The following are responses from the Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi to some of the questions and queries he has received via e-mail, social media and word of mouth as of October 2015.
You recently stated that you would not be participating in the NRM primaries but you still belong to NRM. What does this mean?
I will be seeking the nomination of the National Electoral Commission to be a presidential candidate for the 2016 election but I will not do so on any party ticket. I will do so as an independent.
Is it legal to be a member of a party and yet contest as an Independent?
The Constitution of Uganda in article 72 (4), provides that any person is free to stand for an election as a candidate, independent of a political party. Indeed the practice of NRM in the past elections has been in consonance with this provision. Members of the top organ of NRM have contested as independents and retained their membership of the Central Executive Committee or other top organs of NRM. So NRM has been living beyond the law and all I ask of them is to interpret that law in conformity with its own traditions.
But I’ve also seen the question as to whether it is ethical for someone to stand for office as an independent and yet still claim to be a member of a party. I do not see anything unethical in that stance. The reason why I chose not to participate in the NRM primaries is because it’s quite clear they would be fraudulent against me and I had and still have no interest whatsoever in taking part in what was going to be an undemocratic exercise.
It is clear to me and to all other honest and decent Ugandans that had I subjected myself to the party primaries then the top NRM leadership would have done everything in its power - be it legal or illegal, be it ethical or contemptible - to stop me from contesting.
You've been silent on Agriculture. Will you be talking about your plans for this sector of our economy any time soon?
Agriculture is the most important sector of the Ugandan economy. About 70% of the population depends on it and it accounts for 48% of total Ugandan exports. It contributes nearly a quarter (approx. 23%) of Uganda’s GDP and so our development is largely dependent on it.
Anyway, when we look at policy options for the economy we will, by necessity, have to address agricultural policy and consider ways to be very supportive of investment in the agricultural sector. All this will be comprehensively covered in my manifesto.
The eight things you say are critical to Uganda’s future in your declaration are not all that different to NRM’s 10-point program. Where is the difference?
Where the 8 differ is that they seek to address the challenges of this new age I keep talking about. The fact is, the global environment within which Uganda operates today is different to, say, 10 years ago. For one it’s far more connected, which means what happens in Brazil or China economically can genuinely affect what happens here in Uganda. We need leaders who are capable of dealing with that reality. Another thing, of course, is that technology is now so advanced that it allows us to operate more efficiently and quickly than ever before and so the work of taking Uganda forward can be done faster and better in the right hands.
Where there are similarities, it is because though we have achieved a lot under the 10-point program, the work of building Uganda into something fundamentally strong (which the 10-point program sought to do) isn’t yet complete. Take education for example. In Uganda we have registered some gains in education: we have universal primary education (UPE) and universal secondary education (USE) and today, there are a lot more schools and classrooms around the country compared to 30, 40 years ago. So we’re doing alright in terms of quantity, but the same cannot be said of the quality. One study, done by the UWEZO foundation, found that 4 out of 5 P5 teachers were failing tests designed for P4 students; and that 30% of students in P7 could not do basic arithmetic! It is clear, therefore, that our entire education system needs to be rethought and re-worked.
Anyway, the 8 things I mentioned were, obviously, quite broad and as I go along the campaign trail we’ll get to the specifics.
You’ve been part of the NRM-led government for 30 years, what makes you think you can effect the kind of change you talk about?
One: the notion that one who has been part of any system cannot possibly, after many years, have anything novel and truly worthwhile to offer the stakeholders of that system is completely invalid. If it were true it would be impossible, for example, for teachers, who for many years serve the schools that employ them diligently and ethically, to become headmasters and mistresses. And yet we know that often — headmasters, or chief doctors, or CEOs (particularly good ones) are the kinds of people that have been part of their respective systems long enough to understand the inner workings.
Two: the very nature of human beings means that to survive we must always evolve with the times. This means our thinking has to evolve with the times. So being a part of government for 30 years does not mean I cannot think innovatively about the future of Uganda.
Why didn’t you fix the bottlenecks you speak of when you were still in government?
I think I achieved a lot whilst in government and I know Ugandans would think so too if they looked at my record of service. But there is so much I wanted to do, that I still want to do, that couldn’t be done. This is due to the fact that I did not have the authority to do so. All executive authority is vested in the President in our constitution. It really is as simple as that.
I am saying to the people of Uganda- in February 2016, grant me the authority to make the executive decisions and I will implement the ideas I have as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the problems in our system can be ironed out.
Some people say you’re corrupt, others say you’re not. What is the truth?
I can proudly proclaim that any allegation that has been made against me is categorically false. I’ve pointed this out before but it's well-known that for many years I was referred to as “Mr. Clean”. And there’s a reason for that. I have a very specific way of doing things. This has been the case since I was a young boy. I don’t take shortcuts, I don’t accept laziness, I don’t believe in entitlement and I absolutely do not accept mediocrity.
But if there is any doubt at all in the minds of some, I will direct them to the brief summaries and reports on the various issues (Fact vs Fiction) so that we can begin to discuss the things that matter: policy.
Is there any truth to recent allegations of sectarianism?
All talk of sectarianism is false and is just a distraction. We will never go forward as a country unless we are united and unless we all view each other as equals. I partially grew up in Kabale in the 1950s when there were deep religious divisions between Protestants and Catholics. There was also racial segregation with blacks not being permitted in “whites-only areas". I don’t ever wish to live in such a society again.
We must go forward.
Why did you wait till you were dismissed to voice your concerns about the current system?
It’s not true that I waited till I was dismissed to voice my concerns. I brought up various issues over the years. I both agreed and disagreed with fellow members of parliament, cabinet and the president himself on a number of things. But some things are just not for the public to know.
How can we be sure you and the president are not simply playing a game to dupe all Ugandans?
First of all, I find it wholly against my nature either to tell lies or to intentionally mislead any
human being. Secondly, I have stated repeatedly that I have broken ranks with the current leadership of NRM because they have deviated from the purpose of the struggle to something completely different. We need to return to the roots of our struggle - a genuine, accountable and democratic movement.
The matter at hand, of democracy and good governance, is a vital one; and it is one people all over the world and over the course of history have sacrificed their lives, their jobs and the safety of their loved ones for. I would never put Ugandans lives, or the lives of my loved ones at risk for nothing.
Recently one of my bodyguards was shot, another was abducted by security operatives dressed in plain clothes and kept in unlawful custody. Since my declaration that I would be vying for the office of President of Uganda, my supporters have been similarly treated: some taken and tortured, others arrested for the crime of wearing a t-shirt with my name on it.
The process of our courts has been repeatedly abused by the State when the State produces political opponents before courts of law for improper use of court for ulterior political motives. The processes and procedures of the court have been converted into instruments of injustice or unfairness by the State. For the whole of my adult life I have stood against and fought such practices.
Is there a possibility that, like Mr. Gilbert Bukenya, you will renew your support for Mr. Museveni and return to the NRM fold?
There is no chance of this happening. What really matters is not the individuals but the principles involved.
My disagreement with the NRM party as it functions now is based on principle. I believe in the rule of law, in civility, in transition of power. NRM today, at least at the top level of leadership, does not believe in or care about those same things. The members and supporters of NRM largely do but it is very clear the top leadership does not. My disagreement is primarily with that section of the NRM party.
Two, I joined politics to serve my country Uganda. I want to be president because it’s time for a peaceful transition and because I believe the way this country is governed needs to change. And in the last few months it has become even more apparent to me that the future of this country is at stake if we don’t have change. Government is ineffective. Our economy is performing badly.
The youth - who are the lifeblood of this nation - are mostly jobless. Our hospitals are in terrible shape and our education system is ailing. We can’t continue with more of the same.
Finally, I’ve gone through the nomination process. I completed the first stage and received a certificate from EC saying so. All that is left now is for the EC to verify my other nomination documents.
This entire process hasn’t been easy on my supporters, on those volunteering/working for the campaign and on my friends and family. If I went back on my word, what would I tell them?
What would I tell those tens of thousands who signed my nomination forms? Those who have been abducted, arrested, beaten and tortured because of their association with me?
I am not that type of person!
Is this a family issue? Some people say this fight between yourself and president Museveni isn’t really a battle of two political ideologies but two prominent families?
Uganda is not a monarchy/kingdom with an aristocracy. It does not belong to a group of families. Uganda belongs to the 35 million individuals that inhabit it.
So the idea that I’m standing merely because it’s my family’s “turn" is nonsense. Similarly the idea that I’m standing because it’s my turn is just as false. I am not entitled to anything. But I have good ideas on how to take this country forward. This country needs serious leadership to take on the serious challenges that lie ahead of us and I know I can provide that.
I just want to add one thing: Some of my children are volunteering in this campaign in one capacity or another but they’re not in charge. I don’t believe in nepotism not only because it’s wrong but because it can deprive those who practice it of the greatest resource: good minds.
That said, I’m very proud of my children. They are qualified professionals and have taken time off their various responsibilities to be a part of this campaign which the other members of the team have welcomed. Our campaign team is made up of some of Uganda’s most talented professionals and we are grateful they have chosen to be part of this campaign. Make no mistake, this is not easy on any of them, but the enthusiasm shown by everyone working on the Go Forward campaign has reinforced my belief that the youth in Uganda has so much to offer and I am very pleased to give them a platform where they are free and able to exhibit their talents.
Where are you getting the money to fund your campaign?
The law on this is clear. Any aspirant, once they have declared their intentions, may fundraise for purposes of campaigning. Once that period is over, they are then required to account for that money.
What is the ideological difference, if any, between you and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni?
I have said this over and over again: it does not at all interest me to talk about individuals.
My ideology is one with the original NRM ideology and the things which drove some of us to form NRM in the first place: liberty, democracy, justice, and a Pan-African vision of unity (among other things).
Additionally I believe in the supremacy of the rule of law, in good governance, in the total pursuit of excellence and in an organisational culture of efficiency and order.
Unfortunately we’re living at a time in Ugandan politics where so many view their political parties not as vehicles of serious thought and positive change but as money and fame-making machines. Our political culture is generally embarrassing and immature and I think we’ve all witnessed this acutely in the last few months.
I’m tired of this culture. Ugandans are tired of this culture. It will never get us where we need to go. We have to elevate the conversation: debate rather than abuse, respond rather than react. Finally, we need to shift our focus away from personalities and on to issues.