On 26th January, Uganda marked the day when the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) wrestled power from Titto Okello’s Liberation Front, ushering in a fundamental change.
John Semakula and John Masaba talked to the chairman of NRM historicals’ forum and former third deputy premier Hajji Kirunda Kivejinja, on how the NRM achievements can be consolidated.
President Yoweri Museveni and the Army commander are talking about a coup. Do you think there is an impending coup?
Before you talk of a coup, you need to define a state. It is a group of people who control means of violence over a given people and territory. Secondly, for a protracted war or regime to succeed, there must be harmony between those who control the means of violence and those who benefit from a stable situation created by the armed group.
Each group cannot act on its own and carry the country anywhere. And if there is dissatisfaction between the two, that is a recipe for chaos.
What do you think is the cause of this dissatisfaction?
People have failed to understand the Movement philosophy, where the armed group is the guarantor of peace and unity within the population. During the struggle, we had the armed combatants, represented by the National Resistance Army (NRA) and the unarmed group by the National Resistance Council (NRC).
All our actions were as a result of the decisions of the joint groups. Even in the initial stages when we had just captured power, it is the combined groups that formed the nucleus of the Government. That explains why we made so many important decisions without any group confronting each other. The decisions included the abolishment of Government parastatals and the return of Indians.
We would debate daily, till we reached a consensus. We moved together. When we adopted the Constitution in 1995, many of us insisted we should not deviate from the original setting. We chose to leave the army in Parliament, such that its views are not ignored.
Would you fault the NRM for any role in the current dissatisfaction?
Yes, I would. When we left the bush we did not put much emphasis on some of the ingredients. Now, my words are useless before any elected MP. We have allowed children of 23 years to be elected into Parliament and, they do not want to be told that they do not know all that they are supposed to know. And if this order continues, we may knock the walls.
So, is the coup talk serious?
Yes, there is genuine anxiety. Did you see how the Parliament behaved during the oil debate? MPs nearly fought each other, as if the world had come to an end. Why the rush? Their actions depicted people who wanted to capture power through Parliament. If you notice an imperfection in Parliament, use the available legal means to address it.
By the time we picked up arms to go to the bush to capture power, there was no difference between life and death. But today, Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri MP) defeats me in an election and I concede defeat.
Why is there a clash between Parliament and the Executive?
Parliament and Cabinet have been used as a battle ground against the Presidency. It has been done before. People who are fighting for power know that regimes begin to collapse from within. During the first post-Independence Government, Parliament and the Executive were used to capture power from the then Prime Minister Milton Obote.
Parliament passed a resolution, condemning Obote as a thief and the next step was to remove him from office. But, Obote was a very shrewd man. Soon, things backfired for all those who were involved in the ploy like William Nadiope, Kabaka Mutesa II and Edward Kakonge.
So, who are these people using Parliament to overthrow President Museveni?
If the President is not around, who takes over office? The Vice-President, Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice. If you are number three in the rank, you fight to become number two. The challenge is that some of these people are involving other innocent people in their fights.
Do you think the NRM party should discuss the succession concern?
It is not a point of concern for any of the historicals. If the Movement ideology we believed in the bush is followed, there is nothing to worry about. Our ideology in the bush was that we keep the leader who has been tested by the people, until when they (people) discard him through the ballot.
But some people among your historicals are talking about succession?
We have never discussed succession. During the bush war, we described the criteria one has to follow to become leader. This system is still in place. In war, it is the sharp shooter you put on the front line. Museveni is our best bet.
These people who are talking about succession are trying to derail us from our original mission. The priority now is how we can fight poverty among households.
People say President Museveni wants his son to succeed him?
It does not matter who succeeds him, whether it is his son or not, as long as there is peace and stability in the country.
NRM vice-chairperson for eastern region Mike Mukula has been jailed over corruption, but he says he is being persecuted?
In Lusoga, we have a saying that you should never take words of a person who has lost a dear one, seriously. So, Mukula can be excused for his utterances because of what he was going through at that moment.
But he insists he did not embezzle the funds?
It can be true because the law has sometimes found the innocent guilty. At times hardcore criminals get off by tying in the innocent. Anything can happen and this is part of life.
Do you think the sudden death of former Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda cost NRM?
There were innuendos after her death that she was killed by NRM. But if the Movement kills, why is her sister contesting in the by-election on the NRM party ticket?
What is your view about the current rate of unemployment in Uganda?
We are seated on a time bomb. With 40,000 graduates being passed out on the streets every year, we are not safe. But, I can jokingly say that let us close all the universities and other institutions in the country.
I also challenge those who have stolen tax payer’s money and built mansions to do something about it because they are not safe.
How do you evaluate Speaker Rebecca Kadaga?
What is the role of Parliament? It is to make laws. How many Bills have been passed under her stewardship? Secondly, the Parliament is an organ of the State. It has to work in harmony with all the other organs.
But with the tension and crises Parliament has created over the last few months, can you say the head of the institution has done a good a job? Is the role of her Parliament to create crises?
What is the greatest achievement of NRM?
The undisrupted peace and stability which we have had for 27 years is no small achievement. Even during the colonial times, they never ruled for more than five years without an upheaval. That is why many people in Uganda can build their houses.
About the Kyabazinga crisis in Busoga; how can it be sorted out?
Busoga kingdom is suffering because of the distortions created by history. Busoga did not have a hereditary ruler. Most of the dominant rulers who constituted the ruling class were fugitives from Bunyoro. They filtered into Busoga and eventually became leaders because the locals saw in them leadership skills.
At independence, when the British left, Muloki declared himself leader of the Busoga for life, but this was contested by the people. So, if you want the Kyabazinga question solved, you must emphasise the fact that Obwakyabazinga is not a hereditary seat.
All these people who are running to State House to help them sort out the mess are missing a point. Instead, clans in Busoga should spearhead the the peace process in the kingdom.