By Isaac Manzi
Since he announced his presidential ambitions, former Makerere Vice Chancellor Prof. Venacious Baryamureba, has attracted only light-hearted attention. He spoke to Isaac Manzi about why he should be taken seriously.
Briefly, would you tell us about your current profile?
I am a Ugandan mathematician, computer scientist, and academic administrator. I am also the current vice chancellor and CEO of Uganda Technology and Management University, a private university in Uganda, I was appointed to that position in September 2013. Prior to that, I served as the vice chancellor of Makerere University, from November 2009 until August 2012. I am the Chairman ICT Consults Ltd, Director Tweed Consulting Co.Ltd, Chairman COMESA Innovation council, Chairman Board of Directors Utamu limited, chairman Uganda board of Directors, UTAMU Ltd, Chairman Uganda Vice Chancellors Forum, Chairman Makerere University Business school council, Chairman Uganda business and technical examinations board, among others.
I have been awarded many medals, like the highest civilian medal, golden jubilee medal (2012) among others. For awards, I have an award from the African society for ICT, National Council for Higher Education and many more.
Why have you joined politics?
First of all, politics is intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or a group in order to gaincontrol or power, I can assure you that I have not recently joined politics, I have been a leader, advocating for better service delivery and I am not new in politics I can even refer you to my profile.
What was your former political party?
I was not so much engaged in political parties, but I was among the founders of (PPP) Peoples Progressive Party in 2004 which started first as National progressive movement (NPM).
Which political party do you lead currently?
I am representing Progressive Ugandans platform. And am looking forward to compete in 2016 general elections.
Where do you expect much support from?
I expect much support from students, teachers, and mostly elites.
Would you agree to join The Democratic Alliance (TDA)?
Joining Democratic Alliancewould not be bad, but it was brought in a hurry, it would have been started at the district levels and they see who has the capacity to challenge the ruling party. You cannot just wake up in the morning and you form a political alliance.By the time they brought it up I had already set my mind to stand for presidency and it is very hard to betray my people who have much interest in me to stand for presidency. I am not ready to join the alliance and I think most of the parties may not accept to ally.
As a great thinker, what would you propose to be included in constitutional electoral reforms?
I was one of the first Ugandans to document the kind of reforms our country needs, my proposals were contained in my book entitled `The Ideal Uganda: my perspective, 2014’. For example the electoral commission should be independent, the vice president should be given more powers, and the number of constituencies should be reduced at least to 200. If I become a president I shall have only 20 ministers.
How will you fight against corruption once you become President?
Corruption in Uganda is high true, but as my leadership plan, I will have to make sure that all the regions are set alert with different strong personalities to fight against corruption, I will try to make sure that the culprit is heavily punished by confiscating his/her property, and empower lawmakers, local leaders, and judicial departments.
What about youth unemployment?
It is not only in youth but also there are some people aged between 40 and 50 years old who do not have jobs; it is very hard to curb unemployment in Uganda. My proposal is to ensure industrial development, open more cities in the country, and encourage investment.
Do you think the education system of Uganda is completely favourable?
To a larger extent it favours people who are rich. For example if you count the amount of money you pay from nursery up to when you complete university, you will find it is too much money, that means a poor person may not be able to get a decent education in the current system. I would propose to improve in it such that it favours all kind of people in the country.
Teachers always strike over poor pay. As an educationist, what is your position on this matter?
That would be one of my first departments to put my emphasis on, after becoming president. I will first deal with teachers and I ensure that their standards of living are improved. Even the 10 per cent increment they want is so low. But you see, these things have to be planned well. You do not just come up and say a primary school teacher should get Shs400,000 up from Shs200,000.
You allocate funds to the sector. You put money on salaries, in facilities, in refresher courses, in infrastructure. Right now the salaries are too low for teachers but if you increase the education funding to 20 percent, the salary increment would be catered for as well. But like I told you, the most important thing is to look at the sector and with the help of experts you establish specific areas that need funding.
Professor, some people in Uganda believe that to be President of Uganda, you have to have been a soldier, what is your take?
It is not necessarily true that to become a president you have to have been a soldier. Being a president needs capability, competence, integrity, transparency, creativity, and fairness, and I assure you that I have all those qualities. Some presidents have run the country when they are not soldiers, like Milton Obote, but other than that, though I have never gone for training, I have met hardships, but as a strong person I had to overcome them. If you see my profile I have many departments I have been heading and I still have many responsibilities. For instance, to lead a university like Makerere where students demonstrate most of the time and you settle their issues shows you that I am a strong man. I used to advocate for Makerere University so much. But,I can appoint the minister for Defense who is professional in army issues, such that he/she can advise and deal with security and defense issues very well.
Who is your greatest role model?
My greatest role model is John F. Kennedy who became the youngest man ever to be elected president of the United States at 43 years. He narrowly beat his Republican rival Richard Nixon who was also US Vice President Richard Nixon at the time. Kennedy was also the first Catholic to become US president.The campaign was hard fought and bitter.
How do you analyse Mbabazi’s announcement to vie for presidency?
Well, it is good idea but he should not have vied to stand on the NRM ticket. He should stand independently and see whether he can win because the President is very popular in the NRM unlike him.
How would you rate the performance of President Museveni over the last 29 years?
First of all, I give credit to NRM for maintaining peace in the country, road construction and renovation, service delivery, decentralisation and part of agriculture. On the other hand, he has failed to stop corruption, teachers are paid little money, the health sector is in poor shape, unemployment is at a high rate, and poverty is still wide spread in Uganda.
Which message would you send to Ugandans?
Now is the time for Uganda to break camp and move on. The stories of bush war heroes can no longer add value to our country. The economy must grow; the youth must work; everyone must access better health care and better education; our human rights must be guaranteed by government; Uganda must compete favorably globally. Our country must move forward. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today we aim for our destiny. Seize it now; changewill not come if we wait for some other time.Now is the time for our generation to lead our country.