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Bukenya: why Museveni must stay past 2021

Gilbert Bukenya addressing TDA members

Prof GILBERT BAALIBASEKA BUKENYA, the former vice president, has had a relatively-long political career. In 2015, he joined The Democratic Alliance (TDA) as a prospective joint opposition candidate to run against President Museveni in the February 2016 elections.

However, he suddenly quit the alliance and pledged support for Museveni. But losing his Busiro North seat in the same election consigned him to political oblivion. In this interview with Abubaker Mayemba, Bukenya speaks about politics and life after politics.

How is life after politics?

Super. I’m now doing what I want to do. Life after politics is very good. In fact, I wish I had left politics much earlier because now I’m peaceful, I’m doing what I want to do, I’m making my money and nobody is begging for my money, so I’m a happy man. Last year you made two major decisions; you moved from NRM to TDA then back to NRM.

Did that trigger your defeat in the parliamentary elections?

No. I left TDA on principle. We said we shall have a single TDA candidate and we failed. Some people selfishly failed to accept one candidate. I quit because I knew what we were doing wasn’t correct. If a single candidate had emerged, maybe my decision would have been different.

Why the U-turn from TDA back to NRM?

I looked at the various presidential candidates and they were literally no-bodies to President Museveni.

But you were once quoted as saying that you joined Amama Mbabazi because he was strong enough to take on President Museveni.

I never joined Amama Mbabazi, never and I would never. I know him and his capacity. He has never been strong. I joined when Mbabazi was nowhere to be discussed in TDA. He just jumped into it.

But you never objected to Mbabazi joining the alliance.

I did but I don’t have to shout. He disorganised the whole TDA.


We had closed nominations and then he came later. He was actually recruited at eight in the night, he was so chaotic. I protested but I didn’t have to shout. If I have to publicly make objections against everything, then there will be announcements every day.

Some politicians such as [former Kampala mayor Nasser Ntege] Sebaggala claim you are suffering because you didn’t cultivate connections. Are you suffering?

I’m not suffering. Anyone can say what they want but for me I’m happy. I cannot suffer with all this treasure (Katomi resort hotel). Nobody talks on my behalf. Who is Seya and who is Professor Bukenya? We all come from a different breed and background; so, I don’t think Sebaggala has a right to have an opinion on my distinguished leadership.

As a leader, what do you think is your greatest achievement?

I achieved a lot because even today if you visit any school and ask them, who is the former vice president of Uganda, they will say Gilbert Bukenya. That means I have left a very big landmark. People have been laughing at my upland rice growing campaign but it has helped so many poor people in northern and eastern Uganda. One should never joke about simple things done for poor people.

In February 2015 when in TDA you advised NRM members not to accept removing the age limit clause from the constitution. What’s your opinion now?

This is my view as Bukenya. We must build a constitution that can stand its time. Such a constitution must have certain clauses that may be painful to an individual or a group of people but will be an important turning point to help the country. I think that’s why those in the Constituent Assembly put in those two clauses; an age limit and term limit.

President Museveni has ruled for a long time and helped the country grow. But in principle I don’t think that should make us remove these clauses from the constitution.

The age and term limits are important but we should give leeway to Museveni, who I call the founder of the nation, because others who were leaders never put in a lot of effort to become founders of this country. President Museveni has put in a lot of effort, so we can have a clause for him, but for subsequent leaders there should be a term and age limit.

So, Museveni should be given five more years?

Not only five years. He has a good programme. We Ugandans take a long time to understand that programme. So, as long as that programme is running, let him govern. I compare Museveni to [former Tanzanian president Julius] Nyerere, Dr Mahathir [Mohamad] of Malaysia and Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore. They all ruled for a long time but you can see the changes in their countries are fundamental.

Gilbert Bukenya with President Museveni

So, what’s your stand on the age limit; should Museveni be given five more years?

As far as President Museveni is concerned, let him continue. He has good ideas but, as a principle for subsequent leaders, there must be a term and age limit. Museveni is the Mahathir of Uganda; so, I would let him lead until his time comes.

Don’t you think twisting the law just for one person would set a bad precedent?

I’m looking at other leaders that will come. When I say this, many lumpens will abuse me but Museveni has been a unique person as a leader of this country. There’s no doubt, whether we like it or not the man has brought development.

I don’t think there will be unique leaders everyday; so, we must have exceptional circumstances for the president. It does not mean that we will have it in the constitution. We can even make a presidential law and say: in as far as President Museveni is concerned, we lift the term and age limit because of what we have seen in him. We then seal it up.

Currently our constitution is hard to ‘seal’ because it has been amended more than two times. How sure are you it won’t be unsealed this time?

No, we can seal it because there are certain parts of the constitution which are difficult to amend and need many leaders to change them. They will need a referendum and so we can put this under that seal.

There’s concern that any proposed law goes through because NRM has the numbers.

NRM leaders must be very cautious. Look at the current situation and the future. I opposed the public order management law and I remember the then prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, saying I’m disgruntled because I’m no longer a vice president. Now when it came to biting, it actually bit him much more than anyone else.

Weren’t you inclusive in those bitten by the law?

No, it is not inclusiveness that beats you but if you have got a meeting somewhere and they come and disrupt it and take you and some other people, that’s the real action. Not everyone in TDA suffered the wrath of the public order management law.

Then why did you join TDA, actually the opposition, yet you consider Museveni to be the founder of the country?

I never joined the opposition. I only joined a campaign to say look, it’s not only President Museveni who can be around. The way I see Uganda today, Museveni has contributed a lot to its development. I think he has an important programme we must appreciate.

Roads are being made, if you look at Kampala and the hospitals built to support Mulago, that’s tremendous work. There are many positives that the media does not talk about. I have engaged him and other leaders in the opposition and he has brains. He doesn’t talk a lot. He has plans, an implementation plan and he knows where he wants to go.

Museveni had the same qualities before you joined the opposition; so, why did you challenge him?

I challenged him because there was some degree then of neglect of the poor people. All the money that was being allocated to the poor never reached them and he was not biting, and was not asking where the money went. The degree of corruption was high. That time when I left, the way he was pampering [Amama] Mbabazi, who was the most dangerous destroyer of his government, I didn’t support it.

In parliament, legislators have been labeled as pigs for carelessly spending taxpayers’ money!

I appeal to you Ugandans with some brains, not nincompoops, never abuse your leaders because they have sacrificed to provide leadership. Why do you call them pigs?

If you think they are pigs, why don’t you contest so that you are elected? If you abuse them, you defame them; you are defaming your country. These chaps have come out, they have struggled to provide leadership and they are not providing it through the barrel of the gun. You don’t have to call them pigs, appeal to the president.

Do you think their expenses are justified?

A member of parliament, except here in Uganda, is a very senior person. If you look at the money paid to Kenyan MPs it’s almost 200 times more. Even our leaders, therefore, must be given a certain status.

You have to pay them because being in leadership is not a simple thing. The Ugandan economy is smaller but the MP here spends more money in charities and social systems than in Kenya. If you do a survey of how many children an MP supports, you will find that they are very many. I have supported more than 500 students at university. The demands are more. They should be carefully looked after though not excessively.

You were not named in the latest cabinet; did you feel left out?

Gilbert Baalibaseka Bukenya was vice president. It’s like Abukaker Mayemba being appointed editor in chief of The Observer and then afterwards being appointed as a reporter. Does it work?

Those who have been writing about Bukenya being a minister are stupid. I already passed the position of a minister. The only place where Museveni could have appointed me was vice president or president.

It’s like having a general commanding a huge army and then you demote him to second lieutenant to lead a platoon. I don’t see the reason why Ugandans don’t see that simple reality. I never expected any ministry. I was only hoping that, maybe, I could be vice president.

Any advice to the president, NRM and the opposition?

Whenever I speak to the president he has so many dreams. They are good, but are not transformed into action. Therefore, NRM people must begin to help the president create a ring of people with brains who can interpret what the president is talking about and put it into action.

NRM members and ministers must be able to stand up to the president and tell him; “no sir, that cannot be done that way.” But this mere “yes sir” must stop. There have been a lot of hemorrhage of money between the center and the common man, money is lost at all governance levels.

They must create a mechanism through which money intended for the poor reaches them. If the opposition really wants to see things improving in this country, they must provide an alternative. There’s no need to hide their solutions. Find an area where you have won and perfect it in your constituency.

That’s why I like [Nathan] Nandala-Mafabi of Budadiri West. He stuck to cooperatives and when you go to his constituency, coffee growing is booming. Budadiri has improved but others just make noise. You go to a slum where some of these MPs represent people, there are no pit latrines. They must show action rather than criticizing all the time.

This post was syndicated from Breaking and latest news, analysis, comments, business, lifestyle, entertainment and sports from Uganda. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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