Not thinking of term limits. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was early this week hosted by Patrick Kamara on the popular NTV talk show — ‘On the Spot’. The President, thought to be 67, spoke about his retirement at the age of 75; he also gave his views on the term limits, the economy, and how he would want the police to deal with the opposition demonstrators. Importantly perhaps, he gave an outline of how he would want to be remembered when he is no longer at the helm. Sunday Monitor ISMAIL MUSA LADU brings you the interview that was held at the President’s country home in Rwakitura.
About 2005 there was the agitation to limit the term limits because it was thought you are offering good leadership and so you shouldn’t be limited. But now the same people, especially the young turks are back saying they want term limits back. Is this an indication that they are losing confidence they had then in you?
It is not the same people. Those Young Turks are normally part of the indisciplined group who were opposing NRM programmes even in the past. So it is not the same group, actually it is the same group that used to oppose the idea of term limits even in the past. There is no change as far as NRM mainstream is concerned.
But anyway there is no problem it can be discussed after all there is no problem about reopening anything, however, it should be done through proper procedures they can put forward their proposal of their agenda for NEC, we are going to meet after six months. We had a meeting last time but we had come to discuss other issues, so if those ones feel we should discuss it again they can reopen it and we discuss in NEC six-months from now.
Hon Theodre Sekikubo, Muhammad Nsereko; these are not old people. (Some of the Young Turks demanding for restoration of terms limit)
Mr Sekikubo even in the past was erratic. At that time he voted for lifting the term limits otherwise he would have come back to Parliament but he was not part of the main force involved in that move.
What is your personal view on the term limits?
My view is that it is a lot of nonsense because as long as there is election the people should elect. And there are some good examples. And indeed all European countries do not have term limits. Except US, but all the others—Britain, I think even France, certainly I know Israel. So as long as people are electing that will be the limit. And, if the people don’t want you that will be the end of the story. So, it is a diversion and not a serious issue in my opinion.
If term limits are lifted why should the country have the age limit? What is your view on age limit, should it be there, anyway?
That one I think we had ignored. We had not discussed it, but it can be discussed. But I think after the age of 75 there is some scientific idea there that may be the vigour is not as much as before. So that one I would quarrel so much, I know there are some leaders who have been leading even beyond the age of 75 but I think if you want very active leaders it is good to have ones below the age of 75.
Are you saying you wouldn’t go beyond the age of 75?
Not at all. Certainly not. That is in the Constitution now. And I will not involve myself in wanting to change that. Because I think there is some scientific logic behind it.
We have seen some religious leaders telling you and Ugandans that you have thus far done a good job, and there is no reason for you to run again in 2016?
That is none of their business those religious leaders. They have a lot of work to do — preach the gospel of God. And from what is happening I don’t think they are doing the work very well because we have all these young people who are taking drugs, engage in prostitution and even the corruption they are talking about starts from the homes and the families. So they should spend a little more time preaching the gospel.
When we came from the bush, Uganda was about to disappear because of Aids. The prevalence rate was 35 per cent in some cases, and it was we the non-religious people who had to preach what should have been preached by those religious people. They can have their views because I don’t stop them from having their views but I think the arrogance of going to the pulpit and giving me a lecture about something I know better than they do is something they should check themselves on.
I used to work with some of the religious leader like the late Cardinal Nsubuga, he would have his view, come quietly and we talk about it, but when you go in public to give me a lecture one day I will also give you a counter lecture, so it is not a good method.
Having listened to you, then as a young man in a primary school, saying that the problem of Africa is leaders staying in power for so long. And now 26 years down the road you are still on, do you some times regret making that statement?
Not at all. What I said is staying in power without the mandate of the people. Because the people of Uganda have never expired. Haven’t you heard of a population called Ugandans? They are there and they are the owners of this country. They have the power according to our Constitution to, every five years, change whoever they want to change. So, why do you want to usurp their role? What I was saying that time was leaders who stay in power without the mandate of the people that is what I was saying.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said she is under immense pressure from NRM leaders to deny the opposition free debate in Parliament.
Certainly I am not the one putting pressure on her. I will find out from her who are putting pressure on her to violate the Constitution to stop people expressing their views in Parliament. First of all I don’t know if what she said is true because your newspaper [Daily Monitor] is famous for telling lies, but if that is what she said I would ask her to tell me who are those putting her under pressure not to observe the Constitution. The Constitution says give everybody a chance in Parliament in a balanced way.
Are we at the time when you are looking at less cohesion in the party? Especially those born before the days of FRONASA seem not to be towing the line?
That is very simple. NRM is like a railway station. There are normally arrivals and departures. But the railway station never closes. So those who are tired can leave and those who want to continue go ahead. And there is nobody who will derail this railway but themselves.
I have seen your popularity come down after every five years. Isn’t that a concern for you?
I thought we got 68 per cent last time and in 1996 it was 75 per cent, it came down to 69 per cent in 2001, it was 59 per cent in 2006 and it shot back in 68 per cent. And it was because we had not solved issues of insecurity in the north so people there had become disgruntled. Then the problem of cattle raiding in Teso, that affected our votes in 2006 and now when we settled the two our popularity went up.
We have seen people complain of how suspects are arrested with a lot of assault, and nothing is being done to the arresting officers after that?
First of all discipline should start with political leaders. If I am putting myself out as somebody who wants to be the President or Member of Parliament I should be an example of civility, if a policeman says, “Stop!” because he wants to talk to you, then you stop and listen to him. And don’t be the one to obstruct him, after all if he arrests you wrongfully the court of law will release you and punish the policeman for arresting you wrongfully.
But your papers concentrate on the mistakes of the young policemen and women and forget about the leaders yet they are just young operatives. Why should a leader like me conduct himself like a muyaye — or rogue or like somebody who has taken bangi? You should start by examining the leaders because they should be the example of discipline. But you, in the media, have not at all balanced your reporting. You are always defending law breakers.
And why does a leader resist arrest and fight with a police officer? But it is true that some of the young people (police) make mistakes for example this young girl who was pulling the breast of this other [Ingrid] Turinawe woman.
It is still being contested whether that was a lady or a man pulling Ms Turinawe.
It was a girl. I will not tell you the name because they are doing their work. But it was a girl. Even from the pictures you can see that they were short people, even having difficulty going over the pick-up to reach this Turinawe woman. So, yes that young girl Instead of holding the breast she should have gotten hold of the arm and not any other part. That was a mistake and we have already reprimanded her and educated her on how to do things properly. But I also hope that you also saw a picture of an American policeman who was lifting a woman. And of course you didn’t put it in your paper—I don’t know what you can say about that.
But these young people [police officers] we educate them and reprimand them. This is a mistake, it is not lethal because somebody has not died but she has done her job not in the best way and the answer is to educate them and reprimand them. But also discipline the leaders who are the origin of the whole problem. I don’t see how you can say we maintain lawlessness and we concentrate on managing lawlessness correctly, why should we have lawlessness in the first place?
When we talk to men in uniform that you call young people, and ask them why you do something like this, they tell us these are orders from the above. And you are the one above in Uganda.
Certainly I have not ordered anybody to hold the dress of Turinawe. When arresting, the handcuff should be put on the arm. Many are complaining about secrecy around oil sharing agreements? We are not as open as Ghana. For example if it is an MP he will not be allowed to look at the agreement for more than 30 minutes and a police officer will be watching over him not to take notes.
I have no problem publishing those agreements. I will put them on Kampala streets so that all of you who can read English do so. You have now given me an idea; I will go and put them at Bus Park so that everybody can read — the agreement. What is secret about it? There is no secrecy. It is clear what we negotiated. The government wants to get as much from these people as possible, but eventually when the agreement is signed I don’t see the importance of secrecy.
Your government came under criticisms when it bought a fighter jet at $750 million using oil money; I thought that was an error of judgment on your side?
It was not oil money, it was our money. And we need security that is why you are here telling all lies you want to tell securely then you go sleep on your bed at night then the following morning you wake up. We need to protect our country. We had to buy that brand new equipment which will last for many years. It was a very good investment.
Ninety per cent of Ugandans are using charcoal and wood for cooking and that is dwindling the forest cover? Is this feasible?
That is the problem of the opposition which you support. They are the ones who delayed Bujagali Dam, even today I saw an opinion in the Daily Monitor condemning Public Law and Order Management Act, what do they want us to do? That Uganda should have no law? You should spend 20 per cent of your energy you use to attack government programmes to attack those MPs who sabotaged Bujagali.
But even with 2000MW today how can somebody move away from using bio-fuel to save our forests from depletion?
It is not just a question of having electricity but also a question of purchasing power. Electricity may be there but if people cannot buy it then it will not be useful. So there is a way we project the growth of demand. Meaning demand plus the ability to pay and we think after July we are going to overcome this problem. Bujagali will produce 250mw, giving surplus of 100mw at peak hours. I think the deficit has been about 130mw at peak hours now with 250mw we shall have a surplus of about 100mw for two-years. But by that time we would have started using crude oil (Diesel) to generate electricity, we are going to start building Karuma. We have 50 sites of mini hydros. We are not going to have power shortage again.
But Bujagali and the crude oil may not at all solve the environmental problem?
Yes, but that man using charcoal, still with availability of electricity the question remains, does he have the money to pay for it because electricity will not be free, and the two must go hand in hand? A country like Uganda needs about 50,000MW but we cannot get to it overnight and as long as we are catering initially for the ones who have the ability to pay then that at least reduces on the use of charcoal and increases the economic base of the whole country. With electricity we shall have more power, then more factories, more, employment, then more income and more income — it is all a virtuous circle and the trigger is electricity.
Your Chief of Defence Forces [Gen. Aronda Nyakairima] was quoted as saying Uganda will not stand by as Sudan attacks South Sudan, is that an executive order from you?
No, he was misquoted. What he is that the region will come in to mediate as we did before.
President Omar Bashir is an indicted man by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Considering the facts on the ground, are you standing by the position that he should be tried in Africa — that Africans problems should be solved by Africans?
We had supported the ICC that is why we referred [Joseph] Kony there but opinion is now beginning to swing against ICC because they are only prosecuting Africans and they do not prosecute other mistake makers. But as of now we have not taken a stand. We shall have to discuss it with other people and see whether we can continue with ICC or pull out because it is beginning to appear as if there is bias, covering up some mistakes in Europe and just going for small Africans including fellows like Lubanga who is a very small player. Yet there are people who are making big mistakes and yet nothing is being done about them.
The East African Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution asking the ICC to allow the East African Court of justice try the Ocampo four, what is your opinion on that?
We discussed it and we said the Attorney Generals should advise us whether we can convert the East African court to play a role in criminal matters in the war crimes. They are going to give us advice on that.
We have seen all those aspiring for presidency in Kenya coming to you. What are they telling you? Why are they here most of the time? Do you have interest in Kenyan politics?
These are old friends because NRM is an old party. We know many of these people from long ago. We don’t interfere in the politics of Kenya. They just pay courtesy calls and that is all and nothing in particular. The EA community seems to be taking baby steps but somewhat we are moving on. However, the ultimate goal is the political confederation, (and) it looks like Tanzania is having cold feet towards that. They are having many concerns.
Some people say you have pushed it more than any other leader in the region but with a view of being the President of East Africa.
I have no shame pushing for the EA political confederation. It is very good. And regarding becoming the President, these are the same old shallow points. Mwalimu Nyerere was pushing for the federation of EA in 1961/62 and 1963. He is now dead. Suppose the federation came into being, will he still be there to lead the federation? He started the union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika to make Tanzania.
Where is he now? He is gone and it is now the current Tanzanians enjoying the union. What we are doing is not for individuals but for everybody so that you can have bigger space to look for a living.
I am a cattle keeper, and if people of Kampala are not enough to buy my milk I will take it to Kenya. What are Ugandans looking for in South Sudan? East African federation is about business. It is about the future of our children.
Do you see the federation being realised by 2013?
Yes. We are moving very well. I cannot prescribe for everybody but I think we are moving very well. When we last met in Bujumbura it was agreed that the summit in November will discuss a report which will be discussed by a committee created by the secretary general, so there are some bench marks which we are following.
How will you want to be remembered?
For giving you a vote because you didn’t have a vote. We voted in 1962 and we never voted again until 1980. And remember the 1980 election was badly organised. I want to be remembered for making you sleep soundly on your bed without being killed by soldiers. I want to be remembered for EA integration —giving you more space for earning a living, sending all Ugandan children to school — developing human resource and also transforming Uganda economically to become a middle income country (which we are working for) and fighting sectarianism in Uganda — fighting business of religion and tribes segregation. It is the ideology of NRM that I want people to remember us by.
By ISMAIL MUSA LADU
From: Africa Review