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Interview: No Harm in Military Officers Joining Politics – Says Col Bantariza

Since July 2015, Rtd. Col Shaban Bantariza has served as Deputy Director of the Uganda Media Center.

A senior member of the armed forces, Col Bantariza has previously served as head of the National Leadership Institute in Kyakwanzi and as the spokesperson of the UPDF before that.

He, as many Ugandans, now has eyes on partisan politics. Chimp Reports’ Dedan Kimathi had a chat with him recently and he opened up on this and many other topics.

What post are you contesting for?

The post I am contesting for, with 10 others is NRM Vice Chair Person, Western Region of Uganda.

What is the significance of this position in the NRM Structure?

It’s a post that has no personal, material or financial benefits to the holder, but it’s a politically strategic post, at least in the NRM because it’s responsible for the ideological and operational direction of the Party. And being a mass party and a ruling party, it means the ideological, management and operational direction of the country and government.  Very strategic indeed!

What prompted you to contest for the position?

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What prompted me to vie for that post is to represent Ugandans at the table that makes strategic national decisions. But more importantly, to make my humble contribution in the processes that will be responsible for the peace and stability of Uganda, and the harmony and cohesion of our ruling party, and the country in turn.

What are your mission?

To be the bridge and link between the NRM fraternity and their top leadership so that together we manage the welfare and wellbeing of our people. To be an advocate of the people to their Government for economic empowerment through established Government economic, social and financial programmes.

In other words, I will be their proactive and available link between party leadership, Government and the people.

Together with the national/ local leadership I will resolve conflicts, build harmony and cohesion for the greater good of our party and the Country we are in charge of together!

We understand that the Covid-19 Pandemic has constrained political activities countrywide. What campaign strategy are you employing?

My campaign strategy, which remains personal to me till end of the contest has strictly followed the scientific path…which is so far, very effective, efficient, and cheap for me, being one of those who are not financially privileged. But I am reliable, dependable, and hence deployable by the people, in the struggle for their socioeconomic and political interests, which deployment to CEC, they will do, this coming weekend.

How do you rate the incumbent leadership of Gen. Matayo Kyaligonza?

As for the performance rating of the outgoing General Matayo Kyaligonza, I am going to start from where his abilities, capabilities and competencies and contribution end, and take our Western Region and country at large, to the next level.

But you will see the exact rating in the democratic decision of our party leadership at all levels next Friday, when they vote me in, as they ask him to take a well-deserved rest, from that particular responsibility and continue to Represent Uganda in Burundi, as our Ambassador.

Once elected, what issues do you intend to tackle in your first 100 days?

This “copy and paste” idea of promising miracles in the first “100 days”, I don’t agree with it.

Since my mission objectives are; sensitization and mobilization (political/civic education), empowerment of the 68% of our poor households with information, means and ways of how to take advantage of economic and financial government programs, create wealth and generate incomes, and finally conflict resolution among our sometimes feuding members of our party, and society in general. Wanainchi will see how much of that I will have achieved in the first 100, or any number of days, and you will judge from fact, not hypothesis.

How will you handle the job of Deputy Government Spokesperson and this office concurrently?

As Government Spokesman, that office should actually be a facilitator to my sensitization and mobilization programs, as both jobs entail communicating from government to the people.

That’s my concept of what it means and implies to be a Government Spokesperson. So, my two responsibilities are complementary, and not contradictory.

Legally speaking is this allowed (occupying two positions)?

There is no legal encumbrance at all between my Government Spokesmanship and serving as a CEC Member.

Government Spokesman ship is as a political job, as being a Member of CEC of NRM.

I am not a civil servant under the politically restrictive civil service regulations. I am a political appointee by the president, not through the public service commission (PSC). So, no legal encumbrances at all

There has been an argument that the influx of retired army officers could further militarize Multi-Party Politics. What is your take on that?

Retired Military Officers cannot “militarize” politics, whether they are multi-party or not. Besides, I am not being expressly appointed to CEC as a serving officer, while others are being elected. And certainly I am not going there to conduct military operations, but rather as a retired senior officer, whose knowledge and experience of political dynamics, and especially how political-security relations synergize, in the stabilization of politics and the country.

We have had military officers in parliament as a special interest group and I am sure, if you ask most Parliamentarians, they will tell you how these officers bring and add value to our politics in and out of Parliament, without any tinge of the so called “militarization” of politics.

The British, have a mantra that any officer, at the rank of colonel, is a strategic officer, and that’s exactly what they mean; that such an officer, has political-security competencies.

What is your parting shot to the voters and why should they vote you?

My parting shot to my voters in particular, and to all the NRM Fraternity, is; you all have known me, some of you from the days of our Liberation Struggle, into Government especially since 1995 when I became the Spokesman for UPDF/Government. You know how I have explained, contextualized, defended and stood for the values, and pillars of NRM, especially, the NRM Ideological Foundation. And so, your vote for me will definitely be a vote for continuity and sustainability of not only the NRM Good Leadership.

But also the Achievements of Ugandans, under the good stewardship of the NRM leadership.

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