Sunday July 20 2014

I am still a retired member of FDC, Garuga says

Mr Garuga during the interview on Thursday

Mr Garuga during the interview on Thursday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE 

By Allan Chekwech &Stephen Otage

The Sunday Monitor reported recently that President Museveni came out saying he stopped you from supporting Kizza Besigye’s camp, the FDC. How true is this?
First of all, I didn’t read your newspaper report. But why didn’t you talk to me before you published the things others were saying about me? But if you know the Musinguzi you are talking about, I have no price. Nobody can take me from anywhere.

So was President Museveni wrong to say he took you away from FDC?
I don’t know whether he said that. You are the one (Sunday Monitor) quoting him. I haven’t heard him say so. I retired from politics to farming.

And I refuse to be drawn into politics of any sort. It is not in my position to start commenting about what the President said or may have not said about what you are saying.

So how did you leave FDC?
I retired from politics. I did not leave FDC. But I refuse to be drawn into politics. If you want a very lively and interesting interview, we talk about developmental issues (farming) not politics.

You say you have no price? Not even President Museveni can pull you out of FDC?
Look, how do you pull me out when I have retired? I have told you I have no price. Nobody in this country has capacity to do anything to me that I have not chosen to do and I chose in 2006 to retire from politics. I stated it very loudly at a press conference that I had retired from politics. So nobody can pull me from anywhere.

So why did you retire from politics. Did you feel what you were pushing for had been accomplished or that you were tired?
If you go around you will discover that no everybody is in elective politics including yourself. Aren’t you useful as a journalist? Not every one of us should be in Parliament. I am in farming and I am doing a fairly good job. Not everyone should be a priest. You choose what to be. When I retired from Politics, I chose to go into farming. And for you to be reporting that, I can only say that I retired from politics and nobody pulled me from any place to any place.

How long had you been in politics by the time you retired?
I am 61 years old. I retired in 2006. You deduct seven years that I spent in active politics and you know when I retired.

I went into commercial farming. And I repeat, no body pulled me from anywhere to anywhere. I made a choice to retire from politics. I don’t want to comment on what you claim was said by President Museveni as you are saying. I think the person to interview is President Museveni not me.

But seven years in politics was such a short time for you to retire
How many years have you spent in politics?

Don’t you think seven years is better than no years?

I did seven years because before politics I was doing other things.

You say you went into farming after leaving politics, how is farming now?
You have covered what I do so much in Monitor. If you go into the archives, you will see what I do. I am into large scale farming. I am in tea, cattle, maize and general farming.

Mr Musinguzi, back in the day, you stood against a strong Amama Mbabazi for Kinkizi West. Now that there is perceived collision in the NRM and he could be weaker, wouldn’t you contest for the seat again?
Are you implying that in farming you don’t represent people?

No, I mean you wouldn’t have the same platform as when you were in the House.
Why are you trying to draw me back into politics (laughs out). I retired very loudly and publically and I am in to farming. I am not hiding. You can find me all over the country. I am active but not in politics.

I am sure as a person who was in mainstream politics you still follow the events in politics. What is your view on what is happening in NRM?
There are people in NRM who you should interview about what is happening in their house (laughs). Me I am retired and not in NRM.

No, I am seeking an outsider’s view.
I have told you we shall do a better interview if you ask farming and the economy. I have told you that I retired from politics willingly in 2006.

But when you retire, you don’t ‘die’. I am sure you get interested to know what is happening across the political parties. So about FDC, do you think it is moving forward?
As I told you, I don’t want to be drawn into politics. I am a trained lawyer and I won’t comment on those things (laughs loud). Many other people would give you those ideas.

However, I have so many ideas about politics but that is a private matter for now until a foreseeable future. But for now, I don’t want active politics. Although politics affects all of us, it is not my area of province for the time being. Next time, plan for an interview on the economy and the budget.

Okay, since you are interested in the economy, let’s talk about it. What do you say about the current economy, unemployment of about 80 per cent and so on?
I don’t know whether unemployment is only 80 per cent. To my estimation, it is more than that. And clearly the solution, in my view, lies where I have gone. There should be more investment in agriculture. There is some investment in agriculture in the last years, but about 10 per cent of the budget should be allocated to the sector.

What exactly should be done?
I don’t think selling airtime on our streets is gainful employment. It is absurd that Kampala is a boda boda city. I think those boda boda riders could be gainfully employed in our countryside. But that is the role of the politicians. I will do my bit (farming) to my best.

So how will the government help out the youth? Buy for them land upcountry?
That is a very long story. Agriculture is a very serious business. There is enough land in the countryside. Every youth in the city comes from a rural setting where there is some land and our land occupancy is less than 20 per cent. The shortage of land issue is a myth. It has to do with husbandry.

Don’t you think the riders can make more money in riding in the city than going to the village to do agriculture when a season is too long and middle men still cheat in the absence of cooperatives, and the proposed taxes on agriculture inputs?
The reason as to why I don’t want to delve into that is that our interview is about President Museveni’s comments as you said.

If you want an interview on agriculture, contact me. I don’t want to give you inaccurate information.

For this moment, you stick to whether it was Museveni who pulled me out of FDC or not. I repeat that I retired from active elective politics. I am now doing farming politics. I now follow the demand and supply politics.
I now say whatever I want without knowing whether I will get a vote or not. I can criticise without fear or favour. That is the luxury I have to be in this retirement mode.

So how are you doing your agriculture?
I am in partnership with government in civil areas of development. I am implementing a government programme of small holder tea project in Kigezi region. That is a government project. And I think that is where many of you are mistaken that probably I shouldn’t be implementing a government project. I am implementing it under Naads.

So how did you get into implementing a government project? Was it a request?
You know farming is not like trading in stationery. If you choose who to implement this kind of projects, you would either be looking for Mzee Mukwano or Garuga. It can’t be a tender.

I was sourced in 2008 by Agriculture ministry and Naads because I have been in tea growing for a long time. The company implementing the tea growing is Kigezi Highland tea.

How is it coincidental that they sourced you just two years after quitting active politics?
I wouldn’t have been otherwise available if I were in active politics. Which politician do you know that has 90 per cent of their time dedicated to serving rural people?

So do you think this is the way all politicians should follow?
Not necessarily. You know we can serve society in lots of different ways. You are serving as a journalist. Wherever you go, you should do a good job. If you are a cleaner you should do good work. Now I have time to concentrate.

So do you still talk to people in FDC and in NRM?
I talk to all people. In movement, FDC, DP UPC, all of them.

What do you talk with them?
Developmental issues, and cross-cutting, not politics. As I told you, all of us can’t run away from politics. Politics affects us. But don’t misunderstand me to mean that I have no opinion of what is going on in politics. But I have specialised in what I am doing best and that is farming.
Talking about the Naads programme, President Museveni recently said he would deploy soldiers to manage Naads. What do you say about it?
As I said, that is not my area of competence. What I do does not include being supervised by soldiers.

I haven’t been told I will be supervised by soldiers. But if they had the capacity to supervise what I do, they would be answering to their bosses. My outputs are measurable. I don’t know whether the soldiers you are talking about have that competence. But whoever has deployed them must be sure that they have that competence. But I hear that on radios. I don’t know how it is going to work. When it is implemented, we shall see how it works.

But back to politics, why did you decide to join the Reform Agenda and later FDC?
An agenda is transitory. But let’s talk about FDC. It is true I stood under the ‘banner’ of Reform Agenda in 2001. But that was not a party. We were still under unitary politics of NRM. Multipartism started in 2005 and I am a founder member of FDC. I formed a party and thereafter retired. I believed I would contribute more to this country in that niche. There is enough crowd in active politics. There aren’t enough of us in developmental politics (farming).

So are you comfortable with the way FDC is operating?
If you retire and your family ends then you are a failure. So when you see a party continuing in spite of you that is actually being successful. But since you have returned to politics, let’s talk about general politics. I am operating in districts where most of the people are NRM. In Kanungu, all councillors are Movement but I am working with them. I think the problem affecting one party is affecting others.

What is that problem?
We need to stop treating politics as a job. And if you want to know my view of how our Parliament is performing, I can bluntly tell you that our Parliament is a cattle market. Politics should be treated as a vocation. It is a service and not a place to enhance their salaries, but unfortunately, most of our MPs are in Parliament as a job. But that is not my area of interest. I am all over the country doing farming. I even own land in Kapchorwa and I will be there doing agriculture and tourism very soon. I operate everywhere.

Why do you say our Parliament is a cattle market?
I don’t have to describe a painting.

What should be done about our politicians?
We need to rethink about what we expect our leaders to do for us. The quality and content in Parliament, if I were to give marks, it would be a failure. Would you find it sensible to increase a bloated pay of more than Shs20 million yet a teacher is earning 150 dollars? You want me to respect such a person? A Parliament of 400 people can’t have a meaningful debate. The number should be rationalised to at least two per district.

You were such an instrumental person in FDC. So are you still a member?
I don’t want to be dragged into what the President said if you go to FDC and check, I am among the 10 eminent people in FDC.

I am still a retired member of FDC party. So for you to say that I was moved out of FDC when I retired is a problem. There is no function that happens in FDC that I am not invited, but I am not a practising politician.

I am a retired member of FDC. Make it very clear and you are saying I was pulled out?

It is not the case.
There is talk that FDC is doing badly financially. Is it because you pulled out? How about the party’s home in Najjanakumbi, did you sell it to them?
If you want to weigh the strength of parties, do empirical research. But each of these parties have weaknesses. For the house, I sold it to them and they don’t owe me anything. They are not being demanded rent because they own it. I am even hearing from you that the party is weak financially.

When you were still in FDC, what did it take you to support the party financially; how much did you contribute?
I am not here to aggrandise myself. Many people contribute to the party. Let’s not single out individuals who gave money as if they own the party. Even the small members in Kapchorwa are doing their bit. You contribute according to your ability. But there are things I can’t start telling you. But as we talk, I don’t know how they are raising their money. You should also know that parties are as good as their members.

Six years after you retired, FDC held elections to replace the president you left. Who did you think was a better person to replace Besigye; Nandala Mafabi or Mugisha Muntu?
The role of an eminent person is that all of them are supposed to be neutral. You can’t support or campaign for any of the candidates standing.

Who are the other nine eminent persons?
(Laughs). Ask the party secretary general. That is not my role. They could have changed overnight and I give you wrong information.

Do you attend FDC meetings and all functions?
I generally don’t attend them. But I am always invited. I, however, don’t attend meetings.

How often do you meet leaders of FDC and even Museveni?
I meet party leaders regularly and not secretly. I meet them for consultations, for tea. I even speak to President Museveni, we talk a lot but on developmental issues. He is my president. We formed the UPM party together with Museveni in 1980 but I was not in active elective politics.

Talking about tea, there is talk that our tea is now being sold in Mombasa. Don’t we need to have it sold here?
Kenya doesn’t buy our tea. Mombasa is a transit point. The Germans, Russians, etc, buy it. But it would have been better if the auction house was here. We are thinking about having a warehousing here. We are discussing that with authorities.

Isn’t the government using the tea project to exploit its political interests?
What would be wrong with that? If you can use a failed project for a vote, why wouldn’t you use a succeeding one? Tea project in Kigezi is a shining example of how Naads could succeed.

The Naads that is failing is not the Naads in Kigezi region where we operate. The Naads in our region has added value to the lives of the people.

Are you saying Naads needs people like you?
We should find such a partnership in all spheres. Even if Naads was disbanded, we need to change the delivery model to get the results. You know the private sector is profit driven. So I have a driving need to make sure that tea is produced because I need it for the factory. So projects should be tailored to the market needs.
But in absence of an alternative, Naads should be reviewed with the alternative of improving it rather than scrapping it.

But you see all agricultural projects handled by soldiers have failed. The National Enterprise Corporation failed yet it was handled by soldiers. But you never know, there could be agriculturalists in uniform.