Wednesday November 4 2015

FULL SPEECH: Mbabazi woos youth and jobless

Presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi dances

Presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi dances shortly before he addressed his supporters at Nakivubo stadium yesterday. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Isaac Imaka & Eseri Watsemwa

Kampala. On the day he started his long walk to step into President Museveni’s shoes, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi was forced to accept an offer of a pair of army-green gumboots from one of his guards after a downpour left Nakivubo stadium, the site of his first campaign rally, foot-deep in mud.

The rain didn’t dampen the excitement and the spirit of the supporters. Some folded their trousers to the knees and carried their shoes to listen to the man who is billing himself as the best option to end Mr Museveni’s 30-year rule and offer a peaceful transition.

And when he took to the podium and his image telecast on two large screens erected astride the stage, the Go Forward and The Democratic Alliance (TDA) preferred candidate knew exactly who was in the crowd waiting to hear from him: The youth, the jobless graduates, army veterans, the old, farmers who would benefit from the restoration of cooperative unions.

“For the women who desire not to be taken as second class citizens, for graduates who end up unemployed or underemployed for 20 years after graduation, for those in the Diaspora who do not vote just because they are not in Uganda,” he said.

“It’s for the minority groups whose rights are stepped upon, it’s for the army veterans who need to be paid their retirement benefits and to be integrated and re-skilled so that they fit in society, for all Ugandans, the time for change is now,” he added, pausing at every mention of a group, to take in the wild cheers.

Mr Mbabazi, who prior to his nomination day, was holed up in negotiations with police pleading for permission to have a procession in the city, echoed his time for change message poking holes in what he called a decaying society and asked Ugandans to use the elections as an opportunity to end personality rule.

Not to forget the corruption allegations against him, Mr Mbabazi spoke of growing up in a religious family and being born in Cocezo, Kabale District, deep in the mountains where “eagles fear to fly”.

“My parents taught me to shun laziness, being polite, and God-fearing. I have never betrayed those values as a young boy and I will not betray them now,” he said.

On the disagreements he has with many political players, he offered Winston Churchill’s words of wisdom. “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Let’s leave the quarrels and the past behind us and work for unity.”

“We need a new type of leadership. We need a manager and a statesman. Someone inclined to abuse rather than debate is not fit to be a head of state, neither are those who spend time lamenting.”

“You need someone who is patient and with strength of will and can see the brighter future. The change we need requires a strong leadership and I am offering myself,” Mr Mbabazi added.
He also warned that people are free to choose to be governed by confusion, intimidation and bribery or to be governed by grace and commonsense. “You can choose to remain in one place and wilt and wither or to move on to better things. Go Forward,” he said.

Introducing Mr Mbabazi, Uganda Peoples Congress’ Olara Otunnu referred to him as the future of Uganda, saying at last, the country has got someone with experience. A point Mr Mbabazi simply emphasised.
“I have had someone claiming that they are the only ones who have built the army and defence of this country. I want to tell you right now that I was in the middle of the creation of all the security forces we have, I will borrow from the experience I have had in diplomacy, and as minister to preside over the transition of power from our generation to the next,” he said.

All the eight TDA members praised him as the energetic and mentally sharp leader the country should have. The entertainers sang songs about how he has stamina—they got him off his seat and made him jump to the beats to prove the stamina. A group of Lango elders gave him a spear, a Bible and other paraphernalia they claimed was a symbol of power.

As he received the instruments and danced to the music, was the sad fact that his wife, Jackline Mbabazi, a person he refers to as a great influential figure in his life, was not at the event.

“She is sick. I know she is following the events of the day from where she is in the hospital,” he said. And until she returns, it will be their daughter Racheal Mbabazi to sit beside Mr Mbabazi during the campaign rallies, just as she did yesterday.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com