SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
6th October 2005
Museveni wants to control everything

SSEBAANA KIZITO, 71, is mayor of Kampala. For five years (1986 -1991), he served as a cabinet minister in President Museveni's government. He told EDRIS KIGGUNDU about Museveni the man, politician:

First meeting with Museveni

I had known Museveni before [1980 elections] when he was a member of the Military Commission. Even before he started UPM [Uganda Patriotic Movement] between 1979 and 1980, there was an attempt to talk to him to see if he could join DP [Democratic Party] but he declined. I found him to be an energetic young man who was very ambitious because he wanted to put his point of view across and in many cases he wanted his point of view to remain.

Ssebaana Kizito
Fact file
Born: 1934
Home district: Luwero Education: Ndejje Secondary School, Kings College Budo, Makerere University (BA Economics) Oregon University, USA (MA Economics)

Political Career

  • Mayor, Kampala City (1999 to date)
  • CA delegate, Makindye East (1994 to 1995)
  • Minister of Housing and Urban Planning (1989-1991)
  • Minister of Co-operatives and Marketing (1987 to 1989)
  • Minister of Regional Co-operation (1986 to 1987)
  • MP Kampala South (Presently Makindye East), 1980 to 1985

Professional Career

  • Executive Director, Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) 1963
  • Executive Director, Crusader Insurance Company 1964
  • Co-founder, National Insurance Corporation (NIC). Worked here as director (1965 to 1980)

How I came to work with him

When he was still in Masaka in 1985, the DP sent three or four emissaries to go and look at what was happening in the liberated areas…you know he was liberating areas and appointing LCs. So we said let’s go and find out. One of the people [emissaries] was John Kawanga [now MP, Masaka Municipality]. I don’t remember the others. They went and brought a report saying that people were happy in the areas [under Museveni] so we got ready for him.
And when he took power from Lutwa [Tito Okello], I led DP MPs (34 or 35) to meet Museveni, and we assured him and had hope in him. He said: “This is good.” We assured him that we were going to co-operate with him. We told him that we knew he did not have much knowledge about the country yet we had people in all parts of the country.

Appointed minister

After one month, he appointed me minister of Regional Co-operation. When I was minister of Regional Co-operation, we traveled a lot to introduce him to neighbouring countries…well, he was known but some of these countries knew him negatively. I remember we went to Kenya, Tanzania…this was a period when there was some apprehension towards him because he had come to government using force of arms and they [neighbouring] countries were fearful that he might export some revolutionary ideas, so they needed to be reassured. We had to portray him as a person who is going to be friendly to his neighbours and that although he acquired power using force he is not intending to export these ideas.

In cabinet

He used to chair [cabinet meetings] when he had time. Most of the cabinet meetings were chaired by the late [Samson] Kisekka who was the prime minister. But he could come when you are about to finish and the prime minister reports to him what has been discussed, and he puts in his ideas. Sometimes he would come in and say: “No I think this one should be this.” Then you would see some cabinet ministers arguing in favour of his point of view whereas originally they had argued in favour of another point of view. So he is a person who wants his view taken.

Most of the contacts I had with Museveni were in cabinet. After moving from the ministry of Regional Co-operation, I went to the ministry of Co-operatives and Marketing for about two years. This ministry was very important to the country. That was a time when coffee was enjoying high prices internationally and everybody was after Uganda’s coffee because of its quality.

But some of the policies that were introduced at that time, like barter trade, affected coffee very much. Some of the ministers would go to countries and negotiate coffee deals without contacting me. This is because whenever they went to Bugolobi [where the national coffee stores were], they used to see stocks and stocks of coffee and some of my colleagues were of the impression that those stocks are there because we have failed to sell them. They thought they were doing the country a favour by getting a market through barter trade. But some of these decisions were detrimental.

Ever opposed him?

I did [oppose him] especially when I was a minister of Co-operatives and Marketing. There were many instances when we could not see eye to eye. For example, on the issue of barter trade I was always telling him that our coffee is very much on demand on the world market and people can pay us in dollars which we can use to buy other commodities. I remember some envoys here from countries which were benefiting from barter trade accusing me of being a capitalist, saying that probably I wanted cash.
Then we disagreed on government involvement in co-operatives because basically I am a private businessman who does not want interference.

There was also a time when I was in cabinet and he came to me and told me: “You minister of Co-operatives and Marketing, there is so much beans in the countryside which you are not buying. For example, a fellow came from Mbarara and told me he has got so many kilogrammes of beans, which you are not buying.” Then I told him: “Your Excellency, I don’t believe that man… I forget the man’s name… because we have got a buying centre in Mbarara and this buying centre has money to buy these beans. If this man wanted to sell beans, he would go to Mbarara rather than come to State House.” He said: “No, I am going to send there my private secretary to find out and I will make you embarrassed.” That time it [private secretary] was Sserwanga Lwanga (RIP). He sent him with a helicopter with this man and Sserwanga Lwanga found out that the man had only half a bag of beans in his possession. But later on, when I came to investigate the matter, I found that all this man wanted was the President to give him a vehicle.

How I fell out with him

It was in 1991 when I was minister of Housing and Urban Development. As a matter of fact I did not clamour for these public jobs. I was there because I loved my country. In my own way it was a relief. It was by public announcement on the radio. You hear that so and so is a minister and you don’t hear your name.


Weaknesses

The problem with him is lack of assignment. You see, if you are in a position where the President is, you make a decision but you need somebody else to implement that decision at another level. What I found out about him is that he is very fond of details. If he asks you for something and you respond, he will ask you another question like, why?

When I was in the ministry of Regional Co-operation, we were negotiating with some Kenyans regarding the establishment of the phosphates factory in Tororo. At that time there was some issue, which was being discussed. He asked for figures and so on. Some of these were available but others were not. So he said: “No, I cannot present a case without these figures.” So we had to ring home for an expert in this field to come and join us. If you need details as much as that, it means you cannot take on too much otherwise you will be confused. These days, people confuse him too much. They take everything to him and therefore this issue of not giving other people authority to make decisions, I think, is not proper.

His agenda

May be he genuinely believes he has it [a vision for Uganda]. But going back to what I have said, he has not empowered people to think for him. Because he bites too much, not much can be done.

How they compare

I have not worked with other presidents closely….I worked with [Milton] Obote in the sense that I was a Member of Parliament but I think President Museveni is more active than Obote was. President Museveni wants to have control of everything.

About districts

I am of the opinion that these districts are created without much thinking. Because the districts should work as economic units… you like it or not people live to earn a living. Therefore, you must gear all your policies towards making the country economically viable. If you are well off economically, all other things will follow. I wanted a Uganda which is receiving aid now but which can also give out aid at the same time. May be 10 or 20 years from now we shall be among the countries which will be going to Paris to give aid. And we are capable of doing that if we arrange our economy.

Interfering with KCC

People who surround him are confusing him. I want to tell this country that we at KCC [Kampala City Council] are for development. I hold the opinion that he [Museveni] does not have much hand [in interfering with KCC] but people like [Moses] Byaruhanga (Special Presidential Assistant) …imagine Byaruhanga what experience has he got? He is one of the people who said that there was a young man who fell from a boda boda (motorcycle) and died [due to the negligence of KCC], yet there was nothing like that. It was something made up in the hope that Ssebaana’s name is spoilt. Being a mayor is not a matter of life and death to me. As a matter of fact it is a sacrifice.

Epitaph

I want to be remembered as a person who is a believer in private enterprise. And I want to be known as a person who looks at the future of this country and who wants to see the country organised as an enterprise.