Kampala, Uganda: In this interview with Nation Media Group reporter Sudhir Byaruhanga, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Maj Gen (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, said Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba should stand against his father, President Museveni, but they (National Resistance Movement party) would defeat him, like they have defeated other groups before.
You have been in Parliament for some good time. If you look at the 11th Parliament, what do you have to say about the quality of debate in that Parliament?
I normally follow the debate on television. Parliament is big, and I have said before, there is a lot of potential in it, but we can’t identify that potential because they don’t get opportunity to exude their full potential through adequate debate. Because of the size, Members of Parliament are allocated two to three minutes. However genius you are, it is difficult to bring out your thought process and exploit your full potential in three minutes. That is what I was trying to say, although some people misunderstood me. If we all Members of Parliament talk about our constituencies, who is going to talk about Uganda and Africa? That also calls for remedy. I don’t blame the 11th Parliament, it is the old parliaments, which created a mistake – the historical mistakes of puffing up the Parliament and creating this problem.
What about the President?
The people were demanding. I wouldn’t blame the President. He was hostage. People come demanding then what do you do? It only now that we are beginning to tell people that what you thought to be popular is very expensive.
Is it the reason you said you don’t attend Parliament?
Why should I go to compete for three minutes, to talk about what in three minutes? How long have we had this interview? If you can compacted this interview in three minutes, would I have told you anything?
Don’t you think that the people you represent will feel cheated?
How will they feel cheated? I have got another avenue to serve them. I sit in Cabinet and it is Cabinet that allocates resources. If I want resources for my people, I will do it in Cabinet with my colleagues.
The other day, the deputy speaker was quoted saying that you are complaining that you feel that it is the generals that should be leading the country everywhere. What do you make of that?
Well, he is entitled to his opinion right or wrong. He is entitled to his opinion. If we had wanted to lead everywhere, how would he have come to what he is because we would have stopped him from coming? We had capacity, we had the ability, but this is a democratic country. We allowed everyone to participate; that is how he became what he became.
There is an issue of the succession debate. What do you make of the succession debate?
I don’t see why people are excited about succession. Whether we are good or bad, adequate or inadequate, our past will catch up with us. We shall go. One fine morning, we shall wake up and find that we are no longer around. Our past will catch up with us. So that being a natural process, we should be handled naturally. I have a lot of people telling Museveni to go. They behave like Museveni brought himself. I want to remind all and sundry that President Museveni is a flag bearer of a political party. While the party will say, bwana Museveni, we think you have served enough, step aside and we get somebody else, that is the democratic process in accordance with our constitution. If you don’t like Gen Museveni or the party of NRM, have your party, compete with us, defeat us; then we shall know. But you can’t, just wish us away.
But according to how everyone sees, it is that the President seems not to be getting tired. He seems to be like he has ring fenced it for himself until he is naturally kicked out.
Does he go for elections? How does he ring fence an office for which he competes every five years.
It is just for show off that we are going for elections.
You mean that we who give him our confidence and flag are stupid? We aren’t worth it? Are you trying to tell me that we aren’t there? We are there. He is our flag beare
Even his son says that time [he has served] is enough.
That is his business. He is entitled to his own opinion. That is his business. For us who have a rational understanding and grounded in NRM, we said we still want Gen Museveni in charge. Come 2026, I am campaigning for Gen Museveni to come back as our flag bearer.
How about if the son competes?
That is his democratic right. I can’t stop him. It is his democratic right. Let him compete against his father and we shall defeat him like we have defeated others before.
How do you groom people like Gen Muhoozi and others who would want to take part.
No one has groomed Gen Muhoozi. It isn’t our duty. It isn’t our responsibility to groom individuals. The party identifies its cadres.
When you look at what is happening currently, Gen Muhoozi was quoted saying that people like you need some advice. You need some counselling.
Gen Muhoozi is a big fish in a small pond. So he isn’t an issue. He is a big fish in a small pond.
But do you believe that it is high time the generals, who fought and liberated this country, took seriously the issue of succession.
Why do you want to put a belief in my head as if I started thinking yesterday? I didn’t start thinking yesterday. Everything I say and do is well thought out. Why do you say, why do think? I know what I am doing. I know what we are doing collectively.
You said that at any one point all of you will go naturally.Excuse me who told you that we are going to go the same day? Who told you that we are leaving the same day?
It can happen, it may not happen.Gen Otafiire: Well, well.
It is a probability.
Have you ever heard of what they call force majeure? If we go that same day, bad luck. Uganda will still outlive us. But we aren’t going the same day. Who says that it is only our generation that can take from us? There are other people below us we are watching and mentoring.
Are you likely to move away from this business of generals being the first priority in terms who takes the biggest office.
Are generals criminals?
Are they Ugandans?
Don’t you think civilians need to take charge?
Gen Otafiire: Yes. Like civilians, generals also have a legitimate right to participate in the politics of Uganda. They have the right. After all, they created that right. They are the ones that created this space within which we are engaging democratic practice.