By Julius Odeke
Uganda Federal Alliance party president, Beti Kamya, spoke to The Independent’s Julius Odeke about Uganda’s problems, including corruption.
Your Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) wants Federo in Uganda. What type of federo are you agitating for?
Actually, I think there is a slight difference between Federo and Federalism. I think federo is a high-breed of federalism and monarchism. It’s a Buganda brand which marries federalism and monarchism which we support. But the one we are advocating for is the international concept of federalism that suits everybody. It’s federalism for the whole of Uganda where each region domesticates federalism to suit the regional aspirations, challenges and priorities.
Now in that you moved round the country campaigning at the time of your presidential bid. How was the publics’ response over your political agenda of federalism?
I think the public was pleasantly surprised by our packaging of federalism, because they had been misled largely deliberately to think that federalism is exclusive to Buganda and that Baganda want their Kabaka to be the Kabaka of other regions and that it was intended to chase non Baganda out of Buganda and confiscate their property. That was the original perception. Ugandans were pleasantry surprised when we defined federalism as a system of sharing power between the center and the regions, managing resources and priorities to everybody.
What are the major challenges you have confronted?
We have to break the barrier of that prejudice and attitude that federalism is an exclusive Buganda thing and for me being a Muganda, people at times think that I am a front for Buganda interests.
Do you mean to say you have got the support countrywide?
Absolutely, once you listen to us, you will come to outside. The only person who will not come to our side is the very person who has not listened to us.
What do you have in store at the moment?
On December 17, we are going to launch the National Referendum process, and the exercise will take place in Lira of Lango. Thereafter we shall then start collecting signatures which will take us six months to a year. Once we have signatures, then we shall be assured of a mandate by our constitution. Signatures are the constitutional ammunitions we have that can force the Electoral Commission to act.
Kenya is soon going to polls next year in March and at the moment political parties are forming themselves into alliances with others in order to get bloc support. Will UFA also in future think of this and join other parties in order to form an alliance?
I think that is where we are going. I think the politics of Uganda is driving us to coalitions and alliances; because once the mass party begins fragmenting just like what we see in the mass parties like NRM, and UPC; then the next cause of action is small parties forming alliances.
Now in that case, which party would you form an alliance with?
We shall form an alliance with a party that agrees with federalism because you cannot form a party for the sake of alliances. We have to gauge the motive of the party with which you intend to form an alliance. There are some parties that are interested in removing President Museveni from power. You cannot just get rid of the president. We need to clean up the presidency so that whoever becomes a presidency finds a presidency that is manageable, a presidency that is not a threat to this country. But for now the presidency, is a threat to this country, because the president has incredible authority and that authority is given to him by the constitution. That is why the president can practically do anything he want in this country.
What is UFA position on land, especially in Buganda region which is threatened by grabbers?
People have to understand that the source of all these problems is over centralized governance system. If we were in the federal government, the central government would not sit in Entebbe and talk with an investor about Acholi land. That cannot happen. We shall not have such problems, like corruption, patronage, electoral malpractices, and tribalism. My problem with fellow Ugandans is they are using a grader to remove a brick; they are struggling to fight corruption, term limits, pensions, now they will go to ghost soldiers, all those are consequences of the problem, the problem is over centralized powers which automatically becomes autocratic.
Does that mean to say you are not interested in fighting corruption?
No I am! But what I know is that corruption will not stop in Uganda because it’s not the first time corruption to exist in Uganda. This is just an automatic consequence of dictatorship. Corruption cannot be fought because we have lived with corruption since the colonial days. When the whites were here, they never told us where our coffee, cotton, copper went, they never negotiated with us the prices of those raw materials. When Obote came here and started his things, like during Obote II, three things happened; one the president made himself a minister of finance, a president and made his army commander who was his nephew, David Oyite Ojok, chairman Coffee Marketing Board at that time coffee was the biggest revenue earner to Uganda. So, for somebody to make his nephew, an army commander to be a chairman of coffee marketing board, what statement was that? The next thing was that on the anniversary of his return, one month prior to that day, they had big celebrations in Bushenyi. So they would come to Nile Breweries take beer to Bushenyi and celebrate Obote day using vehicles of the Cooperatives.
In that month, all the beer factory production would head to Bushenyi district, to celebrate Obote’s Day. And all the civil servants, because for me I used to work in the factory in Jinja were put on the list to go to Bushenyi. They would give us an allowance. Did anybody quantify that, what Obote was doing? So, that means we have been with corruption for a long time. It has just escalated now because President Museveni has been longest.
How would you fight corruption?
Go to the source of the matter. These people are able to get into these billions because they have access. If we make them to work at the regions where they belong, even parliament would not be in position to give themselves hefty emoluments. If you reduce the powers in the center, you will automatically reduce the amounts of money stolen and incidences of corruption in this country.
You were in Parliament but left, do you see the country differently from the way you saw it before forming you own party?
That is the reason I left parliament, I felt it since parliament is largely and extremely a debating club where they go, talk, but little comes out of their talk. They have done a great job of creating awareness but not stopping certain things. It’s the fault of the system that makes the presidency authoritative. Parliament was a very juicy position for me. But I needed to acquire another higher platform where I could raise a level of talking to a bigger audience. An MP concentrates on their constituencies but now for me I am looking at a bigger picture of the whole country.
Some presidential candidates and political parties leaning on Buganda seductively pledge federo due to the region’s bloc vote. This has therefore prompted onlookers to say Buganda trades her support for a political ransom. What is your comment?
My comment is Buganda should learn lessons from all the people they have gone to bed with. First, it was the Europeans, in their colonial times, when the whites left they came to Obote, and when Amin came they did the same thing, now Museveni has also done the same to them. Federalism will be given to Uganda by Ugandans themselves who cannot take it away. They give and guarantee. So Buganda needs to cultivate a relationship with the people of Uganda.
Right now, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is soon having Election. Assuming you were still in FDC whom would you vote amongst the three presidential hopeful who are on the race to lead FDC?
It’s me who even started the Reform Agenda at that time when Dr Kizza Besigye was in South Africa. I made a comment on this one time, and I met a big problem. But if I was to vote, I would vote for Nandala Mafabi. Those three gentlemen, I know them very well, I have respect for all them. Nandala Mafabi mixes more easily with people, and I think he can talk easily about federalism.
Your last word?
My last message to fellow Ugandans is to get out of the box and think deeply about the problems, challenges, and aspirations of our country. We should realise that our problem is the system of governance that heaps a lot of power to the president. It breeds dictatorship. I advise the public to join and listen to the call for national change, good governance system. And I urge them to turn up on Dec 17 for the National Referendum launch in Lira.