INTERVIEW: Ugandans Must Determine Own Destiny – Twaweza Boss

site sans-serif; font-size: small;”>Dozens of books on economics and politics are neatly positioned in the bookshelf.

illness sans-serif; font-size: small;”>A portrait of former South Africa leader Nelson Mandela with an inscription “Let Freedom Reign” is pinned on the wall.

drugs sans-serif; font-size: small;”>Does this portrait reveal the extra-ordinary character traits of Rwakakamba, the 32-year-old intellectual now on a collision course with Uganda authorities over the controversial “Twaweza Calendars of Change?”

“Very true, I derive inspiration from Mandela as well as my parents,” Rwakakamba notes.

Born in May 1979 in Rukungiri district, western Uganda, Rwakakamba is eager to note his birth coincided with the beginning of “struggles for freedom” that saw the fall of dictator Idi Amin’s regime.

A former research assistant to President Yoweri Museveni between 2004 to 2007, Rwakakamba speaks with confidence despite police’s decision to seize 700,000 calendars at Mutukula border point on February 17.

They carried photographs of Museveni and opposition leaders Kizza Besigye, Nandala Mafabi and Betty Anywar and a message: “Who will change your world in 2012? Will you wait all year for someone else to solve your problems? Will you take action today?”

Police deputy publicist Judith Nabakooba says the calendars were impounded as part of a wide investigation into opposition’s attempts to incite violence.



Rwakakamba explains his organisation does not have any political inclinations.

“Twaweza is not aligned to any political party or persuasion. It’s a theory of change anchored in a vision of enabling citizens to take charge of their lives without necessarily waiting for their leaders. That’s our core business,” says Rwakakamba, confidently.

I ask him whether he is not scared of the consequences of antagonizing government considering he was a presidential research assistant.

“Police say the messages might be inciteful. We do not intend to cause a crisis in the country. I have explained to them that the contents of the messages on the calendars should not be categorized as political,” Rwakakamba says in reference to yesterday’s interrogation at the police Special Investigations Unit in Kireka.

He was grilled for three hours by detectives.

The former National Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss strongly believes Ugandans can only make “strategic decisions” when supplied with “good information.”

The calendars have sparked a storm in Uganda’s political and security circles and triggered huge media publicity for Rwakakamba.

“The messages would stimulate people’s thinking on role they can play to make their lives better. People should not wait for NAADS or UPE. Some parents send kids to schools without food waiting for government’s help. We are calling upon citizens to wake up and help themselves,” he notes.

How about the timing of the calendars considering that opposition has stepped up their political activities that have lately turned violent?

Rwakakamba says he has no ill-intentions of tilting public support for opposition.

“I told police that we are not political. But we are putting together bricks to build our country by encouraging people to work hard and not wait for heroes to change their lives. They should pitch in and change the world.”


I press further: How did Twaweza intend to distribute the calendars?

“The calendars were to set for publication in newspapers and other media forums. We also had a partnership with the Inter Religious Council for distribution of the calendars until yesterday when they pulled out. This matter has been politicized by the press,” Rwakakamba stresses.

“We are engaging the clergy to reconsider their decision arising from our colossal misunderstanding with police. What we are doing is empowering the citizenry to build perspectives based on accurate information so they can drive their own destiny,” says the former manager at Uganda Farmers’ Federation.

In case police turns down Twaweza’s call for the release of the calendars?

“We are optimistic that police will look into explanation and release them. This is a small issue that should not cause conflict with authorities. We shall resolve it amicably. Police have handled us with humility so we hope they will cooperate and release the calendars,” urges the Rukungiri-born coffee farmer.

Nabakooba says investigations into the matter are ongoing but it’s doubted whether police would release the calendars the force believes could trigger a political Tsunami in the country.

By the time I said bye to Rwakakamba, negotiations were underway to meet Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek over the matter.

“We tried to reach Kale Kayihura (IGP) but we were told he was in Kinshasha. We sent a message through his aides,” confirms Rwakakamba.

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