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In the 2013 elections for the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, the current secretary general NATHAN Nandala-Mafabi put in a strong showing, although he lost to Gen Mugisha Muntu in a highly contested race.
As a result, Nandala-Mafabi, who later claimed there was rigging on election day, was largely expected to once again vie for the seat. However, he stayed away. In an interview with Baker Batte Lule and Olive Eyotaru, he explains why, and is also not shy to take a dig at his old nemesis Muntu.
Many people expected you to stand for the FDC presidency but you didn’t. What stopped you?
Everybody in FDC is free to stand for any position. The other time we were only three candidates [but] now they are five; so, the party is growing.
The more people come on board [to contest], the more things have to change. We must give chance to other people to also come up.
Nathan Nandala Mafabi
You mean to say that is the only reason you didn’t stand?
I am here making sure that the party operates efficiently, making sure that we identify candidates, train leaders; that’s now my job [as secretary general]. You need someone who is a worker.
I am in this party because we want power and because of that, you need people who are ready to work, not people pretending to be working but are not. I know I am one of the workers. I know most of the villages in this country.
Who are you referring to when you say there are people who are just pretending to be working?
FDC is not a party that should be at the headquarters. What are we doing here? We could be here, say, for two days in a week and the remaining days we are in the field working.
You see, what does the FDC want? It wants power. Where is that power? It’s with the people. If we are not going to the people to look for [their support to get] the power, how will we get it? If the person gets the message from FDC, even if you brought a trillion shillings [as a bribe], he will not change.
Are you not supposed to be part of those people who should be in the villages?
I go to the village; that’s why I am an MP and I am not from the municipality. Let me ask you, how would you go to Bugisu or Teso to convince people to join FDC if your mother, brothers and relatives are not in FDC?
Why not convince yours first? Have you ever asked yourself a question why some people who want leadership in the party want to go to other regions to convince other people to vote them when in their areas they are not there?
We should be realistic, by the way. This election should be about what you are bringing on the table, not what you are taking from the table.
It’s an open secret that you are not one of the biggest fans of [current FDC president] Gen Muntu. It wouldn’t surprise if one said you are referring to him here.
I don’t need to be a friend of anybody; the only thing is that if I have an assignment, I do it as told. And to do my job, we don’t need to be friends; that’s how I live.
If you want friendship, we can go and meet somewhere else; but when we are at work, it’s work. My interest in this party is to take power. I don’t need to be your friend. If you cannot bring your own on the table but you want to pick from the table, it becomes a problem.
There are those saying that you opted out because it was clear you couldn’t win; so, you saved yourself from the embarrassment of losing again.
Who did the poll to show that I cannot win? It is only me who can carry out a poll. To begin with, there was a poll done by the New Vision that showed that I was leading.
If I had contested in this election, I was going to win with a very big margin. You have seen everybody here complaining why I didn’t stand. Even those who supported Muntu are saying we want you. You know why? They know I am a worker. Ask anybody whether they have given me an assignment and I have failed to deliver.
You have seen me in offices; which office has defeated me? I was chairman national economy [committee of Parliament], chairman Pac [Public Accounts Committee], leader of opposition; did you see how vibrant those offices were? So wherever I have been, you see results.
Now that you have elected not to stand, do you have a candidate you are supporting of the five?
Because they are five certainly, I will support one person. I have one vote.
And that person is?
This is a secret ballot, although we have allowed all members of NEC to go and campaign for any candidate they want. It’s only me who is going to remain at Najjanankumbi to keep it for three months.
Nandala Mafabi was seen accompanying Patrick Oboi Amuriat at his nomination
There seem to be divisions in the party, where some members are for ‘defiance’ and others for ‘compliance’? Are you not worried that this will tear up the party?
We need structures and defiance. Museveni can never give us power just like that. Where is Amama Mbabazi, the man who helped Museveni have all this power; the man who was behind the tapping law, the Public Order Management Act and other bad laws?
Now, he is on this side with me and I told him one day he will be caught. He was the SG for the NRM; they used to vote, now they appoint. If you are going to talk about any secretary general of a party in Uganda, there is only one; this one you are seeing here.
Word doing rounds is that you fell out with Dr Besigye and his defiance group; that’s why they couldn’t back your candidature.
I am a member of the defiance group and in the people’s government, I am the minister for finance. I am a member of defiance; even in my house my children are defiants.
I support Dr Besigye. I am not like Museveni who says squatters are his people but when Besigye comes out to help him defend them, he teargases them.
How would you rate the five years of Gen Muntu?
The five years have expired and he is going to produce his score card of what he has done. So, the delegates will ask him what he has and intends to do. I have worked with him for the last two years after I was voted overwhelmingly. Gen Muntu decampaigned me.
He never wanted me to be voted. He talked to every delegate that ‘don’t vote for Nandala as the secretary general’ and I think that was bad as leader. He said I could only become the SG over his dead body [but] I am here; why is he still alive?
When I came here, I supported him; there is no activity that he wanted me to engage in that I haven’t. In the presidential flag bearer race, they told me, ‘don’t go to the field; they will know which side you belong.’
I sat here for four months doing nothing; I was a prisoner of war. When it was over, we went to the presidential election; you saw me everywhere.
I campaigned in my constituency only twice; on the day of nomination and the last day of the campaign. Who did the campaign? The structures [of FDC in his constituency].
I have heard some people say that Nandala was bought by Museveni to kill FDC. Those saying that, even their mothers cannot vote FDC. They just play on our blood…. During day, they are FDC and at night they are NRM. Even the fuel they put in their cars is NRM. Even the money they eat is NRM. Some of them use others as conduits to get NRM money.
Why are people associating you with NRM?
I don’t know which NRM they are associating me with; do you know any? I have been chairman IPOD and, as chairman, you talk to the leaders of all parties. Who are the leaders?
NRM’s chairman is Museveni. DP has Mao. FDC of course Muntu and in UPC, there is Akena of NRM. So, during Eala, I was writing letters to all of them and talking to them. So, how did you want me to communicate to them when I am not talking to them? Museveni is not my enemy; he is my opponent in politics.
I want to take power away from him. If you are a supporter of Mbale Heroes [football club] like me, when we come and beat KCCA, are we your enemies? We must learn politics.
Some of our people, when they go to Museveni, they go there to eat and they assume that all of us go there to eat.
Where would we fish if not the NRM? We shouldn’t put roadblocks. That’s why in my village, I talk to NRM to convince them to join FDC. We have a problem in FDC when we want money for the party [and] it’s not there, [but] when there is an internal election, there is a lot of money. Where is it coming from? We need to investigate.
Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the general secretary of the Uganda Medical Association, says the new Cobalt-60 cancer machine for radiotherapy services, which arrived at Mulago national referral hospital on Wednesday is not the best for cancer patients since it uses old technology, has many side effects and treats fewer patients per day.
“Cobalt 60 technology was first discovered in 1949…. Cobalt 60 technology has challenges with disposal of radioactive waste, which must be managed by a health sector to avoid side effects,” he said.
However, Dr Jackson Orem, the executive director of the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), balked at this argument, saying the new machine has modern technology and is safe.
“This is a very good machine with modern technology and good service. We also know how to handle the wastes. That is why on the site, here, we have our temporary depository to keep waste securely awaiting for repatriation,” he said.
However, Obuku told The Observer on August 16 that Uganda should have gone for the new Linac or linear accelerator treatment machine, which is safer as it doesn’t generate nuclear waste and treats more patients within a short time.
“With the cobalt-60 technology, you take a minimum of two to six hours treating one patient and in a day it handles only four patients yet sometimes power goes off at Mulago hospital,” he said.
Orem said the machine will handle 80 patients per day and it is very safe to both patients and doctors.
The new cobalt-60 cancer machine has been procured by government and the Geneva-based International Atomic Energy Agency at Euros 640,000 (Shs 2.7bn), including shipping.
However, Obuku said the Linac machine goes for about $4m (about Shs 15bn). He added that government should have invested in the better modern machine or, if not, buy at least five cobalt-60 cancer machines since the patients are increasing daily and one machine is not enough to handle all cases within short time.
Uganda’s budget for maintaining its foreign envoys is likely to go up every time President Museveni appoints former ministers as ambassadors, if government implements a new presidential directive to the public service ministry.
In an August 1 letter, President Museveni directs the minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, to give the former ministers who were appointed ambassadors the same remuneration they used to get while they still served in cabinet.
“As you are aware, I have appointed some former ministers as ambassadors. I, therefore, direct, if it is not against any law, their remuneration, personal to holder, like when they were ministers, minus of course elements like constituency allowance because they no longer have constituencies,” Museveni’s letter reads.
The letter is copied to Vice President Edward Ssekandi, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, head of Public Service and secretary to cabinet John Mitala and the permanent secretary of the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Patrick Mugoya.
Museveni’s letter suggests that the former ministers could alternatively be paid an equivalent of the monthly pay of Shs 15m for permanent secretaries, although this could come with additional benefits.
“Sort it out in a rational manner on the basis of maintaining some of the benefits the individuals were getting previously minus the elements that are no longer applicable,” Museveni further wrote.
Muruli’s known phone number was off while the permanent secretary of the ministry of Public Service, Catherine Musingwiire, declined a phone interview with The Observer over the matter when contacted.
It is understood that the directive followed a concern by former ministers during a two-week induction course for the newly appointed ambassadors, which was conducted in July at the Jinja-based Uganda Public Service College.
In January this year, President Yoweri Museveni appointed 37 new ambassadors, among whom were former ministers such as Dr Crispus Kiyonga (Defence), Rebbecca Amuge Otengo (State for Northern Uganda), and Barbara Nekesa Oundo (State for Karamoja).
The former ministers reportedly asked Museveni to give them their full ministerial benefits as opposed to the lower pay for ambassadors. An ambassador on average gets a monthly pay cheque of $4,000 (Shs 14.4m).
Interviewed, the state minister for Foreign Affairs, Okello Oryem, said this has been the norm every time the president appoints ambassadors from people he has dropped from cabinet.
“Since the president started appointing former ministers as ambassadors, they have been going with their ministerial salaries. That has been the policy since 2011 and it applies to all former ministers because we can’t discriminate anyone,” Oryem said.
According to Oryem, Museveni renews the directive after every five years because without putting it in writing, the former ministers wouldn’t get their ministerial salaries.
“That is how former ministers like Betty Aketch [Japan], Alintuma Nsambu [Algeria] and James William Kinobe [Sudan] have been getting what they used to get as ministers,” Oryem said.
In addition to the salary, a former minister like Nekesa who was sent to Pretoria enjoys a posh four-storey mansion complete with a swimming pool and an expansive compound measuring about an acre. This, according to Oryem, is in addition to a chauffeur driven Mercedes Benz and servants.
A former minister who has served as an ambassador for more than five years, however, told this writer on condition of anonymity that the minister was being economical with the truth on the matter.
“I don’t think the minister is being honest,” the former minister told The Observer from his foreign mission. “There are no group benefits. Once the president makes an appointment, he gives selective terms; everyone is given different terms on appointment. Not all former ministers get it… It is a wrong impression the minister is creating. At least I have not been getting it and I know many former ministers who are not getting it,” the ex-minister-turned-ambassador added.
“In fact I have personally failed to make sense out of the president’s letter because the government of Uganda policy has no salary for ministers. All ministers are paid as MPs. They only get responsibility allowances plus some other small allowances like telephone and fuel,” the envoy said.
When President Yoweri Museveni, in his capacity as NRM party chairman, met 278 legislators on Wednesday evening, he envisaged an easy going with government’s plan to amend Article 26 of the Constitution.
The Constitution Amendment Bill 2017, which was tabled before parliament in July this year, seeks to amend the Constitution to allow government to take compulsory possession of private land to build infrastructure and investment projects without being bogged down by compensation disputes.
If enacted, the law will enable the central government or local governments to deposit in court compensation awarded for any property required for public works, and immediately take possession.
When the caucus meeting kicked off shortly after 5pm, it seemed like an unwritten resolution from majority of the legislators not to cow to any attempts by the president to persuade them to support the amendments.
According to highly placed sources privy to the meeting, President Museveni reportedly started off the meeting in a combative mood, angrily stating that he had received information from his intelligence officers that some “useless opportunists” have been spreading false news that government plans to use the proposed bill to grab citizens’ land.
The source quoted the president as saying, “I have spent time massaging selfish people and groups and I am not interested anymore…The issue that you people must help me answer is, is there a problem in executing government programmes or not?”
Another source who declined to be quoted on record intimated to The Observer that the visibly charged President Museveni, in a move that was viewed to try to intimidate the legislators, roared that some politicians, particularly from Lango, Acholi and Buganda sub-regions, have been going around the country poisoning members of the public to malign government.
“These people are being hosted on particular radio stations. I don’t know what the minister of ICT and National Guidance (Frank Tumwebaze) is doing. How can he allow these stations to air this?” Museveni reportedly questioned.
The president also singled out Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South), also chairman of the Lango parliamentary group, accusing him of using his radio station, Voice of Lango, to propagate lies against government and saying the president wants to steal their land.
At this point, Ogong shot up on grounds of procedure and reportedly walked towards the microphone to respond to the president’s accusations against him.
Before Ogong could say anything, the president pointed at him, ordering him to return to his seat immediately.
“Let that man sit down,” Museveni said, to which Ogong obliged without question.
Later, Ogong was given opportunity to raise his concerns, where he stated that the challenge with government is in planning, noting that disputes of compensation would not arise if projects were planned early.
“We should at least plan three years before projects are made to avoid delays. If this was my government, things would be different,” the MP said, drawing laughter.
However, Museveni shot him down, reminding him that this is what government has been doing, calling Ogong’s government a non-starter.
The deputy attorney general, Mwesigwa Rukutana, was given opportunity to present government’s position on the amendments. To the disbelief of MPs, Rukutana reportedly presented a different position from what he earlier presented before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
Clause 3 of the amendment bill states that where the owner of property or any person having any interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under a law made under clause (2) (b), the government or local government shall deposit with court for the property owner the compensation awarded for the property, and the government shall take possession pending determination by court of any dispute.
However, Rukutana presented a redrafted bill during the meeting stating that the taking of possession or acquisition of property, where the owner of the property or a person having an interest in the right over the property has contested the compensation award; provided where there is dispute on quantum of compensation awarded by government, the compensation shall be paid to the owner of the property prior to taking possession or acquisition of the property.
“The AG explained to us that in the new amendments, the land owner can be paid money valued by the government valuer first, thereafter the dispute handled in the courts of law,” multiple sources said.
The deputy attorney general’s statement did not go without rebuke as some legislators booed him, while others seemed to agree with the new amendments.
Among those in support of the new amendments were Stephen Mukitale (Buliisa) and James Waluswaka (Bunyole West). Waluswaka tried to rally his fellow legislators, but his pleas were drowned with further boos.
“Sit down, you fool. You are confused and want to confuse us and the president,” MPs reportedly shouted, while some rushed towards him and tried to grab the microphone from him. At this point, the president tried to calm them down, asking that order is restored.
It was the intervention of Denis Hamson Obua (Ajuri) which restored sobriety in the frenzied meeting when he suggested that instead of amending the Constitution, government instead amends other laws to cater for the lacuna they claim is in the law in regard to compulsory acquisition of land.
According to the sources, Obua reportedly questioned the president that while there may be a problem in execution of public projects, would it necessitate amending of the Constitution to cure the matter? His statement drew loud applauses and feet stamping from the legislators.
Citing Article 26 (2) (b) (1), which compels government to provide adequate, prompt and fair compensation of landowners prior to takeover of the land, Obua instead suggested that the special tribunal or a special division in the High court is created to handle all dispute-related matters within a time framework of 90 days.
His suggestion drew more applauses, prompting the president to relent and ask the attorney general to look into the proposal.
“I only wanted a solution for the unnecessary delays. If the new ideas can solve it, I have no problem. The color of the cat, white or black doesn’t matter; so long as it can catch a rat,” Museveni was quoted to have told the caucus.
The meeting which ended shortly after 8pm resolved that there are no more delays of government projects, particularly roads, electricity, oil pipeline and the standard gauge railway; vulnerable people’s rights should be considered and setting up a committee to scrutinize the proposals.
At a press conference convened yesterday, the government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, said a 10-man committee, headed by the vice president, Edward Ssekandi, had been set up to handle the issues raised.
Other members of the committee are Lands minister Betty Amongi, Attorney General William Byaruhanga, Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire and MPs Gastor Mugoya (Bukooli North), Veronica Bichetero (Kaberamaido), Sam Bitangaro (Bufumbira South), Robinah Rwakoojo (Gomba West), Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) and Denis Obua.
Meanwhile, sources have intimated that Otafiire and Amongi held a meeting yesterday to draft the terms of reference for the committee.