What informed your decision of dropping Nandala Mafabi as LoP?
Apparently, some FDC leaders – even the person that replaced him – did not warm up to that idea but wanted him to complete his term. It is a judgment decision I made. When you are a leader, there are times you assess a situation and you make a decision. If it is a correct decision, people get to realise that with time. If it is a wrong decision, you [the leader] pay the price.
His supporters in the Elgon region have demanded that you should explain why he was dropped.
Why would I have to give reasons? There are many people I have changed [in Parliament] without discussing with the other colleagues. So if I was to go giving reasons why I changed party leaders, where would that end? It is a decision that I had to make and in leadership, there are many decisions as I have already indicated that you have to make. So everybody has got to be patient -as patient as I am myself. I believe it [dropping Mafabi] was the correct decision. Time will bear me out.
There is a feeling that you were being vindictive, that you were going after a man who had challenged you in the elections for the FDC presidency
I knew that and I am ready to absorb that until people eventually, with the benefit of hindsight, realise that actually it was the correct decision. I would rather absorb that whole blame rather than coming out to give whatever reasons that informed this whole decision. I could have come out to justify [Mafabi’s dropping] but that is not the way I operate, I just make decisions. If they are correct decisions, people get to realize with the benefit of hindsight that Muntu made a correct decision. In the meantime, I am always ready to absorb whatever blame is put on me.
Statistics show that FDC has a strong chunk of support in the east, don’t you think that there is a risk of FDC losing that support because of your disagreements with the former LoP?
Give it time. One of the problems I see in our country is that people are always very impatient. They just make judgments at the spur of the moment. They see something, they say something…people get excited and they make judgments. I do not operate that way; I normally let time to resolve a number of issues. I mean, it is legitimate for anybody who feels dissatisfied and wants to start a party to do so. Really, I can never at any point agree with anybody who would want us to run FDC as a prison, that is why I spend a lot of time to ensure that we have got internal, clear transparent mechanisms for resolving any internal contradictions.
What is your relationship with Dr Kizza Besigye?
It [our relationship] is amicable. Every time there is a problem around him like when he is under arrest, I am always there whenever he has been incarcerated. I visit him at his home; we discuss different issues and strategy. He may be more involved in civic actions and I am more involved in party building but that is not a problem at all. As I have explained wherever I have gone, the two different approaches are not in conflict. They are complementary. But you see, we are operating in public which is driven more by emotion than by reason, you have to learn to live within such an environment. You will always hear all kinds of things which are said. Now, if you are the kind who is diverted by those kinds of emotional statements which are made all the time, you will not do anything serious. So most times, I ignore that.
Odonga Otto complained that you are transforming FDC from a party of activism to a boardroom, corporate party; that you dropped all MPs who were on the activism front
What will stop whoever wants to be an activist to do so? It is not the positions that make you an activist. You are an activist out of conviction, so whether you are in a position or not, you continue being an activist. I do not see where the problem is.
During the 28th NRM celebrations in Mayuge in January, President Museveni admitted that the NRA committed atrocities in northern Uganda during counter-insurgency operations. Don’t you think as former army commander [1988-98], you owe Ugandans an apology?
Let Museveni not play around with the public mind. Let him not just throw something in the public and then go in hiding. Let him come out and we establish a public hearing. We are all alive, I will appear. Personally, I have no problem at all in appearing in any public hearing. I have no problem at all. That is how confident I am.
Generals Sejusa and Museveni have all came out to regret what happened in northern Uganda. Even before we get to that stage of a commission of inquiry, don’t you think you can do better by saying something?
Go and check the number of things I have said on that.
Your official position has been that there is need for a commission of inquiry?
Yes. So that we get out of all the speculation because Museveni is the one who was talking about it. He is the President. We work with Parliament, we establish one.
What did you make of the Kyankwanzi events where NRM legislators proclaimed Museveni sole party candidate in 2016?
Personally, I am happy about what happened in Kyankwanzi because it weakens the ruling party and it plays to our advantage. This is because if you do not have an organisation that has got internal democratic systems and you build it based on deception, manipulation and coercion, eventually when it is out of power, it will simply disintegrate. History has shown that over and over.
How do the Kyankwanzi declarations weaken the ruling party because NRM thinks Museveni is their best bet on the ballot in 2016?
You think those 190 people [over 200 NRM MPs signed] who put their signatures on that paper had their heart in it? That is one. Two, all over the country, people who are in NRM, you think all of them are sycophants. Don’t you think that there are people who are in the Movement who are really now worried by such developments. I believe there are many people who are in the Movement who become disenchanted because of that. Is that to our advantage or disadvantage? It is to our advantage, of course, depending on what we ourselves do.
Don’t you think we are running into that risk of a catastrophe in the event that the NRM implodes?
Why do you think we are working day and night? To ensure that even when that happens, there is a force that can come out and speak in one voice and that it is a force that will also have built trust in the population, it is a force that can give hope to the population. That is not physical. Because, if we have leaders in a political organisation all of them speaking in one voice, that gives that political organisation the trust that the people would put into it.
That is what it takes, for people to look at a number of leaders and know that these people are together. They care for the country. They understand the direction which the country should take and they are ready to make sacrifices to move the country in that direction.
when Muntu left NRM
In 2010, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu told his supporters in Mbale that he was sacked from his position as army commander in 1998 because he protested against deviating from the original NRM ideology that took them to the bush.
Gen Muntu said he joined the struggle to liberate Uganda from bad governance, corruption, vote-rigging and ushered it into a democratic state based on the principles of rule of law in 1986 but was disappointed to see this achievement vanish just 10 years after they had captured power from the dictators.
In 2008, Muntu unsuccessfully contested for the party’s presidency against Kizza Besigye.