President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday delivered an impassioned speech, in which he criticized members of the Ugandan political opposition for opting for the scotched-earth-like strategies in their efforts to overthrow government, which strategies end up hurting all Ugandans irrespective of political affiliation.
Speaking at the 2019/20 budget presentation in Kampala, President Museveni slammed the opposition for failing to help their communities out of poverty in spite of a conducive environment; and resorting instead to methods that attract forceful response from the government security organs.
Museveni started by apologizing to the opposition for insulting them during his State of the Nation Address, but then doubled down on his criticism, in a lengthy address that was lined with an apparent sense ache and humour.
“Last week I admit that I committed an offence of okusyorora to the opposition when I said that they were neither government nor opposition… I used some strong words which I also withdrew,” he said.
The president then went on to draw a stern contrast between the current opposition methods, and the ones that he deployed while fighting former regimes.
“For 24 years since independence, I was in the opposition,” he noted.
“I was in DP, briefly in UPC for 5 months, Fronasa, UNLF, PRA, NRA and the NRM. Therefore, I am an expert on opposition issues,” he said.
Unlike the current opposition however, Museveni said he spent most of his time in opposition helping his community in North Ankole and later on the whole of Uganda, and Africa; guiding them out of backward traditional practices toward realizing the importance of modernization.
These efforts, he said, started during his student days.
“While at Mbarara High School, I visited Mbarara Stock Farm where I saw for the first time modern farming practices such as dipping cattle to kill ticks, rotational grazing etc. The cattle looked fat and growing fast. When I went for the April holidays, the first thing I told my father was the better farming practices I had seen in Mbarara.”
“My journey of transforming my family, my community, Uganda and Africa had started.”
Work with Government
According to President Museveni, opposition have no reason not to work with government to help their people, noting that he did the same during the Obote era.
The president, — who over the years has earned a reputation of luring opposition figures into his government, appointing some into cabinet positions, — said that during his time in opposition, he didn’t hesitate to work with the people in power,
“Despite belonging to DP, I worked under and with some positive elements of UPC which was controlling government,” he said.
“That was because I didn’t want UPC to interfere with my work of transforming my people.”
After studies, Museveni says, he actually joined and worked in the UPC departments and even encouraged his own people in Nyabushozi to join government.
“Political parties are a means to an end; they cannot be an end to themselves,” he said.
“The end is to transform the people.”
Use legal means
In his opposition days, Museveni says, he and his groups refrained from engaging in unlawful activities that would attract the wrath of law enforcement.
“Our method was to use small meetings to pass on non-political, purely developmental messages of stopping nomadism, going from subsistence to commercial farming, and stopping land fragmentation,” he said
“No message about politics that would invite the clamp down of the UPC government.”
At no point, he said, did he or his groups engage in such acts as “okulemesa” (a veiled reference to the opposition FDC’s defiance campaign).
“We never tried to fail the government that was in power. But these days you hear groups that talk of burning Kampala,” he said.
“When I see groups that say they are opposition but preach disruption, support arson and don’t use available channels to transform their communities; yet some of them are drawing huge salaries from the Consolidated Fund, I am tempted to use a strong negative word to describe them.”
The President added that people in opposition fighting to take power, need to refrain from destroying government assets that they will need when they get into power.
He gave an example of the various factories that President Idi Amin built including the Hima cement factory.
“We never tried to go after those factories, even though we were fighting him with guns because we knew that Uganda needed more and more factories and not less.”
“When the NRM eventually came to power, the country in some small way was helped by those factories.”
He added, “Nile Mansions, the Uganda House and the Post Office building where the NRM Offices were located for some time, were all built by Amin. Whatever little he did we had to preserve it.”
Museveni also revealed that despite being at odds with the Obote and Amin governments, he never thought of killing them.
“We never used assassination. Here in the Nile Mansion (Kampala Serena), I vetoed a plan to assassinate Oyite Ojok by our fighters. During all our time of fighting, I rejected plans to associate Idi Amin, or Obote. This was strategic because now I am able to work with young children of Idi Amin, Obote, Okello Lutwa Oyite Ojok, even Kayiira.”
Museveni therefore urged members of the opposition to train most of their efforts to helping the people they represent out of poverty.
“To have subsistence farmers in your area continuously and you call yourself a leader, you are mockery of leadership,” he stressed.