Muhoozi should not be forced on Ugandans, says Mukula

Capt. Mukula speaks his mind recently. PHOTO BY ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

In 2016, President Museveni will be 73 years and according to Capt. Mike Mukula, too old to run the country.

Former Health minister and current National Resistance Movement (NRM) vice-chairman for eastern Uganda, Captain Mike Mukula reportedly told two top US Embassy officials that President Museveni’s popularity was decreasing within the NRM, and that Museveni may be grooming his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba as a successor. He talked to Sunday Monitor about what he told the envoys then and why he believes term limits should be reinstated.

1.How did you feel when the leaked Wikileaks cable about you was published?
The Wikileaks has now become a global diplomatic misadventure for the American embassies all over the world because of the leaked cables. It’s true that I met the American diplomats at La Chateau restaurant in Nsambya. We had a friendly lunch meeting over mutual concern. We were having discussion on matters of governance in Uganda and they were consulting me as a leader within the NRM party. It was normal and they do this usually. I gave them my honest views on certain things. However, some of the issues that have been raised in the diplomatic cable appear to be distorted and lack certain levels of accuracy. But there are certain fundamental issues I stand by, and I own them because I have said the same things before in the appropriate forum of the National Resistance Movement.

2.What are those issues that you own in the cable?
I have said very clearly and I stand by the issue of restoration of term limits and I raised this issue in the body politic of the NRM. Whereas we worked so hard to lift the term limits because of the insecurity that had encircled the country, half of the country was in camps, and ADF had encircled Uganda, we felt that President Museveni needed to be given an extended time to govern the country. But now that the country has attained a level of stability and President Museveni in five years to come will be 73 years, I think that we are now prepared to reinstate the presidential term limits. He was different because of his historical contribution. We are also going for the East African political federation and we will need to harmonise certain provisions of governance. Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have term limits- equally Uganda needs to go into this political brotherhood with the uniformity of others. But also hasten to add that President Museveni is not getting younger and we must now start looking at a post-Musevni era. My opening up should not be seen as being renegade. We have a saying in one of the local languages that ‘if you keep quiet about a sickness in home, then you will be woken up by the wailing.’

3.Other than restoring presidential term limits what else do you own in the cable?
I also very clearly talked about NRM support in Buganda. At that time, we had just witnessed the Kasubi tombs fire, the September riots, CBS radio closure and the President had said the king of Buganda had not picked his calls for almost three years. The ratings of Buganda were worrying at that time. So, it took certain pro-active measures to cure and raise the popularity of the Movement. Therefore my rating of the ruling party at that time that it would not win votes in Buganda was right and accurate because it took the President and government to re-open the CBS, meet the Kabaka, and meet religious leaders to restore confidence before the elections.

4.Have you communicated to President Museveni over this cable or he has called you?
I have written to him as the chairman of NRM. There are issues I raised in that letter, which I have also raised in the past. For example I told him that the proposed give-away of Mabira would not be supported and would cause political dissatisfaction. It’s our duty to preserve all these forests in the country for posterity. Secondly, whereas the President might be right on the production of sugar, I don’t agree that you can substitute the forests for sugar. It would be a suicidal environmental action to eliminate Mabira for sugar.

5.Has the President replied you?
I have not heard any response from him but I think we will have an appropriate time to discuss it. And I think the choice is his. I have expressed my views honestly and sincerely in the past, present and I will continuously do that.

6.Do you think the leaked cables will spoil your relationship with the President and do you think the President is grooming his son to succeed him?
I’m a very strong nationalist and pan Africanist. I have never been a traitor and I will never be a traitor. Meeting Americans does not make me a spy. In any case the President has equally met them. There are many deeper American security details that America shares with Uganda, which the security knows. Therefore this was just casual talk. On Muhoozi, I said that the President is gaining a lot of confidence in his son by the level of assignments he has given him and that he has had rapid promotion. Obviously anybody would wonder about all this.
But I don’t mind him contesting because he is above 35 years and has right to contest for any office in this country. But he should not be imposed onto the party and the country because it would have a backlash. My position was that; just in case he wants to bring his son into the picture, lots of things have to be weighed, especially the implications. Obviously it should not be an adulterated political process because this is not a kingdom.

7.Shall we see more cables related to you or that was the only time you discussed sensitive issues with the Americans?
I’m not the author of the cables and I don’t know the intention of leaking them. But let me respond to what has been leaked so far. But I must reiterate that the issues I raised in the cable including succession are important and Ugandans must discuss them. I have said for example that the issue of my standing is right for any Ugandan above the age of 35. Personally, I will at an appropriate time, consult my party, including the president about my interest to stand for President. I think President Museveni has worked hard for this country, I have high respect for him, he and his family have sacrificed for this country but I think, we may as a party, ask him to throw in the towel. It’s important we start persuading him to step aside in 2016. Like I said, he will be 73 years and I think he has served this country well but we must plan for life after him.