Mbabazi should wait for us to die before he can tell his lies - Otafiire

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

You have been traversing the country with hard-hitting messages to the electorate ridiculing your former colleague Mr Amama Mbabazi. What have you been up to?
There is nothing hard hitting to the electorate on the former prime minister. Mbabazi decided to run as an Independent presidential candidate but he still has the NRM party card which is contrary to NRM rules and regulations and unfortunately, these were put in place while he was secretary general of the party.
So most of us are left agape as to whether this man believed in the rules he was making or he was making them for other people other than the welfare of the party in general.
But that he has run as an Independent is his constitutional right. However, he ought to have obeyed the rules he put in place himself. That gives rise to questions about his credibility. Is he honest? I leave that to the electorate to decide.

You were quoted by sections of the media saying Ugandans should only consider Mbabazi president when some of you are dead. What did you mean?
No, I was misquoted. There are people who don’t speak Runyankore and want to interpret Runyankore instead of getting us who speak the language to render the message correctly.
I never said it would be over my dead body, I said there is a Runyankore proverb, if loosely translated means don’t play about when those old women who saw your childhood are still alive.
You shouldn’t fool around when those old women who saw how you used to mess up yourself are alive. Don’t start telling stories. You should wait for them to die then you can start deceiving the public. So it doesn’t mean it is over my dead body.
I meant that Mbabazi should wait for us to die, those of us who know his childhood then he can start deceiving the public about himself.

In your assessment, how do you measure his capacity, having worked with him for close to 40 years?
Well, in my view I think he doesn’t measure equally with President Museveni because I have seen Museveni under extremely difficult circumstances. I have seen his endurance and capacity during the war. I have also seen him during peace time as President. I have been able to test his tolerance, his ability to withstand pain and pressure which I don’t see in Mbabazi.
I have seen Museveni capable of expressing emotion which I don’t see in Mbabazi because he doesn’t express anger, pleasure, dissatisfaction and people think he is cool. No! Leaders are human beings capable of being angry, annoyed, losing temper; you don’t stay cool all the time unless there is something insidious inside you, something missing.

You were quoted saying he had even failed to supply you with medicine during the Bush War days…
Yes, we gave him an assignment to procure medicine for soldiers who were dying in the bush because of malaria and other illnesses. The fact that he was at liberty, not under pressure but still they failed to deliver.
So if somebody failed to deliver medicine when he was in a secure place like Nairobi and to raise money and provisions for supporting the war, how do you expect him to deliver under extreme pressure of managing a third world country where the institutions are young?

People of the post-1986 generation wonder how those old stories of who failed to do what or excelled in the bush can solve pertinent issues such as unemployment
Only fools don’t learn from history. History never repeats itself. What you were capable of achieving when you were young reflects well what you are likely to achieve when you mature. We have been around for 30 years but we came in when we were young.
We are now reaching the upper limit of our middle age. I am 64 and by all standards 64 is not very old. I am still capable of rendering service for the next 10-15 years.
Yes, Mbabazi is not too old to be president; he is still capable of rendering service for the next 15-20 years, so what he did in his past, his capacity to accomplish certain tasks, reflects on his ability to lead. In any case even if he had the ability to lead, is he the best we have around? When I judge him with President Museveni I still believe Museveni will perform better.

It is tempting to conclude you have something personal against him
I have nothing personal against him. I am only emphasising capacity to deliver and discipline. The 2010 elections in Namboole were not the fairest. I ran against him for SG [secretary general] but because I put party interests over personal interests, I just ate humble pie and submitted to the results and the party went on. So why does he do it? We allowed him to be SG although we were not happy with the results.
The conduct of those elections was very questionable. All the delegates will tell you that those results were questionable but we have served the NRM. We didn’t choose personal interests above the party otherwise we would have torn the party apart. When you have disagreements in the house you don’t set it on fire.

You don’t have the kindest words for Mbabazi. If he became president would you salute him?
Yes! Why not? He would be a result of the decision of the people of Uganda. When he becomes president we shall salute him, that will be the legitimate decision of Ugandans and we shall respect it but I hope they will not make that mistake.

What do you make of the fallout between Museveni and Mbabazi in light of the fact that he joins a list of other historical members leaving the yellow bus?
I don’t know anything about the fallout between Mbabazi and the President. That Mbabazi has decided to challenge the President is not a fallout. NRM is a democratic party, in a democratic country under a democratic dispensation, so Mbabazi challenging the President doesn’t mean they have fallen out. Our party constitution allows it so he committed no crime. I only question his going Independent because if he wanted to challenge the chairman he should have done so in the party.

Do you actually believe Museveni would accept to lose that election?
He would! The Museveni I know would fall in and campaign for Mbabazi were he to defeat him at the delegates’ conference.

His argument is that NRM is incapable of a democratic election where one seeks to challenge Gen Museveni
But he is the architect of the mechanism we are using. So is he trying to tell us the mechanism we put in place was defective?

Perhaps it is not just about mechanisms because what is on paper is at variance with what is practiced
Do you repair a car by driving it over a cliff or take it to a garage and repair it? There are organs of the party Mbabazi could have used to ensure there are no shortcomings such as CEC, NEC and delegates’ conference. He should have first of all put his agenda forward and if people didn’t listen, say I told you. He didn’t do that.

You saw what happened at Namboole on December 15, 2014, where the security apparatus hijacked the delegates’ conference just to ensure Mbabazi is technically locked out of NRM
Did you attend the delegates’ conference?

Yes, I was there
Did you listen to what we discussed internally? You were not there as a journalist!

We got information as we always do, on what transpired
That is hearsay. I can assure you that the whole process from CEC and NEC at Entebbe to delegates’ conference at Namboole was per our rules. If they were not per our rules Mbabazi with his legalistic mind would have gone to challenge our decisions in court. He didn’t.

His spokesperson, Benjamin Alipanga, challenged that process and six months later court has not fixed a date for hearing of the case
Well, I don’t tell the courts what to do. I manage the ministry of Justice but I don’t tell the courts what to do. That is their constitutional right so address that to the Chief Justice.

Now, you are contesting against Mr Odrek Rwabwogo and Matayo Kyaligonza. The two have instigated a debate on young blood vs old guard giving way. Which view do you subscribe to?
They are both wrong. That decision should be made by the party faithful. Neither should the young Turks tell the old guard to go away nor the old guard tell the young ones not to run. Let’s all present our programmes, let the electorate listen and decide.
All I know is that what Mr Rwabwogo knows I know but what I know he doesn’t know because I have been around for a bit of time. He has been arguing about ideology. We are the architects of the NRM ideology. So what is he trying to teach us?

He says there is stagnation in so far as spreading NRM ideology is concerned…
What does he want to say that we don’t know? What is his ideological orientation? Because the social fabric determines the ideology you pursue. So what is his ideology? Is he pro-people or pro-individuals? He should tell us! We have not discerned his ideological orientation. The question is, are you pro-people or pro-individuals? Are you individualistic or for population centred service? What is your outlook? So until he discerns his ideological outlook, I don’t think he’s got much he is teaching us. I have no problem with anybody from those of 90 to 18. Let everyone come and contest.

What is the glue that keeps you in NRM, after all your senior colleagues have found the party unpalatable?
Because I believe in the party, not individuals and I believe that individuals make mistakes. When I disagree with President Museveni I don’t walk out of the party.

As minister of Justice, do you feel a sense of shame that out of at least 54 electoral reforms proposed by citizens through political parties and civil society your government only saw sense in change of the name of the EC?
I don’t feel ashamed because the proposed constitutional amendments were not 54 as it is alleged. They were actually 90. That is why we made the choice to subject them to a Constitutional Review Commission and decided to secure these.
There are certain constitutional issues we wanted to cure before the next dispensation so we decided to cure these and push everything else for review and scrutiny by the constitutional commission because this habit of reviewing the Constitution every other time a problem arises isn’t helpful.
We should do a comprehensive review of the Constitution under a constitutional commission constituted by the new incoming administration to put up the commission, carry out proper consultations and debate the review.

That makes sense, but what happens to voices from Opposition such as Dr Kizza Besigye that argue we are back to square one where the election cannot be free and fair without an overhaul?
That is his view. Let’s put it to test.

That was put to test by the citizens expressing their views on the same in the compact gathered by political groups and civil society
No! These civil society, whom do they represent? Which people do they consult? The only representatives of the people are MPs and members of the district councils who are elected. Who do civil societies represent? What is their shape and size? Should we take two or three NGOS as representative of the people? All these fellows, whose mandate do they have and on whose behalf do they speak?

The reverse is whose interests do the MPs represent? Is it actually the President or the people who voted them?
How many times have we presented Bills in NRM Caucus and it has rejected them? We have had to drop numerous Bills when the caucus says no. Recently, we didn’t want to create districts but the caucus forced us, the view of government was let’s put them on hold because of financial strain, caucus said no. Can you say that was Museveni’s view?

Possibly he didn’t have political interest in it
No! He has political interest in the welfare of the country. He is answerable for everything we do.

You have new constituencies and districts created a few months to the election and your critics are already saying this is a form of gerrymandering ahead of 2016, the same accusation you raised against Obote when going to the bush after the 1980 election
That is the work of people who use words they don’t properly understand. Gerrymandering is done by a group of people sitting and determining who votes where. These are counties created by district councils, where people have been consulted. There was broad participation in the creation of these counties, so where was the gerrymandering?

Talk in the political corridors is that we might return to 2005 where the Constitution was amended to suit an individual’s interest and this time round the presidential age limit could be scrapped…
Have you heard that proposal? I am minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs and responsible for amending the Constitution. We haven’t tabled it, I have not heard. Where do those people who claim it is going to be amended get the notion?

Is that something you would support if it came up?
Why don’t you allow me cross the bridge when I get there? Even if I was to support it or oppose, would I force it on the population?

Mbabazi claims he, with the benefit of hindsight, appreciates now that term limits are the only sure safe guard against abuse of power. Has experience taught you the same lesson?
I respect his view, maybe he has had change of mind. He was the chief marketer of term limits, now he is saying with hindsight they should be restored. Let’s put his idea to debate.

What is your own view?
I have no change of mind. For as long as somebody is properly voted, why should I force the population to make a choice where they could have made otherwise? When they get rid of Museveni they just tell him sorry.

But how do they do that when he has entrenched himself so much as to stifle their expression against him?
How does he entrench himself? Does he entrench himself on people’s heads?

By abusing state power, for instance?
Why don’t you enumerate how he abuses state power?

The Supreme Court did so in 2001 and 2006 when it held the election wasn’t free and fair
But why don’t you finish the conclusion that nevertheless the anomalies were not significant to affect the outcome. Why don’t you read that sentence in its entirety?

I invite you to read Justice George Kanyeihamba’s revelation on how that last sentence you like to quote was arrived at by the justices of the Supreme Court after intense pressure from the President
I have read him. Does the Justice Kanyeihamba say he was intimidated as a judge? Why didn’t he resign? If he says that then he is a liar. Even if he was not lying he is bound by majority decision and the courts of law are independent in making their decisions.

That independence was shaken in 2006 according to Kanyeihamba…
Why didn’t the Supreme Court judges resign?

Well, did they have a choice?
They had a choice. They would say Mr President you have intimidated us and we have resigned.

That is under the assumption of an ideally free society
Listen! Mbabazi resigned and left as a presidential aspirant, has he been arrested? Kizza Besigye walked out, Gen Muntu left, has he been arrested? Tinyefuza is going around insulting us left, right and centre, has he been arrested?

What do you make of the Sejusa situation?
Sometimes you just let certain things go by because if Tinyefuza [now called Sejusa] is looking for an excuse to get arrested why should we give him that excuse? Of what consequence are his utterances? By ignoring him we have created a better atmosphere.

He is now calling for a change of regime by force
Well, let’s watch and see if he achieves it. If he attempts forceful change then he will have crossed the Rubicon because the laws that govern Uganda are clear.

What precedent is being set by government on conduct of soldiers by allowing him behave the way he does?
It is not a precedent. He left on his own, went to Europe, came back on his own, asked to be allowed to come back and contrary to army regulations he is now expressing his views. May be there are other considerations, his health and other things; there are things we take into consideration before we effect measures.

Museveni is clocking 30 years in power and he is ranking high among Africa’s longest serving rulers whom he earlier diagnosed as Africa’s problem though he later amended his own statement. Don’t you feel he has had his time on the stage?
If I say he has been around for too long I would also be saying the same thing about myself because I have been around for the same length and do you I think I am incapable of service?

You are actually a fine minister
So if I am super why do you want to get rid of me because I have been around for 30 years? Why do you want to change a winning team? Have you seen what is happening in Burundi, South Sudan, Libya, Syria? Is that what you want?

The fear is that the more he entrenches himself the more he pushes the nation into that direction
Yes, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. If the situation gets untenable then we shall see how to address it. But for as long as Ugandans are exercising their democratic right through elections, why should we deny them that opportunity? If only we said there will be no elections, then you would say you people are creating a bottle neck, pressure is building and there could be an explosion but elections are a safety valve.

There were elections in Egypt where Hosni Mubarak won with a landslide and months later there was an explosion
Those were not elections but selections and in any case I wouldn’t want to express myself about the Egyptian situation because I am not an Egyptian.

And people are saying there is everything wrong with our elections
But how can we have everything wrong with our election before we conduct the election?

We have had elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. Did Museveni win or did he lose?

His winning has been contested
Yes, but he has been winning marginally, 64, 60, 57, he has never got 94-96, meaning there is competition. Otherwise why would he be traversing the country spending sleepless nights looking for votes if he was sure he is going to win?

Museveni’s critics argue he is clearly on a life presidency project. Do you subscribe to the notion that he wants to rule till he dies in power?
I have not yet come to that conclusion because if Museveni wanted to be President for life he wouldn’t be subjecting himself to elections and busy campaigning.

Do we have an attempt to groom leadership for a post-Museveni Uganda within NRM?
Why should we groom anybody? Why should I bequeath anybody anything I don’t own? Who owns the party? President Museveni doesn’t own the party, he doesn’t own the presidency. If he owned the presidency he would not be seeking votes, so how can you bequeath what you don’t have?
Why should anybody groom a successor in a democratic society? Yes, I agree we can train leadership but we can’t impose a successor.

So this speculated ‘Muhoozi Project’ Sejusa talked about before he fled is not real?
No. It doesn’t make sense. It is nonsense. That one I personally will oppose. NRM must choose leaders in a free and democratic manner.

What is your last word General?
Let the people of Uganda vote for President Museveni and people of NRM vote me as vice chairman of western region.