How Rubaramira was delivered to Rwakitura
Posted Monday, October 28 2013 at 01:00
Maj (Rtd) Rubaramira Ruranga has been in the news after he crossed from the opposition FDC to the NRM last week. Although he had retired from the FDC in 2007, where he had served as the party’s electoral commission chief, he returned to the political fold in 2012 to run Mr Nandala Mafabi’s campaign for the party presidency. Mr Mafabi was defeated by Gen Mugisha Muntu but the party remains polarised after the election. The Daily Monitor Managing Editor Don Wanyama caught up with Maj Rubaramira at the latter’s home in Kigunga, Mukono yesterday, where he asked him an array of questions.
What was the agenda of your meeting with President Museveni last Monday?
I was keeping idle but specifically it was about HIV/Aids. The way things are now is worrying. The spread of HIV is going up, so is the cost. My mind was telling me probably President Museveni is not aware but I also thought I needed to get myself off the hook of FDC in order to be able to work independently and be able to get support. I started seeing that there isn’t much in FDC in 2007 when I decided to retire. The administration of FDC is not going to take the party far. The way Hon Alice Alaso (secretary general) is handling the party is like a headmistress of a primary school. She is dictatorial and non-consultative. And the structure does not have a mechanism of resolving some of those issues.
If you had written off FDC in 2007, why did you return in 2012 to run Mr Mafabi’s campaign?
I had followed Nandala Mafabi as chair of the Public Accounts Committee. He had assumed the ability to do things without fear. I thought probably having him would change the whole management structure of FDC, which was not helping the party go anywhere. There was a lot of compromise. It looked like Dr Kizza Besigye (former FDC leader) did not want to antagonise anyone.
So, FDC’s current problems began with Besigye?
I think he was too liberal. He left too much power in the secretary general, who herself was not a good manager.
But it can’t just be about Alaso’s style. Are there real critical structural issues that you think are flawed in the FDC?
Yes, for example mobilisation. You can’t have a viable party minus a mobilisation structure that works. Gen Muntu was in charge of mobilisation and they would speak of structures. But when I was FDC electoral chief, I would visit places and there were no structures. They were there by mouth. Col Besigye would get frustrated going to places and there were no structures. That was the biggest challenge. Then command and control. Conduct was not cohesive. The FDC MPs despise other members of NEC (National Executive Committee). There was a real division between MPs and other NEC members.
When you left the NRM in 2001, you accused President Museveni of veering off the path you had agreed to follow in the bush. What has changed that you are now willing to work with him?
Amazingly, when I decided to go to him, I was not thinking about politics. I was thinking of what I could contribute in terms of fighting HIV. I thought he was the only one who could help.
The management of our society is such that the President controls many things. I don’t think I would get his support when I was in FDC. I went specifically with a programme about HIV. And I knew he would be interested in anybody helping him to fight HIV. I was not thinking politically. But when I eventually saw him, we had a long discussion and I realised there are so many things I had not discovered. Earlier, I had read his speeches like the one he made a year after capturing power. In the meeting, it struck me that he has not changed. He has stayed true to that speech. He took me through the history of the group that went to fight and I realised we had been trying to enforce things from limited knowledge, not knowing there was something bigger he was focusing on.
What is this bigger thing?
First, it’s about economy. He started by telling me that he lives in Rwakitura, he has cows and all people have cows. So, he cannot sell milk to them and they can’t sell to him. It makes no economic sense for them to keep cows unless they find markets. That is how they get market in Kampala. Then when you look at the whole country, you see we need to go beyond Uganda. He wants big blocs, persuading other countries to join and form a larger market. But somehow the people he’s worked with have not quickly grasped this philosophy. I was unhappy in the beginning when we came from the bush because our idea was that once we capture power, we give it to the civilians yet Museveni stayed. But we did not see why he chose to stay. And he had more experience, he’d been in politics much longer. I think our radicalism to see him leave was not guided by fundamentals of real politics of looking at not only Uganda but the bigger picture, East Africa.
President Museveni has said these things for the 27 years he has been in power. Bigger markets, value-addition. It can’t be that you just chanced on them in Rwakitura last week.
True but I had not sat down to internalise some of the things. I had not appreciated that what is happening here and its inefficiency could create a slow pace in development. We were looking at a single direction to really appreciate that the President had bigger ideas. He inherited a society that had disintegrated. In fact, I keep wondering what would have happened had he not been the one who took over. So, he might have said these things but it is another for people who have been fighting to stop and listen to what he has been saying.
For many of you, the point of departure with President Museveni was not even about the economy. It was governance, human rights, corruption. You remember when Col Dick Bugingo slapped you. How do you rate Museveni on these fronts now?
My major problem with Museveni was that I thought he had become too liberal and maybe that’s one major area he needs to fight. People go on doing wrong things and he’s so forgiving that people get away with ills. But also, you cannot blame everything on him. After Idi Amin’s fall, many people in government lacked security of tenure and they became greedy. They stole because they were unsure of tomorrow. And President Museveni left them in office. He did not appreciate that these guys were scared and were going to do wrong things. He should have put young people to understudy what these people were doing so that they could replace them.
It is 27 years now down the road. The blame can’t be on the remnants of the Amin and Obote regimes. Most government workers today are NRM cadres.
I do agree that these things have taken a long time. But some things you can’t stop—like change. Young people are enthusiastically talking about entrepreneurship now. Things that can’t be changed by force will be changed by time. It won’t take long. It won’t take another 20 years for many people to realise that we need to discipline ourselves or our country will go to the dogs.
Back to HIV, what exactly did you want from President Museveni?
The Uganda Aids Indicator Survey 2011 showed that HIV prevalence has gone up from 6.4 per cent to 7.3 per cent in general terms. In big urban areas, it is 10.3 per cent. That is one worry. I have been taking ARVs for 23 years. The first line of ARVs costs 43,000 per person per month. Second regime costs Shs400,000 per person per month. If you are on second line of treatment, you need Shs4.8 million in one year for treatment. We have almost 500,000 people on drugs. Children born with HIV have necessity to go on second line treatment. So much money is spent on HIV drugs and government has to pay. Because of time spent in HIV work, I was thinking, has President been given this information? In my statement to him I told him we need a National Aids Spending Assessment (NASA). This will help us to determine the impact of our strategies. Because I know my life has depended on drugs, I kept thinking that maybe nobody has put this to the President.
And did he seem to be aware?
He did not seem to have clear information. For example, he was telling me he had heard that if you have had proper medication you can’t infect a person. That is public knowledge. I told him, I live with HIV but my wife doesn’t and we have children. He complained to me about the officers who had died because they kept quiet. I was open with him and he helped me start the network of people living with HIV. I could see him seeing new things. He agreed that I had important issues and we would find a way of looking into them.
What commitments did he make? Is he offering you a job?
I indicated that I was at his disposal for deployment anywhere in the field of HIV/Aids. I told him with the experience I have I can contribute to help people change. We did not specify where he would put me. I have ideas and when he proposes, I will tell him what I think I can do. We did not come to that conclusion.
So, it is not true that he intends to deploy you in the army?
I am prepared to go anywhere he will send me. I have heard many things. Others have been saying I was meeting Kayihura (police chief). I have not seen Kayihura since the last election. The President has not said this is what you are going to do.
We return to FDC. Many of its supporters accuse you of having polarised the party in the 2012 election. You ran an abrasive campaign on Mafabi’s behalf which cracked the party. And after creating trouble, you are taking off.
To take off, I had already taken off. I took off in 2007. They should not mix issues. In politics, if I am supposed to wrestle with you, I will use all available tactics to wrestle, even if you are my brother. The problem I have with people is personalisation. If we are in a contest, it’s a contest. And I will do everything to defeat you. But I never did this on personal ground. Like I said, I thought Mafabi would bring something new to the party but already when I retired in 2007 I was not satisfied that the party was running well. I must say, I saw elements of corruption. During elections, people were fighting for money and accountability did not appear to come very straight. FDC has a long way to go. My action was not intended at destroying the party.