INTERVIEW: Kamya Has Taken Over My Work – Lukwago
‘If It were not FDC, I would be dead Meat’
By Ben Byarabaha & Alex Masereka
Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has accused the Kampala Capital City Authority Minister, Beti Olive Namisango Kamya (BONK) of usurping his powers and turning him into ‘a lame duck Lord Mayor’.
“I have presided over six meetings in the last six months and the directives we have come up with have been defied by Kamya,” Lukwago said.
He said the Authority has been turned into a Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo vehicle to propel President Yoweri Museveni’s further stay in power.
Lukwago revealed this on Thursday in an exclusive interview with this newspaper at his office in the Mayor’s Parlour at City Hall in Kampala.
He said Kamya is wrong to run Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) business at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
“Kamya now does the authority’s business from the Office of the Prime Minister. I told her that if she wants to manage Kampala, she should sit at City Hall instead of the OPM but she has since defied me,” Lukwago revealed on Thursday.
In the interview, the Lord Mayor who spent his last term battling court cases concerning his legality as mayor following an impeachment revealed talked about a wide range of issues including attempts by Museveni to discredit him
“Museveni enjoys working in kavuyo (confusion) and that’s what explains his operations in Kampala,” Lukwago who celebrated six uninterrupted months in office on 6th December said.
The mayor also spoke about his relationship with the Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi that had previously been fodder for the press due to its frosty nature and an account of his six months in office.
Below are the interview excerpts
RP: How do the Mayor, ED and Minister of Kampala operate smoothly considering the reports of animosity?
EL: I have always insisted that these people killed institutions at the authority. The authority operates like it has no accounting officer. The minister and the president have been holding functions. I have not been invited for these functions. Even if I were invited I would not attend because they are not within the clear system and structure of KCCA.
Even that thing called wealth creation actually; you can imagine the confusion they are creating. Museveni brought his brother to be the person in charge, but it has been hijacked, you can imagine that kind of confusion!
RP: Don’t you think the public considers you part of the confusion you just mentioned?
EL: How? Did I commit any crime to run for this position? It’s a creation of the law and an elective position. The role of the Lord Mayor is clearly defined. I went out to the public and campaigned and got elected. So what offence did I commit?
RP: Do you think you are serving the people considering the litany of problems you mentioned?
EL: Why not? I am serving my people in accordance with law and also the nation. My role is clearly defined as a leader. If you looked at the KCCA Act, Section 11, it talks of the Lord Mayor being the political head of Kampala. I am the political head of Kampala.
So interrogate that issue, what is entailed within that role of being political head? First and foremost giving political guidance. When you cause mayhem in Kampala in the name of evicting vendors and I come out and give policy direction, do you find me wanting in giving policy direction?
For the last thirty years, Museveni has messed up the common user facilities like markets, giving some to his cronies like Hassan Basajjabalaba. I come up and give guidance, do you find that wanting? Presiding over the authority, I have done that. I have called several meetings, the law talks of at least one meeting in a month but I cloaked six months on the 6th of this month.
I have presided over six authority meetings in which we have taken decisions. Most of these decisions have been defied by Hon Kamya.
EL: Ask her of all those meetings, how many has she attended? None. What single resolution has she followed? None
RP: You preside over meetings and make decisions and they are defied. What have you done about it?
EL: Do I keep quiet? Do I keep quiet? I think you are not being fair to me. I have always told Kamya off, even facing off with her in parliament, in all these issues where she has come up with Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo, programs which have not been initiated in the authority, I have told her off in these public fora. unless you want me to hold her by the neck. I have been to parliament over these issues.
I have been to the public domain in too many discourses. I have taken her on, on these very issues. Usurpation of powers and turning herself into a campaign manager for Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo (KHM).
My quarrel with her is twofold; usurpation of powers and turning herself into a campaign manager for Museveni’s 2021. Mixing KCCA with campaigns for Museveni.
RP: It appears that you only spend time lamenting!
EL: My role is airing out these issues, accounting to the people who elected me, explaining to them the issue because I believe in the philosophy that a problem identified is a problem half solved. So I diagonise the problem and say institutional breakdown is caused by the system led by Museveni because he does not believe in a systematic operation of institutions, so there is institutional breakdown and there are proxies he is using.
Beti Kamya betrayed her conscience when she came out to assertively and expressly state that her role number one is moblising support for Museveni’s KHM.
RP: Why can’t u resign?
EL: Don’t go there, don’t there please!
RP: I though this KHM is part of development, empowering your people, why are you against it?
EL: This question reminds of something I saw on social media about the former Soviet Union leader, Joseph Stalin.
During the Soviet dictatorship of Stalin, he (Stalin) came to one Politburo meeting with a live chicken. He started to pluck its feathers one by one off.
The chicken quacked in pain, blood oozing from its pores. It gave out heartbreaking cries but Stalin continued without remorse plucking off feather after feather until the chicken was completely naked.
After that, he threw the chicken on the ground and from his pockets, took out some chicken feed and started to throw it at the poor creature. It started eating and as he walked away, the chicken followed him and sat at his feet feeding from his hand.
Stalin then told members of his party leadership, “This chicken represents the people, you must disempower them, brutalise them, beat them up and leave them. If you do this and then give them peanuts when they are in that helpless and desperate situation, they will blindly follow you for the rest of their lives. They will think you are a hero forever. They will forget that, it is you who brought them to that situation in the first place.”
According to Stalin, if you want to control people, impoverish them. President Museveni has mastered that art of impoverishing people so they can look to him as the savior. That’s why almost everybody is turning into a beggar before Museveni and he assumes that everyone should beg for these handouts.
I love the statement Mugisha Muntu made when he was launching the FDC platform; he said what we need right now are not handouts but a hand up the ladder of success.
RP: If you were in the shoes of Museveni, what would you do?
EL: Honestly, I would retire honorably. Museveni has reached the point of diminishing returns and he is going down. He reached the epitome of his career decades ago and he started going down the cliff. The unfortunate bit is he is not going alone, Museveni is going down, and he is dragging the country along. He is drowning and we shall all find ourselves in the doldrums.
What I would request him to do now is to appreciate the fact that he is driving the country down the cliff and we are going along. This country may find itself in ruins again.
RP: Have you tried to reach out to Museveni on this matter?
EL: You see this is the absurdity of this country. You think everything has to be solved by one person. It’s where you go wrong. This is a person who has sent proxies here. He has the RCCs here. He has six of them; each division with its own and deputy.
According to the KCCA Act section 72, one of the functions of the Resident City Commissioner (RCC) is to, “represent the President and the government in the Authority;”
If you have an RCC, what work does the president have in the authority? As of now she is redundant as Kamya runs the show. The RCCs have now resorted to handling of small quarrels. It is what they have been relegated to yet ordinarily they are supposed to represent the president. She has never attended our meetings.
RP: You don’t invite her?
EL: All the time. I issue notices for meetings. I invite all elected leaders, councilors, MPs of Kampala, mayors, RCCs, ministers and converging point is the chambers. You cannot snub these chambers and then you imagine that we shall create another platform to discuss issues. That is killing the institution.
RP: So Beti Kamya wants you to go to OPM where she sits…
EL: Kamya wants to turn her office into the authority chambers where issues should be deliberated on.
RP: So she has never come here?
EL: She has visited for some other engagements but not authority meetings.
RP: Does the Executive Director attend?
EL: Well she has attended some and others she has been represented.
RP: What is your working relationship with the ED?
EL: You see this is what baffles me much. It should be about institutional building rather individual relationships because you will also ask me what’s your relationship with FDC councillors, with MPs, that ultimately destroys the institution. All we need to focus is;working in accordance with the law. Have we established an institution that conforms to the legal instrument as it is?
RP: Do you sit down with stakeholders for budget formulation, the Kamya issue aside?
EL: We are yet to establish the Public Accounts Committee, I put the five names, one of them was rejected and four approved. In the next meeting, I will present the fifth name.
RP: Aren’t you late as far putting up that committee is concerned?
EL: No I am not because they will be able to do backward audits. The ultimate audit has to be done by PAC. It has to be done within the next two weeks.
RP: What’s your take on USAFI market?
EL: USAFI market is another problem. We have had issues, authority meetings, put in place committees to investigate all these issues. The last time we appeared before parliament, we had an exchange with Kamya. She suggested that she puts in place a committee that would cost shs300m yet I would also put in place a committee over the same matter. The committee said the matter is before court and they would consult the speaker on the issue. Up to now they have not given us a report on the matter.
RP: How do you sum up the deal, was it fair?
EL: Certainly it wasn’t.
RP: What went wrong?
EL: This is what we want to find out. What went wrong because Shs39.4bn to buy one market is a lot of money. That is why we have put in place those committees to do a comprehensive study of what went wrong.
RP: How would you rate your six months in office?
EL: It’s been about getting the institution back on the rails. My office was closed down for three years and the institution went into shambles. There were no authority meetings, no systems in place and my role was to get these institutions back on the rail. That has been my duty.
I have not yet made headway I must say but at least the councilors are with me.
Previously, we had majority of councillors who were NRM and Museveni used them as an entry point to bring down my government.
This time round, for the last six months, he has not succeeded in doing that because i and councilors were are one.
Majority are steadfast and I give credit to my colleagues in FDC who have done a commendable work. The FDC leadership has been tremendous in putting together councillors for the last six months. They have remained solid and resolute despite some maneuvers. I am really grateful to the FDC leadership.
If it were not for the fact that majority of councilors were FDC, the story would be different and I mean it. The story would be different.
RP: What do you mean different?
EL: Like what happened in the previous term with the councillors but right now it’s not easy.
RP: The other time it was about money and groceries…You mean that has failed?
EL: That time they were NRM councillors and that was the starting point. Yes money came in later and played a key role but fundamentally their orientation was NRM. I had 20/30 who were NRM but right now NRM is the minority party in the institution.
RP: You commend FDC but what lessons do you draw from it via-a-vis your party?
EL: Well, even the previous term I think DP was not the majority. There were only six councillors, majority were NRM. Maybe if majority were DP; it’s a matter of conjecture.
RP: What kind of relationship do you have with the FDC?
EL: We enjoy a very cordial relationship; they are comrades in the struggle.
We share the same platform of defiance. Actually Defiance is being championed by the FDC and that is a platform I subscribe to. Defiance as a platform that has helped us advance the cause for peaceful transfer of power, for restoration of multiparty democracy, for restoration of sanity in this country so that’s the kind of relationship I have with the FDC.
RP: So why can’t you join the FDC?
EL: That’s a different matter altogether. I believe right now we do not have a functional multiparty democracy. All we need is struggle to dismantle this monolithic system.
RP: The other day you revealed that sometimes you act as Besigye’s duplicate. Is your political future hinged on Besigye?
EL: Every struggle has got a flag bearer. The cause for peaceful transfer of power in this country right now is being championed by Besigye. Apart from being a personal friend, I rally behind that platform. Don’t divert me!
RP: What do you mean by personal friend?
EL: He is a personal friend just like you can be friends with anyone. I have worked with him for a long time. I have been with him for a long time and we share values.
RP: When did you first meet Besigye?
EL: It was I think in 2000 when he had just declared his intentions to stand. We were by that time very active in the DP and when the decision was taken to support him, we went up to his office.
My colleague Alaka and I were directly involved in his petition in 2001 and we worked hand in hand with Hon Winnie Byanyima after she was charged with being in possession of a gun. One time I even shared the dock with Besigye in the court martial. That’s’ when i was one of his lawyers. We have worked together and struggled together.
RP: Don’t you think you are the best person to replace him in the struggle?
EL: That debate is diversionary and I wouldn’t encourage it. I wouldn’t be party to that debate. The succession debate is not being made in good faith and those who are engineering it may be having sinister motives. The succession debate I mean in the opposition. The flag bearer for the forces of change is Dr Kizza Besigye. No doubt about that.
As long as he is still committed to the struggle, as long as he is still resolute and steadfast in the struggle, I don’t think it is necessary for us to indulge in that debate.
RP: Here is a man who has failed on four attempts to dislodge Museveni. What a hell are doing with him, take on him and lead the struggle!
EL: No no no…The question is not how many times he has tried and how many times he has been robbed of his victory. In all these cases we are convinced he has been winning since 2001.
RP: Are you sure about that?
EL: Yes, he has been winning. If not why did we go to court in 2001 and 2006 if we were not convinced he had won?
RP: The man has been robbed victory four times! Have a different approach
EL: I am convinced he is still a strong fighter who can champion the cause for change.
RP: Are we going to see you in these chambers again in 2021?
EL: You see it is not a question of one making a statement that I am going to be here in 2021. This country is in a terrible crisis. It would be foolhardy for one to make ambitions to stand for elections. We are at crossroads. Museveni might even scrap off elections in Kampala.
RP: How would you summarize Museveni’s activities in the last six months?
EL: There have been schemes by this regime, Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh to bring down my leadership but they have not succeeded. Museveni and Saleh have been using Kamya to undermine me but they have not succeeded.
They are just manipulations, political manipulations at that. The people of Kampala and Uganda at large lost trust in this government and majority of the people want change.
So no amount of political manipulation will bring me down. Even me if you target me as an individual, the forces that want change will find their way.
RP: What’s your take on the Kasese attack?
EL: It is one of those mind boggling issues and because of how they have been handled, it will remain in annals of history as one of the most regrettable incidents. Actually what happened on that Sunday, the day of infamy will be reckoned with in the history of this country. The massacres that took place, the grisly murders, and killings will always haunt this regime. That was genocide and it is dangerous.
RP: What does it point to in as far as regime survival is concerned?
EL: It is ominous. It sends chills down our spine. It clearly shows that Museveni has retreated to the coercive machinery of the state. That spells doom for our country. Personally I must tell you, everybody is on tenterhooks.
It shows Museveni has entered into a different phase of annihilating his enemies.
Museveveni’s regime has been known for stopping murders but even Amin started like that; he brought the body of Ssekabaka Muteesa and everybody was happy. But how did he end up?
RP: Comment on the killings of Muslim clerics!
EL; I don’t want to get there. Am done. What in have given you is enough! Go ..go..go..have another meeting.
RP; Okay Lord Mayor. Thanks for your time.