By Joan Akello
Mwambutsya Ndebesa, senior lecturer of history and development studies at Makerere University talked to Joan Akello about his ideals.
What is your history?
I’m an East African living in the province of Uganda. I am Uganda Chapter chairman for Vision East African Forum Think Tank, a Muhororo and so are President Yoweri Museveni, Dr. Kizza Besigye , may be presidential aspirants come from there because even Mugisha Muntu is from Ntungamo. Studying at St. Peters College as the only student from Western Uganda had an imprint on my world view. I have twins.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is the pursuit of higher ideals and values like justice not material things.
When and where were you happiest?
In 1985 when I joined the University of Dar-es-salaam for my masters; I had heard about Tanzania’s president who was pursuing social justice.
What is your greatest fear?
Going to hell or Uganda returning to the Idi Amin days of naked dictatorship. You can swallow closed dictatorship like a pill but the naked kind can kill you before you handle it.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I’m rabidly open; at times I regret it because you don’t have to tell the truth always.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Those who practice injustice.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Yoghurt, I’m almost addicted to it because I want it to stabilise my stomach.
What is your current state of mind?
Anxious;I nearly died in the 1979 liberation war so I experienced real dictatorship. Uganda is a geographical expression not a nation, we lack national consensus. A slight trigger can make it a failed state because we have superficial peace, in the volatile Great Lakes region,and failed to listen to others and share power and public resources equitably.
How do you view Uganda’s politics?
We are exercising unprincipled politics, unprincipled alliances and full of hypocrisy. Somebody will tell you stop commercializing politics when they are using money.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Humble, confident, proud of his identity.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Is informed by values of compassion, social justice, not seeking to change their identities and, means well for humanity.
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you had the power, what would you do?
Like that of God, I ‘d establish peace. As president, ensure that people follow the constitution.
What are your greatest achievements?
Not that great. I’m educated, accumulated some social capital and profile that I can transform into shaping issues in society.
What is the lowest depth of misery?
When you lack social networks.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Humble, nationalist, identify as an African without apology pursuing African programmes and a republican. I believe in acquired, not prescribed status.
What are your favorite books?
Gilbert Rist’s History of development; Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; George Orwell’s Animal Farm and; A theology of liberation by GustavoGutiérrez. I believe in social gospel – using Christian ethics to address social injustice.
Which historical figures do you most identify with?
Those who have pursued social justice throughout their lives like Jesus, Karl Marx, Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah.
Which living person do you most admire?
Barrack Obama, he represents the African renaissance.
Who are your heroes?
My father who is 94 or 95 years and a World War II veteran inspired me to be pro social justice.
What or who else influenced your pro social justice ideal?
My education, Christian and Marxist background, African literature by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Soyinka, Peter Abrahams which aimed at decolonising the mind, Ha-Joo Chang for exposing the hypocrisy of the West particularly his books Bad Samaritans and Kicking Away the Ladder and Julius Nyerere.
What are your favourite quotes?
Edmund Burke’s All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing; Aristotle’s To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing and Robert Frost’s Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled. Do what others have not.
What is your favourite occupation?
Crusading against ignorance as a teacher and political analyst; so I’m not in the media by default. I’m a public intellectual, civically engaged to transform society to be socially just, have accountable power and inclusive development at the local, national, and global level.
What is your greatest regret?
Having missed doing law by one point, losing my mother a year ago who questioned authority including that of her husband.
What would you be if you died and came back?
As a scientist to tame nature. As a social scientist and humanity disciplines, I have skills and knowledge for taming man. Man would live a perfect life if he is emancipated from the vagaries of nature and man.
What is your motto?
Honour is to do good for humanity.
How do you want to be remembered?
As anti-social injustice crusader.