President Museveni says Uganda has “so many thieves” who have frustrated government programmes that should have benefitted its citizens. Mr Museveni made the remarks after participating in Rwanda’s monthly community work programme (Umuganda) on Saturday at Kanombe in Kigali.
Speaking to Rwandans and other guests who had also come to participate in the Umuganda exercise at Nyarugunga Primary School, Mr Museveni said similar programmes had existed in Uganda, with some of them being carried out by the army.
“This Umuganda, we have been doing it but it is not like here,” he said. “But if the military does it alone, what will civilians do? But this is a very good idea and this one will help our annual budget,” he said.
However, Mr Museveni, who spoke a mixture of Kiswahili, Runyankole and Kinyarwanda, decried the commercialisation of such programmes, saying they had failed because they were hijacked by individuals fleecing ordinary Ugandans.
“I have been fighting with these thieves because they had spoilt this issue of Umuganda. You know Uganda has so many thieves. I don’t know whether Rwanda has so many thieves like Uganda,” he said to prolonged laughter.
Explaining one of the areas where he says a programme similar to Umuganda was hijacked, Mr Museveni said, “They were telling people that bring money (and) so Umuganda becomes money. That if you don’t bring money, your kids will not go to school. So if you expel a child from school because their parent can’t pay money, what will happen to the future of that child?” Mr Museveni commended the Rwandans for participating in the development of their country through Umuganda.
He applauded President Kagame and the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) for developing the country through programmes that he said revived African culture.
“We lost our culture and went to practice other people’s culture that is not compatible with our way of thinking,” he said. “But what I want to inform President Kagame and RPF is that they have changed our way of thinking. It is very good that they have brought back out traditional history and culture. This culture is going to help us for our development.”
Mr Museveni said while his government had built many schools in Uganda, a lot of the work involved investment of money that had led to corruption.
“When we entered the government with your friends of Uganda, they had 28,000 schools in the whole country. Now we have 90,000 schools. But on this one we have invested in a lot of money. We have put up so many contracts that so many thieves of Uganda have benefitted. On the other hand, they built schools that are not compatible with the amount of money we have put in,” he said.
Mr Museveni later donated $300,000 (about Shs780 million) to Nyarugunga Primary School, saying he had felt that his contribution of laying three stones on the foundation of a new classroom block had not been sufficient.
“I don’t want the people of Nyarugunga to do more than me. What sense do three stones make? So, for that matter, when I come back I will sponsor this school with $300,000 (about Shs780 million). That is my Umuganda for this school. It is not only putting in three stones when others have done more,” he said.
President Museveni also toured the free trade zone that is under construction in Kigali, the Inyange milk plant and a low cost housing project.
Later on Saturday, the two presidents and their wives travelled to President Kagame’s country home in Muhazi, where they held closed door talks and spent the night.
Yesterday, they toured a series of projects in the countryside, before returning to Kigali for a state banquet prepared in President Museveni’s honour.
President Museveni winds up his visit later today with a series of meetings in which they will be briefed on the outcome of the Joint Permanent Commission meetings that were held by ministers from both countries ahead of the state visit.