interviewBy Sadab Kitatta Kaaya
At the 10th coronation anniversary of the Kamuswaga of Kooki in Rakai on May 17, Sheikh Badru Matovu offered an unsettling prayer for President Museveni, who was presiding.
Sheikh Matovu, who was among religious leaders asked to deliver a prayer before the events started, asked the Lord to nudge Museveni to leave power peacefully. Matovu is a former general secretary of the ruling NRM in the district, and currently a member of the party's elders' league. In an interview on June 1, he told Sadab Kitatta Kaaya why he thinks Museveni should not go beyond 2016. Excerpts:
Why are you against Museveni's 2016 sole candidacy despite being an NRM leader?
Normally when one overstays in power, there is an element created within his brain that there is nobody who can be better than him. And if he is a fighter like Museveni, he cannot be convinced that it is required of him to retire.
He can cling on until those that are disgusted and tired of him rise up and fight him out of power. As a supporter of Museveni and NRM, I wouldn't want to see that happening; that is why I prayed to Allah to give Museveni some [wisdom] to realise that Uganda requires some democracy as indicated in the three NRM principles.
The NRM manifesto is based on unity, democracy and transformation. The moment democracy is removed the other two principles cannot work. I realise that we need to sit down and advise our leader; the president, that we need to embark on the process of identifying people who will take over the leadership of the country, and the party, so that when he is out of power, the country will not go to war.
Do you fear that the country would plunge into turmoil if the president clings on?
That is obvious because I don't think there is any president in Africa that had prepared his leadership like Gaddafi of Libya. He built a well functioning security system and whenever he was travelling out of Libya, he would go with his own security because he never trusted the security of other countries.
He had made a lot of developments in Libya; a country that was dry was turned around, made it green and became agriculturally productive with his irrigation schemes.
Unfortunately, Gaddafi was killed in a manner not fit for a leader who had led his country to great developments in his 42-year-rule. I feel that if we continue to deceive the president that he should carry on, we are preparing him for something bad.
So do you think the NRM caucus was wrong to pass that Kyankwanzi resolution?
Absolutely. As far as I know, the NRM constitution clearly stipulates that for someone to stand for the party chairmanship, he is proposed by the national executive committee [NEC] of NRM; and this is done at the delegates' conference.
They [NRM MPs] have been moving around marketing their resolution, but they are meeting a few members, and they [MPs] were telling the [meetings] to simply say yes to the resolution, and when they went back, they told the president that the people had endorsed the resolution. And he is now convinced that the whole country has approved [the Kyankwanzi resolution] yet there are so many who are not in agreement with it.
What if the resolution is pushed forward and it gets endorsed at the delegates' conference?
I will have been defeated. And as a supporter of the party, I will have no option but to support him. But my wish would be that he retires [in 2016], and we bring in new brains to move the party forward.
Some people say you are an agent of NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi...
I have never been in touch with Amama Mbabazi, and I don't even know his objectives, and I'm not his supporter. In fact if at the delegates' conference Mbabazi is the only candidate standing against Museveni, I will vote Museveni rather than Mbabazi because I don't see him as someone who can manage.
He has been the party's secretary general, I have held the same position at the district level and I have never met him, I did not see him through the five years I was the NRM general secretary [for Rakai], so I don't think that he can manage.
You are largely seen as a religious leader and government has told religious leaders severally to avoid partisan politics...
Religious leadership may mean anything, I'm not a sheikh who holds any leadership position like an Imam or District Kadhi, I only studied religion and was confirmed as a sheikh. For the last five years, I freely practiced politics as the general secretary of NRM in Rakai district and nobody in government complained about my involvement because I'm a religious leader.
Besides, I have seen the president appointing priests, pastors and others as RDCs [Resident district commissioners], presidential advisors and to cabinet. Likewise, I don't talk [politics] as an Imam etc but as an experienced politician who thinks that the suffering we see in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere should not come to Uganda because Museveni has refused to leave power.
He must realize that he has had an opportunity to lead the country for 30 years, and that it is time for him to leave the stage for others to take over. It will be good to have a new president when Museveni is also around such that he can offer guidance.
At the Kamuswaga's event, you led the prayers in the name of the district Kadhi...
Yes, my prayer was not for Museveni to be forced out but for Allah to enable him to lead the country for all the terms that people will have given him but to also keep him around when he's out of power to see how these younger politicians he has groomed lead the country.
He has severally been to Kyankwanzi lecturing [to various groups] how leaders behave. I want Allah to give him that chance to see how the people he has taught politics, manage the country, and I think that will also improve his dignity. I see that as something that can put Museveni closer to [Nelson] Mandela.
Hasn't the prayer landed you into trouble?
Whoever listened carefully to my prayer doesn't need to bother me to clarify anything. Allah is the Lord of this world, he is the one who gives life and is the one who has allowed Museveni to rule for this long. So, if I pray for him to see other people lead this country, what's wrong with that?
I don't think that there is anyone who doubts that I like Museveni because it even cost me an election for Mayor of Kyotera [Town Council in 2006] What they need to appreciate is that what I'm saying is genuine and good for all of us. We should realize that when you are a leader, you should not suffocate others.
How would you describe Museveni's leadership?
There are some problems that have emerged over the last five years, which indicate there is some fatigue on the part of the president. If the major principle for the NRA war was democracy, and one man like Mbabazi, who is your Secretary General [shows interest] in your seat and then you start [gagging] him, it shows that something is not right. There is some weakness that we need to address urgently as members of NRM.
Do you want to say that the president is fatigued?
This is what I am trying to mean, otherwise he would not behave the way he is behaving. His intention of [blocking] Mbabazi from contesting within the party is not good for the party; he should allow democracy to flourish, if he [Museveni] wins, we shall join him, but he should not block anyone from contesting, that will be dangerous to the party and to the nation as a whole.