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Telling the truth in politics is a challenge

By Joan Akello

Abel John Julian Rwendeire, Deputy Chairperson National Planning Authority (NPA), former MP and minister talked to Joan Akello about his family and politics.

Anything we don’t know about you?

I value local music and play enanga (harp in Rukiga). By age five, my mother had given me my own land to grow Irish potatoes and I would walk 4km to take them to the market. She had always wanted me to become a teacher, I wanted to be an agriculturalist but I became a biochemist and later on a politician. I might have become a priest if I had not been expelled from a minor seminary in 1971 over leading a strike.

You left politics 12 years ago, are you coming back?

The country also needs me to make plans though some people want me to contest. I have not saved enough to compete on a commercial basis. You need a minimum of Shs100 million.

What is perfect happiness?

When you can balance your resources and ambitions.

When and where were you happiest?

On Feb 10, 1979 when I got married amidst the gloomy political climate, two months after, then-President Idi Amin was toppled and I left to study in New Zealand – it was my first flight. I reunited with my family after two years of separation in New Zealand.

What is your greatest fear?


What trait do you most deplore in yourself?

I hate myself when I fail.

What trait do you most deplore in others?


What is your greatest extravagance?

Books; I have a variety like how to handle women, health especially the one about using cabbage soup to trim.

What is your current state of mind?

Apprehensive about my personal life, work and what needs to be done as competition will be stiffer if we open up to the regional integration.

What about political leadership?

It appears like it is only the President who is working; he needs to use the whip so that he moves in tandem with his ministers.

On what occasion do you lie?

I did as a politician; you’ve to weigh the consequences of telling the truth. Ogira ati Nshinta oba ayongire kubeiha loosely meaning that he who says “may be” does not wish to tell lies.My 92-year old father detests lies but was a challenge in politics.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Logical and truthful.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Kind, understanding ,loving.

Who is the greatest love of your life?

My mother; she died in 1994, and my wife. She had majority of my mother’s characteristics and we met at Makerere University when she was doing her undergraduate in arts and I a post graduate in sciences.

What could you change about yourself?

To be short so that I’m not so tall among people.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being an MP and minister, married and educated all my children- one has a PHD she got at 28, and the rest have masters.

How does it feel having only girls?

I’m very sensitive to gender issues. I used to read my wife’s books and discuss with her when she was doing her Masters in Women (Gender) studies. As chairman of admissions at Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo I ensured 25% were girls who had attained the minimum because I understood affirmative action.

But UPK is now part of Kyambogo University with several problems currently.

It was a special university that was supposed to vocationalise education; its problems can be solved if phased out through removing the generators of problems by transferring students to line universities and teachers will know the mandate of the university.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Crested crane; it’s a graceful, elegant and harmless bird. In Uganda everybody will treat me nicely.

What is your most treasured possession?

My library, it has 7,000 volumes.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Where there is no hope and you constantly contemplate suicide.

Who are your favorite writers?

I greedily read books by the African writer series for Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka. I also like Jane Austen’s sophisticated writing.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Mahatma Gandhi; he was able to transcend all categories of class and he was a man of principles and stuck to them. He had a clear vision, determination and drive when everything seemed to be crumbling.

Which principle do you apply?

Wish only what is best to you to the community. Just like the Bible says; do unto others what you want done to you.

What is your greatest regret?

My decision to continue seeking the position of UNIDO Director General when I knew that President Olesegun Obasanjo was supporting a Sierra Leon.I think it was about ego because his candidate was a director but, I’d have been his adviser and still be there. But then Uganda would be missing my services.

How would you like to die?

In any form but it’s how I want to be treated after death. As a planner, these graves we are constructing are destroying the environment and wasting a lot of space. It’s not yet in my will but I want to be cremated and my ashes divided in two one for my family and the other at a point on River Nile. May be one of my atoms will spread into the Mediterranean. I read that Gandhi separated his ashes which were scattered in the Ganges River and River Nile at Ripons Falls in Jinja.

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