Having established your own political entity last year, there is growing pressure from different parties. How are you appreciating the events unfolding as we near the 2021 General Election?
The dynamics of the politics in the country are quite complex but we are happy that we are a new organisation appreciating what we are doing and how we ought to do it.
We do not have any contestation in terms of strategy. So it is easier for us to conduct manoeuvers within this complicated political situation. But we are happy in the way within which we are conducting business. It is systematic.
You have finished your sub-regional meetings and you are now going to meet people at the district level. Do you think this is going to be a smooth ride for you knowing what the security agencies have done to Opposition politicians before?
We hope it will be [smooth] because these are small indoor meetings. The regime is frightened with big rallies because they believe that if the meetings become massive, that has a psychological impact on the masses.
So they don't want something that gives courage and hope to the population. Therefore, they spend a lot of effort in suppressing individuals who engage in public meetings. These are meaningless conditions and we know they are misusing POMA (Public Order Management Act) but we have decided to bend backwards. We don't want to engage in fights because they will not yield any fruit in meeting the population that we want.
Could these meetings you are holding be termed as consultative forums for presidential ambitions or something else?
No. These ones are specifically building the party not presidential consultations. We do not intend to have any consultations for presidential candidature until the tail end of what we are doing. We are concentrating on things that build the party and do not want to be disrupted by anything.
When will the consultations end?
We are thinking that by May, we can see if we are done with them and then go into other events of organising a delegate's conference. Here, we shall elect different flagbearers for different leadership positions.
Will you field a candidate for the presidential elections?
We shall have candidates at all levels. The only difference though is that we have two processes; one, we intend to have the capacity to field 100 per cent at all levels. But also, we are mindful of a fact that we are trying to talk to other parties to have a coalition. We are flexible enough but we shall see when we get there.
Does the Opposition have time to come up with one candidate looking at the collapse of the The Democratic Alliance (TDA) in 2016 which was largely blamed on lack of enough time for preparation?
We have to operate within the time that we have. We can’t stretch it because it is not within our capability to do so and now we have to do everything that is humanly possible to do all the work that needs to be done within the time that we have.
The most important thing is the trust and not the time. As we reach out to the different political players, we need to emphasise the aspect of trust.
Alliance for National Transformation was birthed out of disagreements between members of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party. FDC has since said they will not have a coalition with People Power.
What do you think about this decision at a time like this when people believe that a combined Opposition could defeat President Museveni?
I think FDC has been focused for a very long time on regime change before elections which to me would be good and could be advantageous to the change process and I advise them to keep focused on that before we get to 2021. But should we get to the elections, we will have to engage in an electoral process for the parties which are ready to do that.
So I don’t see any conflict within the two strategies. Those that intend to engage in elections need to have built structures which would later overwhelm the regime in spite of the odds that we are faced with. There are parties which would want to go into it on their own and they would have done their own analysis and seen that that is the most effective way, I would have no quarrel on that.
You have been holding meetings with People Power and some political parties. Have you concretised on a coalition yet?
We have been meeting People Power because we want show them our intent. But we have also met with other parties such as DP and Jeema. We want them to know what we are doing and move on the same page because we certainly shall have to get this coalition question addressed at some point.
Mr Nobert Mao of DP and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of People Power have expressed intentions to stand for president but you have not and neither has Mr
Asuman Basalirwa of Jeema party. Do you think a coalition is possible with the four of you?
Yes. This is very possible and I don’t see any problem with that. Even now we could get rolling only that we have to finalise on a few things.
What do you think about Bobi Wine’s presidential aspirations and would you back him in an election?
It is good he has come up and he has shaken the status quo. He has brought the vibrancy in the country, which is the right way into politics only that it is being seen as abnormal but we shall continue pushing. We are working on a coalition and we shall work on that and yes, I would back him up if we agree on that. We are first building stability and trust.
What is the biggest problem of the Opposition in Uganda?
Our biggest problem is that we don’t have trust. Some people don’t apply maturity and skill which we need to work on. The problem is that we only focus on one position as if we had not learnt from the 2006 and 2011 elections.
For instance, if we fail to field a single candidate at the top level of presidency, let us work together on fielding candidates with a single force at the grass-root level so that we can overwhelm Gen Museveni in Parliament.
This is what failed the TDA because that was my idea and they refused to take it. Or field two candidates and deny President Museveni a win in the first run and go for a re-run. We need to manage our emotions as leaders that even when we fail to agree, we should not quarrel.
Is this something you are working on this time round?
I keep giving examples from a wider scale; Soviet Union was a communist country, the US, a capitalist. That means they were opposed ideologically but during the Second World War, they had a common enemy, (Adolf) Hitler and they had to get into an agreement on how to confront the Nazi in Germany.
But they had to come together and fight their common enemy at the time. They didn’t have a combined army but they managed their enemy and immediately after defeating them, their differences emerged. So we keep voicing these things and I hope we learn lessons.
Do you think we will have a free and fair 2021 General Election?
No, we won’t have it. I am not one of those people that have such illusions. It cannot happen and we know it.
Where does that leave your effort as the Opposition?
We are working around the clock to build strong structures to overwhelm the regime despite the odd against us. It is like the army—when you are on the battle field, how are you going to expect that the opponents will give you a flat ground on which to fight?
If an enemy has placed their heavy guns on a raised ground, try to see that you surmount them at all costs. That is how we fight a war in military terms. That is how we are working it out even in these elections.
You seem to have an immense zeal to uproot President Museveni. Yet you disobeyed your father who was a close friend with the then President Obote and went with Gen Museveni in the bush in the early 1980s. But you seem to loathe the decision you made then. Did you ever see these mistakes that you are fighting against now?
He has completely failed on the aspirations that he used to stand for then. The values I knew him for contradict with the person in power right now. But that is not my problem. We shall continue struggling. Gen Museveni has since been exposed as a fraud because of the things he used to say when we went to the bush and what he says now.
[During the process] of changing the Constitution to remove term limits, there was a meeting in Kyankwanzi and six people opposed it, [former minister] Sarah Kiyingi, Mr Amanya Mushega, [Former minister] Miria Matembe, Eria Kategaya, [former minister, RIP] Bidandi Ssali and I. But he later manipulated the system and went against the decision.
You took a bullet in your chest while in the bush because of the things you say have resurfaced now. Do you think these things are revivable?
These things are revivable because we were not the first people to fight for them. Even before independence, there are people who wanted to see good governance, good justice systems, the observation of the rule of law, free and fair election and accountability.
If our generation is able to succeed in reviving those, we shall go to our graves a happy people. But if we are to fail, the generations after us will have to continue fighting for them.
When you were dropped as army commander in 1997, you started to speak politically and showing signs of opposing the government. Was it out of frustration or this is the point at which you realised a failure in the values you had been fighting for?
There was nothing personal. But maybe to correct you, my first time to come out in the open was when I was still serving as army commander in 1996. I remember in Ntungamo District where a meeting was held over the fight for the LC5 position. During the election, they deployed the military led by [former Inspector General of Police Gen Kayihura] Kale and went and disrupted the elections. The population rose and there was a lot of discomfort and Gen Museveni thought he would lose this area to the Opposition.
They called for a meeting to try to correct their earlier mistake, I told President Museveni that this was a problem he had created himself. When there is an election, let it be held in a free and fair environment. Now you do not do that to your commander-in chief in the army. But I had been seeing these things. Even when he dropped me, he wrote to me and gave me a ministerial position. I wrote back to him and said thank you for the position but I won’t take it. I remained in Parliament to represent the army. There are many things which happen in private and I always went on to advise them only that they did not come out in the open. In the elections of 1996, I told a journalist that we would support any president who would go through. That is also unheard of in the army.
Uganda’s debt burden is at Shs46 trillion, this is just 8 per cent below the red line as drawn by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). How would you settle this problem if elected president?
We need to build discipline in the way things are made and how government is run. You need to build functioning institutions and empower the people in those institutions. Then we shall flag the loopholes and stop the haemorrhage to stamp out corruption. When all this is done, you will now be able to track how resources are allocated.
Prioritising is also key and building a team of people who understand that the country comes first. The problem is that we have political leaders who want to plant in the morning and harvest in the evening.
What would be your long-term economic plan for this country if you were president?
Our agenda is to focus on areas that have an impact in the development process of an individual. We must spend on education and health so that we have a healthy, skilled individual at all levels of production process.
Invest in agriculture which is a focal area so the individual has to be engaged in the production process and see that the roads, electricity and make sure cooperatives are revived. We need to invest in research, seed multiplication, banks with low interest rates and long-term payment process and marketing. This brings about employment by integrating the women and youth into these opportunities.
Do you have any names of such leaders who want to plant in the morning and harvest in the evening?
I cannot go into naming names. I know that is where you are trying to box me, but that is the reality and you must take it. From 1962 up to now, that is the disease.
Going into some regional politics, what do you think is the problem that has caused a standoff between Uganda and Rwanda?
I was worrying at some point when the situation seemed like it had escalated into an open conflict but the situation has deescalated and my hope is that they will be able to maintain that. As you share a border, things like trade have to happen. Reasoning has to be applied and not emotions. They need to work within the frameworks of the East African Community.
You seem to suggest that emotions between Presidents Kagame and Museveni have brought about this cold war between the two countries.
Well, countries sometimes have different ideological beliefs and develop misunderstandings. But once there are institutional mechanisms to solve those issues, it becomes much easier to resolve those conflicts.
During the bush war that brought NRM into power, you led the intelligence department which had people like President Kagame. We also know that President Kagame was one of Mr Museveni’s trusted officials. What do you think broke their relationship?
According to my analysis, there are personal issues that are causing this fight but those are not for me to share in the public. The general population in both countries is suffering because of this wrangle.
It would be good for a person like you who knows these two to tell the public what the problem is.
Why are you forcing me to say that?
I can only tell that maybe when I am writing a book but not now. These are things when you say them, they don’t help the situation. They only escalate it.
There are disease outbreaks in neighbouring countries such as DR Congo and so on. Our borders are at risk due to informal movements. What should be done to solve this problem?
There is need to have education of the citizens about any disease outbreaks and this needs resources. There is need for learning how to respond. They only need necessary budgetary allocations, and that is what we are grappling with because at the moment we have enough manpower.
Government seems to have failed to settle the conundrum of labour exportation. People are dying and suffering in the Middle East and many countries.
When we take power, we shall make sure that Ugandan Visa is expensive. We are advantaged with green pastures all year through and we would use this to grow as many resources as possible. The advantage we have is very big and we can use it.
Gen Muntu's lighter side
Who is your favourite Ugandan artiste?
I don’t have any in particular but I listen to mainly gospel music.
Where do you hang out?
That varies depending on what I am going to do. But I can do continental, Chinese or any restaurant.
Who is your favourite international artiste?
These are mainly in groups but I am not good with cramming group names and these specifics. But like I said they are gospel musicians.
What is the one childhood memory that stands out for you?
It would be hard for me to remember any.
What’s your favourite food?
Green beans, groundnut paste and Irish potatoes.
What’s the last gift you gave your wife?
I don’t remember.
What’s your favourite football club?
I watch any team that is playing and I don’t support any specific one.