By Faruk Kirunda
The vocal Member of Parliament (MP) for Nakaseke South, Hon. Paulson Luttamaguzi Semakula, while appearing on “Gangamuka Extra” morning programme on Baba TV on October 10, 2022, made various allegations which I wish to respond to with all due respect.
To begin with, I wish to state that while advancing our views we should always be mindful that the world is watching and that time is always the best judge.
Hon. Luttamaguzi asserts that the government abducts and kills NUP supporters but continues to live in denial. Hon. Luttamaguzi should know that when the government or the State requires anyone to answer for breach of the law, an arrest is effected. This is however termed by the political players as “abduction. The State cannot abduct. It arrests! And for the arrest, no one is arrested for no reason. All arrests are based on a high probability of crime committed. There is always a cause. It’s up to the Court to exonerate the suspects after receiving a free and fair trial subject to the balance of evidence presented before Court. It is up to those who have an attachment to help the process of reaching justice by contributing evidence in defense or in prosecution.
The length of a trial is not Government’s making but it is caused by the practical workings of those in the justice chain including witnesses. And it should not be made to seem that everyone arrested is actively involved in politics. That is just a cover for impunity. Who are those opposition supporters and sympathizers killed? Hon. Luttamaguzi should provide a list of the victims in order to have each one of them accounted for. However, the Member of Parliament (MP) should know that cases have arisen of people claimed to have been arrested but they are found to have gone underground for very many personal reasons. The hand of some politicians is suspected in these schemes.
Hon. Luttamaguzi should be specific and name those that have been killed for no reason as he alleged. A suspect can only be neutralized when he or she becomes aggressive and impossible to subdue; and if his/her actions put other members of the public or security personnel involved at risk in trying to bring them to justice.
On torture, Government does not believe in torture. President Museveni is on record addressing the nation and condemning any such acts and issuing broad and strict directives to the armed forces on humane and civil methods of effective arrest and holding suspects or convicts. For ease of reference, on May 15, 2017, he issued guidelines to Security Chiefs where he addressed in condemnation the subject of torture like no one else has ever done; giving historical and cultural perspectives and what needs to be done to completely weed out the practice. Any acts of torture are the mistakes of individuals but not institutional. Whoever has information on such acts should report to the authorities for action to be taken on them. The army and the police have units that try such cases and hand down very punitive sentences to culprits. The aggrieved parties should always report cases to Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and other organs for due action and not resort to media shows for political purposes. Uganda under Museveni has erased the extrajudicial acts of past regimes and no one will stop the process from being completed.
On the claim that President Yoweri Museveni is building a dynasty and that Uganda can never be independent without a peaceful transfer of power, it’s public knowledge that every five years, the President is elected by Ugandans willingly and sworn in to do their bidding. It’s the will of Ugandans to determine the transition and not the President failing the transition or crafting a dynasty. Transition is not forced. If it’s forced, then it’s illegal and undemocratic. If Museveni ever contests and loses but refuses to facilitate a transfer of power, that’s when we can say that he has blocked the transition. For as long as NRM chooses him as its preferred flagbearer, he won’t let Ugandans down because if he does, he will have betrayed them and left them at the mercy of those without a vision for the country. The same elections through which Museveni is elected are the same that Luttamaguzi goes through, organised by the same system. Does that mean that he (Luttamaguzi) also forces himself on voters?
For the record, the stability that President Museveni has guaranteed Uganda for the time he has been in power has been the best years of Independence for the country.
The MP then claimed that new Kenyan President, H.E William Ruto was imposed on Kenyans by President Museveni and that he was not rightly elected by Kenyans. First of all, when did Uganda start managing Kenyan elections? Kenya elections are not Uganda elections. Each country runs its own system managed by its own people. The Kenyan elections were observed by observers from diverse countries and organizations, including those from outside Africa with much expertise in electoral democracy. Such observers made their verdict known according to their own findings. Were they (also) bribed? I am aware that some Ugandan politicians took an active position in Kenya’s elections on the side of opponents of Ruto. When they lost, out of embarrassment they turned their frustrations on Museveni as always. I was at Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani during the swearing in of H.E Ruto as part of President Museveni’s official entourage. The stadium was full to the brim. Were those crowds shipped in by Museveni?
The Nakaseke South MP also stated that H.E Ruto owns many petrol stations in Uganda which do not pay taxes. Personally, I do not know which petrol stations those are but if it is true, there is nothing strange about a non-Ugandan investing here. It’s the campaign we have of getting as many investors as possible to spur the economy. That’s the policy even among our neighbors. Hon. Luttamaguzi can also go to Kenya or South Sudan and invest there. If “Ruto’s” fuel stations are evading taxes, there is a system to whistle blow on that if anyone is causing financial loss to the Government. IGG, State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU), etc, are all here to help. Even URA receives such information and acts on it. URA should do an audit on the MP’s lead and establish how true it is and hold those found responsible accountable and if untrue, the MP should equally answer.
In the same breath, the MP talks of unemployment and how it has caused many graduates to go to UAE to work as “slaves”. What he calls “slaves” are people who willingly go to seek greener pastures. When one graduates, it’s not a guarantee that they must work in one place and not another. We are in a global village. I think Hon. Luttamaguzi at one time worked outside Uganda. Was it not by choice? It’s okay for any Ugandan to seek opportunity anywhere as long as their terms are clear. When I say that investors are welcomed at all times in Uganda, that is part of the strategy to create more jobs for our people with different skill sets. And not only Uganda has its own doing kyeeyo abroad.
But the MP is also a leader; how has he participated in alleviating unemployment? How has he helped on value-addition? How many enterprise groups has he created, helped create or supported for purposes of job creation? Is he involved in monitoring empowerment and mass job creation initiatives like PDM and Emyooga? Government is all of us.
It was also claimed that many East African Heads of State refused to attend the Independence celebrations at Kololo Airstrip because they are not in agreement with the East African Political Integration idea. First of all, when did attending Independence celebrations become the signature for acceptance of certain regional protocols? I think that a leader can attend depending on their schedule. But on this year’s Independence Day celebrations, H.E Salva Kiir of South Sudan was here; H.E Dr. William Ruto of Kenya was here; H.E Evarist Ndayishimiye of Burundi was here; Zanzibar’s H.E Hussein Ali Mwinyi attended; H.E Hassan Sheikh Muhamud of Somalia (soon to join the bloc) was here. H.E Paul Kagame of Rwanda, H.E Samia Suluhu of Tanzania and H.E Felix Tshisekedi of DRC sent representatives. Who among these boycotted, in the MP’s imagination, and for what reason? How possible is it that DRC which joined EAC recently to benefit from the Integration agenda would, so soon, boycott the same? As we talk, the E.A forces are active in stabilizing DRC.
For President Kagame, while addressing the E.A assembly in Kigali on Tuesday (October 31, 2022), he decried the slow pace in Integration and said it’s caused by absence of a consolidated fund for the bloc to finance its operations. What should be the concern of all is how to get Integration underway, including providing a budget framework. The other thing is that Integration is not only Political. It has many objectives including the Socio-Economic and Strategic Security aspects. The problem we have is that leaders who are supposed to explain these issues to the public and help fast track these processes are only acting like spectators and saboteurs. Does Hon. Does Luttamaguzi feel that Uganda is better off or stronger on its own or in concert with neighbors? That’s the important question of our times.
In the same program on Baba TV, Hon. Luttamaguzi claimed that information about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda was a scam aimed at targeting funds from the United Nations. In essence, his view is that Ebola doesn’t exist or that it is not that serious. Can he tell us what is killing those diagnosed with the disease? At the time I was penning this writeup, many community members who exhumed the body of an Ebola victim ostensibly to carry out religious rituals on it in Mubende had caught the disease and some were dying. Does the MP claim to know more than medics what the problem is? Has the UN or whichever agency he thinks of denied the existence of the viral disease which is not killing Ugandans for the first time, and which has ravaged other countries before?
Government exists to protect and safeguard Ugandans and no measure is being spared for that purpose, including ones that are inconvenient. If the MP does not believe that there is Ebola, I dare him to expose himself freely to it. We shall remember him as a hero.
The fiery legislator also accused President Museveni of hiring foreign companies to construct roads in the country while ignoring local companies. Here, it should be known that it is not the President who contracts companies to do public jobs. There is a procurement procedure in place to handle that. Sometimes foreign companies approach the President and express interest to work in Uganda, moreover when they have adequate capacity and funds. What he does is to forward them to the Minister of Works to evaluate them and determine whether they get jobs or not. There is no policy against any company, foreign or local, from bidding and getting these jobs. It depends on their capacity to do the job, including possessing requisite capital. There is also a policy requiring that a certain quota of contracts be reserved for local companies while foreign contractors are required to reserve a certain quota of roles for Ugandans while doing contracts. They are also encouraged to use local materials. What has the MP done to help local companies gain sufficient capacity to take on any contract?
On the accusation of the Government failing to build the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR); SGR is being held back by a number of factors. One is the issue of compensation for Project Affected Persons (PAPs). There are court cases that need resolving before SGR proceeds. Also, the Chinese funders stepped back after Kenya decided to stop its SGR project in Naivasha and not Malaba where Uganda’s section would have started. MPs also rejected a loan from China’s EXIM Bank allegedly on the argument that why should it be China funding this one, too? Government was also committed to paying PAPs up to the Mayuge area but when Chinese funding couldn’t come through, matters ground to a halt. Discussions are ongoing between the two countries on how to address these collective challenges. It’s not only a problem in Uganda only. We should thank our governments for even thinking about building this mega railway system which will link the EA region and beyond for trade and general connectivity purposes.
It is my hope that Hon. Luttamaguzi and others who think like him will reconsider their assessment of issues and join those who are actively involved in improving wherever there may be weaknesses and strengthening achievements. Let us also use our media platforms responsibly and professionally for the sake of public confidence in ourselves and our own conscience. The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary. Contact: email@example.com. 0776980486/0783990861<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>> (The views expressed here belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of this publication. Send your opinion, complaint, feedback, and letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text / WhatsApp 0777959024. Anonymous writers must indicate the reason.)