By Daily Monitor
Former Security minister has said he is only second to President Museveni when it comes to people who know Uganda and how well to run it.
The presidential aspirant made the remarks in an interview with Daily Monitor and below are the excerpts.
You are a new entrant into the murky journey of Opposition politics in the country. How are you prepared for 2021 to change the government, which has been in power for 34 years?
First of all, I am not new in the Opposition. What could be new is whether I have ever come to the surface clearly in the Opposition, but I started a political party called Progressive Alliance Party (PAP). We did our work although it got some issues and it was transformed into another party. Since 2003, I was out of government until 2015 when I came back. My coming back was for tactical reasons.
My commitment to having change in this country is on record. I came out at a critical time to oppose what was wrong and I continue to do so up to today.
You say you re-joined President Museveni for tactical reasons and that you had always been in Opposition; what did you want to achieve at that time?
The biggest limitation I had was being a serving soldier. That is what always stood between me and politics. I don’t know whether the circumstances have changed because you can be arrested and thrown into prison. At least now, there is no legal barrier standing. So as far as I am concerned, that was a grand achievement. For whatever reasons, whether misunderstood or what, there is what they call foolhardy fighting where you go into a fight without purpose. I am a General and I know when to apply tactics in fighting to achieve something that will be great for you.
I don’t want to go into detail but if you have been tracking me, in 2005 I was in court in Makindye. If I had remained in those circumstances, I don’t think you would be here interviewing me today.
What do you bring to the Opposition?
I am a new tackle to this concept because I know Uganda very well– I think next to President Museveni. I have moved around the whole country and people know me as Henry Tumukunde. If you go to your home area, you can check what I look like and see that people are not using newspapers or TVs; they know me as a person.
Number two, I have operated in sensitive areas like when I was a commander in northern Uganda during the war and when schools were crowded in bushes. I had quite a good relationship with the people of northern Uganda, including West Nile.
When I took over as a chief of JATT (Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce), we had lost 90 people in one day. When I hear people talking about terrorism, they don’t remember those days. They only talk of the 2010 bombing at Lugogo. There was a time we used to lose many people. I worked with Muslim clerics and imams and all people who had information about terrorism and we stopped it. I also stood in my home area Rukungiri and became the CA delegate.
I know the country as a chief of military intelligence, commander of northern Uganda war, Director General of Internal Security Oraganisation, East Africa diplomat and so many others. I know the whole of Uganda now.
I am educated, I am a lawyer by profession and have done oil and gas and military training and was MP for 15 years, minister and served in the court of St James in UK. I think this exposure brings something to the table. I have used 11 passports and travelled to more than 40 countries of the world.
Having been at the heart of governance for many years, what did you discover to be the biggest problem of Uganda?
Well, about being at the heart, yes. For the short period I was in I was at the heart.
You were part of the guerrilla war that brought this government to power in 1986. That puts you at the heart of it for many years until 2018.
Yes and you should not hang us for it. We are here because we went through that time, you should be thankful.
So what is Uganda’s biggest problem?
Uganda’s biggest problem is issues of governance. For instance how much do you spend on administrative costs? The other day they created nine more constituencies and I think we have too many already– 431 MPs [they are 445- editor], 80 ministers, 200 presidential advisors, local councils and town councils. That is why they have to introduce OTT tax to cushion those irrelevant expenditures.
You sound like you do not believe in decentralisation, which the government you have been serving introduced to ensure good governance
Decentralisation is not Ugandan. It emanates from a Catholic philosophy called subsidiarity and it was adopted in Europe, especially in Germany. There is no problem with that but you can decentralise without causing so much pressure to the budget.
Let us talk about other things we spend on; these capital intensive programmes– electricity and roads. We need power and roads but it is not that all you need you must spend on. You can balance your expenditure and investment to make sure your money generates wealth and builds the capital.
There is debt and what we use it for. For the first time in a long time I have heard that Uganda is concerned about money they borrow and they don’t use it. Why should you borrow money which you are not ready to use and on which you must pay interest? These are governance issues, these are decisions made in the government centre.
We have oil on the surface. Praise President Museveni, he struggled so much to have oil on the surface and when it reached, the “banamagezi” (schemers) of Museveni took over the scene. What I would have done as President is to concentrate on the small refineries and make sure money from there facilitates the production of the other oil. The other question would be its transportation. There is a bit of mathematics that has to be done. With oil now at $42 a barrel, do you have to ship this oil from here to Tanzania and deep up to Tanga in a hidden pipeline, which is very expensive?
If 60 per cent of the pipeline is in Tanzania, how much control will you have? This will be the second longest pipeline after one in Russia. Now with the price of oil per barrel, how will you balance the production cost and profit making?
So do you think there should be a refinery built here in Uganda rather than trading the oil through pipelines?
With the current price of petrol, I would do a small refinery here to take care of our needs as we wait to see if the situation gets better.
How would you work on Uganda’s debt which stands at a staggering Shs49 trillion if you became President?
Our first and biggest war would be on debt. An indebted country is a sick country. We would create our own wealth in order to service the debt burden. We turn things like cocoa, coffee, tea and other crops and get more money. We can also work on the cost of transportation. We are importing heavily and we are raw material net exporters, which puts us in a very difficult position.
Last week it was reported that CMI and UPDF raided ISO safe houses in Kireka and there was fire exchange. Does that mean that the security of this country is shaky?
As a former security chief, it is not in my interest and the interest of the country to start discussing security issues, which don’t have facts. It is also unfortunate that two security organs, as you say, can start clashing. Sometimes there are rivalries in some of these entities, which is natural but what I don’t know is whether they should go this far.
Based on your knowledge about the security, do you find any glitches that need to be addressed if you come to power?
For me what continues to bother me is that persons like Kaweesi (Andrew Felix, former AIP), (former Arua Municipality MP) Abiriga getkilled and my friend Muhammed Kirumira gets killed and you don’t catch the killers and then the way the operations are conducted.
But the people you mention here were killed under your watch as minister of Security?
We were not given a platform to lay down our ideas. Are you sure there is enough motivation? Look, I have told you that as a former Director General of ISO, what are the privileges given to us? That is why we have been coming out to make sure that we get a platform to lay ideas that would work for the people of Uganda.
Is this why more Generals are breaking away from President Museveni, who led you into the bush to fight for a cause, and are joining Opposition politics?
Who told you the cause is still the same?
I don’t know
The cause is not the same. Secondly minds are dynamic and we are not slaves of a thinking forever. If things are not flowing very well and if our ideas are not properly accommodated, what do we do? The cause that took us to the bush is not permanent. Circumstances have changed. We have reasons to differ and reasons to think differently. I think differently. We don’t want to be captives of yesterday; it is not a religious cult. It is a dynamic situation where politics and ideas that dress it can only change.
What has changed?
Our ideas don’t have sufficient space. Is that small? We have also developed and moved on. We had agreed on many things like the 10-point programme…..
What are your ideas?
We are drafting them at the moment. Wait for them, you will see and hear them soon.
What do you have to say about a coalition as the Opposition gears up for the 2021?
That is the most suitable thing to do. But some Ugandans will choose to go with whoever they want if we don’t come up with one candidate. We have been talking as people in the Opposition and I am ready to back a candidate whom we come up with.
We may be talking but the fundamentals are not yet achieved. I heard last night about FDC leaders saying they are not ready to back anyone and I was surprised. But if we fail to go into a coalition, Ugandans will choose for us who they want to lead them.
You have talked to Bobi Wine before about working together. Are you considering choosing one candidate for the race?
Yes, he is a brilliant young man who has brought himself up from different circumstances with vibrant ideas. Why not meet him and talk about issues? I would be ready to back him if he will be the one chosen by the Opposition. We are looking at changing the government.
For the other politicians I am surprised they are not willing to talk about a coalition but if we fail to come up with a candidate by the time we go into the race, Ugandans will have known who is qualified to be their leader.
What can the Opposition do to oust Museveni?
Work together, then look at the defects in the past elections. One of them is the electoral process, for example, there are 34,000 polling stations. Do you find Opposition monitoring teams there? How then do you raise your case? Just because Ugandans love money they can’t even guard their votes. I was watching an election of NRM in Rukungiri District and you can’t believe it. Our people in the morning had gone to fetch allowances by the time they came, other people had finished voting. The electoral process must be fully committed to the election.