SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
15th December 2005
Museveni is too tolerant

FRANK TUMWEBAZE, 30, was until September 2005 the head of the Political Research Directorate in the Office of the President. He resigned to contest for the Kibaale County (Kamwenge) seat in Parliament. EDRIS KIGGUNDU sounded him out on his impression of the man he served.

FACTFILE

*Born: December 1, 1975
*Home district: Kamwenge, Nkoma sub-county
*Education: Bisozi Primary School, Kazo Secondary School, Jinja College, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Bsc. Education - Maths and Physics), MUK (MA IRDS)

Professional Career
*Data entrant with Fountain Publishers (2000)
*Customs Officer, Uganda Revenue Authority (Nov. 2000-Nov. 2001)

Political Career
*In-charge of Youth (western Uganda) during the 2000 referendum
*Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Iganga (Nov. 2001)
*Head of Political Research Directorate in the President's Office (2002- September 2005).
*Parliamentary aspirant for Kibaale County
*NRM Publicity Secretary for Kamwenge district..

President Museveni

 


First Meeting with Museveni

I first met him [President Museveni] in 1998 as a student leader. The meeting was in Rwakitura. I actually looked at him as a man who fits in all sectors because he engaged us as academicians. He knew he was meeting university students. As a mathematician, I took him seriously. He gave us an analogy of what being in university means. He told us that being in university meant we are in the universality of ideas. He was challenging us to be informed.

I met him again in 1999. It was like a miracle to me.
I had written an article in a newspaper which impressed him. So through an aide, he asked to see me to give me more information. It [the article] was about the principles of the Movement. Then, there was debate as to whether the Movement was a party or system. I argued that it was not a party, but he wanted to give me more information about the subject. It was from this meeting at Kisozi that I got an in-depth understanding of the Movement and what guides it. It lasted about one-and-a-half hours. I was very much inspired to continue my media activism for the Movement. That is how I became active in media debates such as the kimeeza (open public debate) of Radio One.

For half-an-hour before the meeting, I wondered why he had called me. He asked me the name of my father and I told him. He knew him. He asked me the name of my grandfather and, surprisingly, I did not know it because my grandfather died before I was born. But he told me the name and gave me the history of our clan. He told me what inspired them as young people to fight the dictatorships of [Idi] Amin and [Milton] Obote. He told me that they began their activism against dictatorship when they were young men. That inspired me and gave me confidence to defend the Movement System. Many people have intimidated us, calling us (young people) creepers and sycophants of Museveni. If you call me a sycophant, what do you mean? I have asked the Bidandis and Kategayas who have called us creepers whether they were sycophants when they believed in Museveni and followed him to the bush. That is why I do not bother when I hear that so and so has left the Movement. No one is indispensable.

They say Museveni of today is not the same as that one of 1986… that
he does not listen

If the Museveni of 1986 has changed, I would not be surprised because inevitable changes have taken place. May be in 1986, Kategaya and others would sit with him in a meeting and make decisions.

With broad-based politics and creation of new power centres, decision-making organs have increased. For instance, in 1994 there was the CA (Constituent Assembly). Whoever thought the NRM historical command would continue to make decisions was mistaken. The CA had many people on board, including non-Movement and non-historical members. Some were from UPC, DP and they made decisions, which have impacted on the country.

We also have new structures like those of women and youth in place, which have nurtured some of us. Therefore, the Museveni of 1986 had to change, especially in terms of listening and lending ears to the very many legitimate organs of governance. Definitely in one way or another, the hitherto decision making centres could have felt offended that their chairman was not giving them the attention, but it was inevitable. If Museveni had maintained the practices, which I am not saying were bad, then we would not be democratising.

Actually I expected the Kategayas to understand this because they supported the broad-base. The allegation that he listens only to young people is not true. The Kategayas should be proud of young people who have been produced by the structures they pioneered.

I get surprised why some Movement founders really underestimate young people. Whoever underestimates or tries to undermine the role played by young activists is really not a strategic person.

Museveni’s strengths

He never gets diverted, he never loses focus and that’s why he can keep sober and transact official business trans-night, almost on a daily basis. Even when you are discussing with him…sometimes you go to him in the middle of the night and you have instructions from the Principal Private Secretary (PPS) or Protocol Officer to be brief because he wants to meet other people. So you try to be very brief but before you reach the logical conclusion of one point, he will not allow you to rush to another point. He would rather give you another appointment to finish your other points.

To the contrary of those who say he does not listen, the President listens and more especially to people who have no capacity to articulate points well. If someone is really not articulate, because the skill of talking varies, I have seen him give them more time.
He is also intelligent. He always has a clear understanding of issues.

Weaknesses

What I call a weakness, some people may call strength. He is too tolerant that sometimes it causes a problem, especially when he is dealing with a large group. He wants to exhaust the views of the group even when he sees that their points are not really good. In my view, it might cause a problem. He tolerated Dr. Kizza Besigye when he violated army regulations and made statements in the press. When the Rukungiri people came, he listened to them. It set a bad precedent. Perhaps that is why some army officers are doing the same.

Any exciting moments with him?

The moments I can remember…when you meet him at his farm in Kisozi, he cracks jokes with his cows. Sometimes he can also tease you by asking you, “How many cows do you have?” or “Do you have cows like these?” But most of my meetings with him were official. I was a research aide. We would not necessarily engage in arguments. You would tell him your findings then he would say: “What is your view Mr.

Researcher?” Then you would tell him. He likes debate. I would give him briefs about what I had researched. I would also remind him about unfulfilled pledges and he would follow them up. I would also tell him to follow up some political issues. I remember I told him there was need to meet Tororo district leaders when they had some wrangles there. He went there and resolved their problems.

The issues I would bring to his attention were not personal views but rather scientific findings. He had no option but to accept. I do not remember any single moment when my brief to him was ever rejected for being shallow, un-researched. Whenever a brief is lacking, it is queried either by him or the PPS, or it is given to other people for counter research.

Ever opposed him?

I opposed the President in a meeting in Gulu. I think it was around 2002 when he was introducing to us the idea of opening up the political space. I remember Kakooza Mutale and I opposed him. I asked him: “You are saying we go multiparty but suppose the people say no?” He said: “That will be a dicey situation.” He later added: “But they cannot say no if we explain to them properly.”

In the meeting, he did not have enough time to explain to us in detail the advantages the Movement stood if we opened up. But later on in the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting (2003), he very well articulated the need to go multiparty. That is when I was convinced.

He always wants to explain to you his view. Some people think that by forming opposition to Museveni, it means undermining him. But bringing an alternative idea to Museveni is okay. When you say I do not agree with you on this point, he says: “Why?” Then you state your position. He will actually invite you again if he thinks he did not have ample time to thoroughly explain to you his position.

Epitaph

I want to be remembered for having made a significant contribution to the development of my community, especially Kamwenge. If that contribution goes beyond Kamwenge, well and good.

ekiggundu@ugandaobserver.com