Tumwebaze speaks out on ongoing cabinet retreat, Besigye’s ‘irresponsible’ politics

FRANK TUMWEBAZE, (40) is the Minister of ICT  &  National Guidance .

Tumwebaze who has represented Kamwenge for a while now became prominent on the political scene in 2012 when he was appointed the minister for presidency and Kampala Capital City Authority.

Apparently, since last Monday, the newly sworn-in cabinet is in a closed-door retreat at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi.

But before his departure on July 24, Tumwebaze, the official spokesperson of the government first appeared on NBS’s Morning breeze to discuss a wide-range of issues;

Below is a slightly abridged version of a 54-minute discourse as transcribed by www.muwado.com

 

Give us a sense of what is on the agenda?

Well, the agenda is about cabinet business. But this time we are retreating as cabinet joined by the permanent secretaries.

You know a ministry is headed by a minister assisted by a minister of state where a minister of state exists. But the technical head and the custodian of the funds or the accounting officer is the permanent secretary.

And in cabinet, the secretary to the cabinet is the head of public service who is the technical supervisor of the permanent secretaries.

So, this is a forum now where the political heads of ministries (ministers) and the technocrats are getting together to really discuss and humour out key performance indicators…

So, it (retreat) is kind of peer discussion because cabinet discussions that we normally on Wednesdays are short…so, we go there to discuss key items on the agenda three or five but now this is a retreat of one week to really go through the nitty-gritty.

 

But it’s coming barely two months since ministers were appointed. One would imagine that there is something very critical that may be you realised that you need to sort out.

That is precisely so. You have a new team in office, you want to align them where you to go. Some of them (ministers) are very new not only in cabinet, but also new in the sector.

So, really it’s very important because you don’t allow people to first go deep into their work schedules and then you bring them back.

Yes, we could go back to a retreat later on to assess ourselves may be mid-term or mid-annual as we normally do but this is very important.

Right from the beginning, let me know what my targets are.

 

But it’s not usual practice honourable back then cabinet has been operating without going for such retreats.

Oh, that is good for you (to know) that is no longer business as usual. Every organisation must always look forward to new approaches of improving performance and new approaches of responding to challenges because you have a president saying we must move fast.

You know his (president Museveni’s) famous comment when he was bidding fare-well to the previous cabinet he said that “this is the cabinet that nearly took this country to middle-income.”

So, he is now saying that you are the cabinet that will take this country to the middle-income status.

Now, let me tell you if you hear countries like Malasia and others. They set up their visions. Now every day, week, month, quarter, they (countries) measure progress…

If you are saying our target in health sector is to eradicate malaria by 2010, they want to see progressively, how we are reducing that incidence of malaria daily, weekly, monthly.

Well, we are not replicating Malasia, but we are simply saying that we want to have our priorities right, well conceptualised by everybody. Yes, I am a minister of ICT, but I must know that ICT works together with Works, Agriculture because you have heard about e-agriculture, e-health…

So, the retreat is really exposing us to every corner of government both your own docket that you superintend as a minister and also the docket of your colleague.

 

To me, this sounds to me more of politics than management.

What is politics there? We are talking about cabinet business if it was politics, we would be in the field (or) in Entebbe mobilizing wanainch or in Kamwenge (district) having rallies…

 

I mean what you are telling me, the business of the week, the head of the cabinet (president) will be addressing the ministers, who else?

The head of state, different ministers will have presentations; I for example, will be having a presentation.

The retreat is organised by the NRM secretariat…

 

It’s also strange

It’s not strange and not out of order because in multi-party dispensation, the government in power implements the manifesto of the ruling party. Government didn’t go to contest, NRM went to contest and won and formed government.

So, madam Kasule Lumumba (NRM secretary General) is right to knock on my door, Amelia Kyambadde (Minister for trade’s) door… and say how are you implementing my manifesto that I was sold and bought by Ugandans?

So, it’s the party that oversees the government in terms of implementing the policies.

 

So, its party business?

It’s party-government business because even when parliament is sitting and appropriates the budget, that budget is to finance the NRM manifesto.

 

Is it the party footing the bill or government?

Not at all. It is a government retreat organised by the secretariat of the party which won. It’s to ask government what are the plans we have vis-à-vis what we pledged to the people.

It (NRM party) is actually holding us (government) accountable and that is good for the citizens.

 

Is there an impression that some ministers are not sure of what they meant to be performing in their different dockets?

I really don’t know, but you can’t say I know it all for sure…

 

One would imagine that as you go to Kyankwanzi, top on the agenda is what is trending (which is) removing the age-cup for the presidency.

When did it start trending? I am behind the news.

 

It’s known, it’s a huge discussion

Who wants to remove it? Well, that is not an issue for discussion now…

 

Is it on the agenda?

 

Not at all. Cabinet business is cabinet business. Political issues of how people want to be governed or not is not the business now and speculation is also not healthy for service delivery.

Really, there is time for politicking, there is time for work and that is why I take issues with some of your politicians. I saw your friend Kizza Besigye on the morning breeze (saying that) people of Kampala, Wakiso, come and fight.

They (people) want to eat not to fight.

 

No he didn’t say that

What did he say?

 

He said that he could easily mobilize the people of Kampala…

I have been watching you. He has been calling for an uprising. What he forgets is that riots that are spontaneously seen are never mobilized for. They are a result of deep discontent.

When you go to Egypt, you will find that popular uprisings had no leaders. The point I am telling you is that there is time for everything.

Time for politicking, it’s time for service delivery.

 

 Is Besigye on your work plan?

Not at all.

 

Besigye is a political question, isn’t he?

You see, time for elections ended. Besigye has been participating in Uganda’s elections since 2000. He has been getting in a position of number two. A big number of Ugandans support him, but he has never secured the majority of Ugandans to make him president.

That is a fact he must accept. So, by trying to selfishly push for an agenda that will paralyze Uganda, nobody will accept it.

Thank God you have a president called Museveni who has been his contender (and) has never been radical like Besigye. If Museveni was to be as radical as Besigye is and we could create two radical factions of Ugandans of five million (supporters) of Museveni and three million (supporters) of Besigye, Uganda would be under anarchy.

 

You seem to treat Besigye as insignificant in addressing the political question of the day

He is actually irresponsible. You cannot wakeup everyday to call upon young people to go and fight. You call young people, you dress them in red tops and call them red-top brigade and tell them to go and become violent well aware that we have young people whom he radicalized and misled to follow Besigye and got killed.

Where is James Opoka, where is Sam Mugumya who recently went to the jungles of Democratic Republic of Congo? So, the irresponsibility I am talking about is not drawing a line of distinction between political contestation and welfare of Ugandans.

 

What has stopped you from dissuading the youths not to follow Besigye?

We do, that is why he loses (elections) but he also has supporters.

 

You are talking about elections whose outcome is questionable to date.

Questionable to who? Whether according to Besigye, there is no single election where Besigye has ever conceded defeat and you ask yourself logically, how does Besigye claim to have won an election?

There are no structures everywhere. His only party is divided about the question of strategy. (General Migisha)Muntu (FDC president) says we will never win election by riots; “we will win through organized political structures.”

In 2001, Besigye contested you know the percentage he got. He says I was rigged. In the following elections (2006) he says I was rigged, the following elections, he says, I have no faith in the system of election, but he continues to contest in the same system.

The same political geography of support continues because we know where Besigye has support and where he doesn’t. And where he has support, he gets it, he gets the MPs, and he gets the LC5s.

Before elections, even opinion polls tell you that NRM is leading, Museveni is leading.

So, Besigye being a political question, one, he must accept that political support is not secured through selfish aggression of trying to paralyze a country. The moment you do that, you will be resisted.

 

Would it be prudent discussing key policy issues with ministers when there is some semblance of restlessness among the population no wonder police has embarked on caning them?

There is no restlessness.  Restlessness is instigated by an individual who failed to win popular support but wants to make himself relevant by confronting the police, instigating chaos and misleading the supporters.

Yes he (Besigye) is an issue because of his behavior. So, government and the police will actually police…why doesn’t police caning supporters of Mbabazi?

 

Mbabazi is off the political ladder

Being on the political ladder doesn’t mean that you go on streets and mobilize people. In America, actually interestingly, Sunday Monitor I was being asked about the American people, but I think I was diplomatic.

Go and goggle the behavior of the police in the US. They don’t beat with canes, they shoot. If they stop you, you must raise your hands.

 

So, whipping is a civil action and you seem to be commending the police for their actions.

Not necessarily, but at the same time, I will condemn police if they accept lawlessness to thrive. If they (police) make a mistake of using methods that seem not to ride with methods that are acceptable, I will condemn them.

 

What’s brutality to you?

They should have used methods of brutality than that, they should have killed people because they had been provoked.

If you stone a police officer (who is) armed, world over that officer will shoot you and will not be charged.

 

You are buying into an idea that they are provoked?

When you host Kizza Besigye here, a much respected leader wanting to be president and you don’t put him to task to rigorously explain his behavior and you are quick at condemning your junior sisters and brothers who are recruited into the police force, then you are not from mars.

If we don’t behave ourselves, we don’t expect policemen to.

 

Do the actions of police suggest anything?

When you become a terrorist, police will devise means of countering you. When political leaders who have lost elections and failed to concede defeat because of their inflated egos and turn into organizing youths and call then red brigades, police will devise every means to counter them for the safety of the public.

Really, this is a matter we must talk about. Police are part and parcel of the public. Policemen could have voted Besigye. It’s not an issue of NRM, it’s an issue of the police and their role towards the public.

 

You descend on the by-standers, you beat them up

That is an isolated case you are trying to play for the sake of justifying other means. The fellows (police officers) are in court but I would want you to condemn people stoning policemen, I want you to talk about a man called Ariong who was stoned by a rioter of Besigye…

 

Do you want to suggest that the media has gone in bed with Besigye?

I don’t understand whatever you do with him. You know him better, you can also go in bed with me, and I see some people here. For me, I don’t mind as long as you allow me to speak.

 

How come there is that skewed version of the story all the time?

I don’t know may be police is not good at telling their story, but do you agree that you have seen actions of leaders and members of the public that are not acceptable everywhere?

You can’t stone a policeman in America, they will shoot you. You cannot resist arrest.

 

That is all the discontent that should inform the agenda, why are people beaten and why people follow Besigye spontaneously?

Yes he’s a politician. If Museveni came on the street, people will follow him. That is why the president’s convoy leaves Nakasero, there is some warning and when he’s leaving Entebbe, he prefers coming at night when traffic has slowed down because of fearing to disrupt the traffic.

Nobody disputes that Besigye has followers, he is popular…

So, we are not in a contest of showing how popular we are because we know that Besigye is number two, but we are not going to live in a mood that “I am a candidate” Besigye is not a candidate…

 

Does he have a right to wave at his supporters?

He has it…

 

The US is condemning the way opposition politicians are treated in the country to the extent of warning that the AGOA deal could be affected. What is your take on that?

You saw my response to them yesterday. We reject their (US) narrative. What we do here is not different from what they do at home.

Theirs is much more restrictive, brutal if I’m to use the word you are misplacing because (our) police have not killed anybody on the streets.

 

So, the description of brutality is misleading?

Theirs (US) is deceptive rhetoric. What they talk is not what they do. No country in the world, accepts lawlessness. Defiance means lawlessness…Besigye will only become a president if he goes out, sells his party and wins.

If he fails to win, he will never get power outside the constitutional framework we have.

 

So, the narrative that Besigye could have been rigged is false?

It’s the deception that he has been selling. I want you to go back and look t the archives of our researches. Every election we go to, independent opinions of poll stars before we even vote, they carryout research and quite often they try to show NRM margin as minimal…

 

Now that the Kyankwanzi retreat has been organized by the NRM, don’t you realize that it’ll be a moment for soul-searching where perhaps you need to galvanize as NRM to counter the opposition and that becomes part of the agenda?

It’s simple. We have been voted to deliver services. Service delivery is the first call as to why people could have voted you. Besigye is not elected to serve and so, he has nothing to account for as the other opposition parties.

So, NRM is not going to be diverted by that ping pong and altercations of Besigye. That is why the president is not bothered about Besigye.

Kyankwanzi is looked as a center for political indoctrination. So, taking PSs in a retreat organized by NRM would be perceived widely as something that is meant to align PSs in the party.

That is misinformation and I think let’s correct and always state what is factual…

 

When would you accept that perhaps there need for some bit of soul-searching to realign yourselves with partners for instance the US?

We work with the US quite often. You need to know that we have good working relationship.

 

But when they raise a red-flag why don’t you acknowledge that there is something wrong and do soul-searching?

We don’t accept something that is not right.

Obama went to UK and advised them against Brexit but they said that we accept good views by friends, but are going away. So, it’s also important that we accept what is right and reject what we don’t agree with.

So, if I don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t value our mutual friendship in diplomatic ties.

Because if somebody creates a narrative those journalists are arrested for covering anti-government issues, it’s a false-hood.

It means that every journalist who has authored an anti-government story which I see every day would be in prison. So, it’s unfair therefore, for you to make a conclusive reporting that journalists in Uganda who are anti-government being arrested.

 

Is bailing out of the Uganda’s rich men on the agenda (of the Kyankwanzi retreat)?

Not really. I have seen this come out prominently in the media, but unfortunately, I think it’s more of big speculation. The president in his State of the nation-address made an observation that apparently, our home-grown companies or industries need assistance through our intervention…

So, the framework will come to cabinet and perhaps to parliament and discuss it.

 

Are you mindful of the uproar that has emerged?

People trade misinformation and live by it. So, the question is, is it bad to support our own companies?

 

But is it good to be selective on who should access these bailouts?

Where have you got it from when we have not done it? That is the problem we have and I think that we have a highly politicized population in Uganda.

We have not come to that one. When a tabloid comes out with speculative story that companies A, B, C, is not the issue. Government money is budgeted for and appropriated through the national legislature…

So, my player to the people of Uganda is that rumour-mongering and grapevines should never give you headache. Let us differentiate between falsehoods and facts.

There is no way government can selectively give out billions to companies without serious scrutiny…

 

 

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