Constitution says that those areas which had kings can have them if they so wish. Those firm words are there. So whoever wants to be restored as a cultural leader must show that the people wish that he becomes otherwise it becomes a problem. We are not going to allow somebody to impose himself on the people or we to impose him on them. Barigye people believe they have support, but that you Museveni is against them, the Bahinda clan [the Hima clan that provide Nkole kings] and that they helped you to fight your war, and you didn’t give them jobs. You have never appointed any Muhinda as Minister except Nasasira who has a small job. Very good, for me I am not working for Bahinda I am working for the people of Uganda. If the Bahinda are part of Uganda I will work with them. If they distance themselves then that is their problem. Well, Obugabe can be hereditary, but Army Commandership is not (laughs); unfortunately. The presidency is temporary, for us ordinary people everything is temporary. It is only the traditional rulers who are permanent. So really that is the issue of Barigye. We cannot be unfair with the people, in order to please Barigye or his clan. When were you born, the date and month? I don’t know the date when I was born. I don’t know the month. But I know the year was 1944. There have been accusations that you are not a Ugandan; that you are a Rwandan. It is Obote who started this. Oh! But that is very easy to prove. Go to Ntungamo and ask. You go to Rukungiri, because those are the people who know my people. You go and ask any of the elders there. We don’t have to waste time on that. I am not a Munyarwanda. But even if I was a Munyarwanda; what would the original Ugandans have done better than me, the immigrant? You see this is the type of bankrupt politics we have. Mr President how many children do you have? Because Ugandans don’t know how many children you have or even their names? That is not the business of Ugandans. What do they want with my family? What do they want with my children? Suppose I had a child with somebody’s wife. Am I going to announce this? (Laughs) One time you wrote to Uganda Confidential and said that you don’t really have personal friends as such in your job. That statement scared very many people. That they have a leader who does not have friends. I don’t have them. Nobody comes to see me here in personal capacity; except my relatives.

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