19 June 2017

Uganda: The Areas of Focus As Kyadondo East Heads for By-Election

interview

Kantinti abandoned Besigye, constituents - Bobi Wine

What new ideas do you bring to the table?

I bring involvement of the people. I bring real, active and aggressive representation. I want to come back to the ground to get not what a political party says but what people say because I am going to be a representative of the people.

Two, I am bringing active representation. The people of Kyadondo East will always hear their voice up there and not have a silent voice. What the people tell me is exactly what I will say in Parliament.

Three, I bring a confident independent voice. Every political party - NRM, DP and FDC - has a position in Kyadondo East but the people have a position that is not represented. I come to represent unity because even those in NRM have something that they want only because it's the position of NRM.

You are talking of active involvement and active representation, is that an attempt to inflame discontent in the constituency that Apollo Kantinti has been a no-show both in the constituency and Parliament?

That's exactly what I am trying to solve. I came into this race well aware of the failures of my predecessors but that's not what I want to dwell on.

How would you rate Kantinti for the one year he had in Parliament?

I wish I was not running against him because you might think I am putting him down. But honestly speaking, I would give him zero out of 10 because he never come back. I do not want to talk about him.

You can talk about him because he was your MP for that one year

It's claimed all over the constituency that he has never showed up since Election Day. Two, personally, as a constituent of Kyadondo East, I did not feel represented.

Last time, we supported him because it was Dr Besigye who brought him to us. He was in FDC and we were all for Dr Besigye and that people voted for him thinking he would do the same. But even when Dr Besigye was arrested, he never showed up. It was me a non-MP who went to Dr Besigye to give him some support. I thought that the MP of Kyadondo East where Dr Besigye's Kasangati home is should have spoken up. Dr Besigye could not speak, it was the area MP supposed to speak for him. So even Dr Besigye himself was not represented. It is such times that we need leaders.

I was reading the ratings of MPs who have not said a word and I saw my own former MP [Kantinti]. I felt very embarrassed.

Another worry from the Kantinti camp is that you are running a campaign that is not issue-based but simply going around mudslinging your opponents. That you have no issues to sell

On the contrary, I never talk about my opponents. As a matter of fact, when they get to platforms, they will mention my name 10 times and say their names once. We have very few days left and I, therefore, do not have the time to engage in mudslinging.

If you wish that there were more candidates in this election, doesn't the fact that you have three Opposition-leaning candidates worry you that it may give Sitenda Sebalu chance to win it?

Unfortunately, I have a different mind-set from politicians. Let me make it categorical that I am not a politician but a leader. They think like politicians but many people on the ground do not go with those political colours.

I do not want to be classified as blue [FDC], yellow [NRM] or green [DP]. I want to be classified as a citizen of Kyadondo East who wants better healthcare, better roads and employment. A citizen who wants people to be united by a leader because a leader sees the way and shows the way and I want to be exactly that. That is what I have done all my life. I have been trying to improve the conditions of the people even without an office.

Talking of political parties, there is disquiet in some circles in the Opposition that you could not listen to voices of dialogue?

I am not here to serve any politician. I am here to serve the people and whatever I will say will be a position of the people of Kyadondo East and not a position of any political party.

Has your relationship been Dr Kizza Besigye been affected by him not backing you?

As a matter of fact, no. I understand Dr Besigye. I know Dr Besigye supports me in his heart. But I must understand that he must follow his party constitution to back the candidate of the party and that is the only difference between me and Dr Besigye.

If it was me, I would defy the law. As Martin Luther King put it, if a law is unjust, it is not only right to defy but it also becomes a responsibility, a duty to defy it. I respect the [FDC] constitution but probably that's why I am not a member of any party because I would defy it. And fortunately, it's Dr Besigye who taught me defiance. If I was him, would defy it [FDC constitution].

So fundamentally you think it's time for the struggle to shift from political parties to individuals?

With all due respect to the parties, I believe it's time that we should have a people-centred holistic movement.

Would you have taken up the FDC flag had it been offered to you?

It was offered to me.

How was it offered to you when they did not hold primaries?

A night before nomination, I was invited by the top leadership of FDC and they asked me a few questions. They know we stand for the same values at least verbally, same struggle but I am for unity.

I was asked by the FDC party president whether I would be willing to take the FDC card [flag] and I told him straight to the face that I am not going to represent a party. I told him I was born in DP and I love DP but I did not take the DP card [flag] yet it was also offered to me. The DP party president offered it to me but I told him that I love DP [and] my grandfather was one of the founding members of DP but my vision is not for a political party now, it's for my country, it's for solutions.

The feeling within the Kantinti camp is that you are a political opportunist who did not have the courage to contest in 2016 but you are now jumping into the by-election after reading the Opposition mood in the constituency?

Bobi: As a young mind, I believe that as soon as you notice a problem, that is the opportunity to offer a solution. Leadership of our society is not franchised. As a matter of fact, I wish we were more people vying for this post so that the people of Kyadondo East could have a variety to choose from. This is not a personalised venture. Everybody has a responsibility to play a part in the improvement of this place that we call a home.

Bobi Wine is only a starter, I'm way ahead - Kantinti

You won the last election with a margin of 326 votes, is that a reflection of your popularity or lack it?

The last election had three opposition-leaning candidates. It was me, Muwada Nkuyingi, who is FDC but contested as an Independent, and Lillian Kamoome of DP. We all pooled votes and so it was not a reflection of my popularity in the constituency.

It should also be noted that this was a virgin constituency because the incumbent, Ibrahim Ssemujju, shifted to contest in Kiira Municipality. There was Stella Njuba, a daughter of the late Sam Njuba who is a founder member of FDC, but was NRM and was also very popular in the constituency.

When you look at the dynamics, we were all new, we were all strong candidates and so the electorate had some hard choices to make.

With that background of 2016 where Opposition votes were divided among the three candidates, doesn't that split of votes give NRM's Sitenda Sebalu a chance of edging you out?

In Kyadondo East now, the task is not explaining the ideology and the goals of the Opposition or FDC, those are very clear among the people. The issue is who among the Opposition candidates is better suited to represent them.

Some of your opponents have been campaigning on the platform that since you were elected in 2016, you literally have been a no-show. You are neither in Parliament nor in the constituency

My credentials as an Opposition politician and candidate are very clear. All they say to the constituency is that I have not lived my part of the bargain for the one year I have been in Parliament. But there are a couple of things they should know. One, this has been one year out of a five year term, two they should also bear in mind that for that year, I was in court battling it out with Sitenda Sebalu and NRM. I was taken to court even before I was sworn in as an MP.

But fortunately, to my electorate and voters, I have also had some achievements on the ground. I have worked with faith-based organisations, churches, the Islamic community, I have worked with women groups but most importantly, I have not veered off from the message of trying to advocate Opposition values.

Most importantly, the court ruling had nothing to do with me as a candidate, it had nothing to do with my supporters. With all that in mind I find that the ground is warming up again. I would probably call their bluff on this.

You are in effect saying your poor performance in Parliament for the last one year can be explained by the court cases you have been battling?

Partly yes. Battling court cases comes with expenses and a psychological burden. When you couple all these things, you know that our electorate always expects something from an MP, some kind of assistance, this is a role that has been created by our constituents and we cannot deny it.

We know the roles of an MP but they have gone beyond. I always had invitations to fundraisings, schools' speech days and all those kinds of things. Fortunately, I have been able to make strides on that. That is what they are trying to fight with. My challenge in this campaign is perception. I am not the kind of MP who wears achievements on my sleeves like military ranks.

When I look back, one of the things that I could have done a bit differently is to brag about every single achievement that I managed to achieve in the last one year.

I went and lobbied for the water system to be corrected. I did sit on the District Local Government Committee to ensure that the roads are worked on. These are all things that I have been doing.

There is talk in your constituency that you live an indulgent lifestyle and maybe that has also affected your performance

It is even going to get more personal than that. This is something that my opponents have used before. In the last elections, it was used against me and it backfired.

There has been talk about my marital status, there has been talk about whether I have a home or own a home in the constituency and that's what prompted me to begin my campaign launch from my home.

There has been talk about me being a Muryarwanda [Rwandan]. I have had to explain my lineage in Buganda which I found irrelevant. So what are they doing? They are trying to find what is going to stick and what will not stick.

There have been issues about land. They are saying that I razed down an entire village. I welcome you to go to Kabuugu where we are doing very well. I had 386 acres and we settled with all the squatters.

So Bobi Wine and Sitenda Sebalu are not running an issue-based campaign but are simply mudslinging you?

Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, very good, he has been in the struggle. We had campaigns in 2016, he did not offer himself. That is not wrong. It is not illegal. It is perfectly right. But my question is: after the nullification of results, what better does he think he could do or what does he think I did wrong? He cannot answer that question.

What issues does he think he can project better? He cannot answer that question. What organisation structures does he have? He cannot answer that question. We can also talk about continuity in Parliament... it is not time for somebody to begin afresh getting in Parliament and catching up with how business is done. Kyagulanyi is being opportunistic.

Sitenda Sebalu has been saying vote me and I can tap [government] resources because I am close to the President. And my question has been; the President has been [in power] for 30 years, Sebalu shared five years but does not want to talk about his record because it involves removing term limits.

I understand where the other opposition candidates are coming from. They feel the yearning from the constituents is for an Opposition MP.

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