IN an interview with Moses Mulondo, security minister and NRM secretary general John Patrick Amama Mbabazi outlines NRMâ€™s achievements, values and plans. He also explains why his party is opposed to federalism.
QUESTION: How many NRM members have you registered so far?
ANSWER: They are more than nine million members. Of those, 8.8 million are voters. The remaining fraction are those between 16 and below 18 years whom we registered as party members.
And how many NRM members participated in the just concluded party primaries?
I donâ€™t have the final tally but they are not less than six million people.
How much has it cost you to organise the primaries across the country, which other parties could not afford?
No, I cannot speak about the last part of your question because I am not the spokesperson of other parties. How can I know that other parties cannot afford?
FDC last week told journalists that they could not hold countrywide primaries because they did not have the resources?
No, I do not think it is the reason. It is just because they are a handful and, therefore, cannot have nationwide primaries.
So, back to how much you spent on your party primaries.
Again I do not have the figures yet and we are still spending money on a number of related activities like the petitions and so on. But with time, we shall be able to tell.
What are the key achievements you have scored in the last five years as the NRM secretary general?
You see that is the problem. You people think in terms of individuals, but I personally donâ€™t. Whatever achievements we have reached have been a result of collective effort and they are achievements of the party as a whole. In my case, I work in team spirit. The team of leaders I have been working with has achieved a lot.
Like what achievements?
For instance, we have won elections. In 2006, we won the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. We have also won most of the byelections. And in all of them, NRM won overwhelmingly.
In terms of what a party stands for, which is formulating policies and presenting them to the population, we have been highly successful because our policies went through. More to that, this government has been an NRM government and whatever it has achieved is attributed to the NRM party.
We have introduced universal primary and universal secondary education and the National Agricultural Advisory Services, its weaknesses not withstanding. I think it is beginning to have the desired impact for which it was intended. The whole country is now peaceful. We have managed the economy very well because Uganda is acclaimed in the whole world as a success story.
What are your key plans for the next five years as a party?
Our manifesto is almost ready but we need to launch it officially and that is why I cannot tell you the content now. In terms of running the party, our idea is to concentrate on a few areas.
First and foremost is membership maintenance and more recruitments so that we grow in number.
Secondly, we need a body of cadres and that will soon be our focus.
We also have a challenge of construction of the headquarters. We have already done the basics on that. We have a plot and the ideas of what we want it to be. We have the art drawings. We have already finalised the question of how to fund it and we are in the process of establishing an investment vehicle in which members can participate. We have not rushed it because we wanted to build well planned headquarters.
When will you embark on it?
I am sure as soon as next yearâ€™s elections are over, we shall embark on it. The other challenge we have is raising funds for the party. In the next couple of weeks or months, we shall tell the public what we plan to do.
You talked about an investment vehicle you want to establish for NRM, what is that?
This was in specific reference to the Movement House or the party headquarters. My main thrust is to have property for the party which can generate income, and out of which we can benefit as members. So, the question was; â€˜Do we borrow money for the Movement house?â€™ The party decided in NEC that we should have partnerships with financiers so that we raise some money.
We shall form a limited liability company so that people can buy shares. This will give an opportunity to party members who will help in building the party house, but also have shares in it. That is the approach we adopted. That is what I called an investment vehicle.
How much have you planned to spend on the Movement House?
Well, depending on what it is, I think the minimum we shall spend on it is about $13m (about sh26b).
As the secretary general, you are in charge of spearheading formulation of policies. As we move towards the 2011 elections, what plans do you have on the issue of federalism which seems to be yearned for by many Ugandans?
NRM has a very clear policy on this. We believe in uniting our people into viable units. And viability is determined by size. The bigger the unit, the better. That is why we have been pushing for the East African integration so that we become one country. That is why we support a united African continent through a well-planned strategy. So, we are integrationists not separatists.
It does not make sense for anyone to demand dividing Uganda into smaller units. Some of those people advocating federalism have even been talking of establishing the Nile Republic. This means secession. They advocate for dividing Uganda into several independent parts. Now, that one we shall not accept. We do not subscribe to it and certainly we shall not accept it.
Was the regional tier, therefore, an extension of decentralisation or an attempt to introduce federalism?
It depends on what you mean by federalism. You see, I do not use the word federalism very much because in the convention sense of the word, federalism means there is autonomy for various independent units but in this case as NRM, we are talking of one country under one government.
Democracy is the rule of the majority. And according to the Odoki Commission, if the majority of Ugandans (in Buganda) want federalism, why donâ€™t you respect the will of Ugandans?
The Odoki Commission just received presentations from people and in the case of Buganda, their conclusion was that the majority here wanted this and that. But it was done in such a way that people were asked: â€œDo you want federalism or republicanism?â€ And then people voted on it. There was nothing done to determine the number of Ugandans who wanted federalism and those who did not want it.
Secondly, again it is a matter of definition. There are those who talk of federalism and those who talk of federo. Federo is rooted in the historical autonomy of Buganda as a self-governing entity and for that matter it is secession similar to the people in the north who talk about the Nile Republic.
So, it is a range of things. We have discussed the issue and as far as I am concerned, we have always come with amicable positions acceptable to all Ugandans.
The relationship between the central government and the Buganda kingdom is not yet good. What plans do you have to make it better?
We have been negotiating with Mengo (the government of the Buganda Kingdom). As per the Constitution of Uganda, Article 246, traditional leaders are prohibited from participating in partisan politics. So, when we were dealing with them, we were careful to talk about the demands of the traditions of the great people of Buganda as led and represented by the traditional institution.
On the political side, the people of Buganda elect their leaders democratically in district councils and Parliament.
So, in terms of political matters, the people who should speak on their behalf are the elected leaders.
And on the traditional matters, it should be the Mengo government. When you say the relationship between Buganda and the central government is not good, I do not agree.
It is true that the Kabaka and the President have not met and talked for sometime. It is also true that the Government took some action which some people misunderstood to mean it was against the Kabaka. That was not the intended motive of the Government.
Mbabazi explains the Movementâ€™s stand on federalism