Independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi has laid claim to President Museveni’s re-election manifesto, saying the incumbent is borrowing heavily from his own ideas.
Speaking exclusively to The Observer on Wednesday before campaigning in Kasese district, Mbabazi said Museveni is currently using ideas that he developed during his time as NRM secretary general.
“There is no election that NRM has been to [apart from this one] when I am not in charge of the manifesto. Look at their manifesto; it is a duplication of the previous one. Whose ideas were they? Those are my ideas,” said the former prime minister, now head of the Go Forward pressure group.
Mbabazi was responding to President Museveni’s remarks at a press conference in Lira last Saturday that the Kinkiizi West MP was stealing ideas from his manifesto in an attempt to boost his maiden presidential bid.
“It, is instead, him campaigning on my ideas…,” Mbabazi said.
Mbabazi is yet to release his campaign manifesto, and at his rallies, he gives tit-bits of the manifesto, and beats off any kind of prompting to talk in detail about his manifesto. But some of his campaign promises have tended to be similar to those of the NRM candidate.
Other than the region-specific promises, Mbabazi promises to revamp the agricultural sector through restoration of cooperatives, improvement of extension services and re-direction of Naads resources to the sub-counties so that farmers can individually benefit.
The 66-year-old Mbabazi also promises to revamp the education sector by increasing its budget share, improving the transport infrastructure and also tackling the youth unemployment problem that stands at 83 per cent, according to the African Development Bank (ADB) statistics.
The nearly 40-year comradeship between Museveni and Mbabazi collapsed last year after it became evident that the president’s right-hand man was plotting to oust him from leadership of party and country.
Mbabazi has often stated that he intends to discuss issues, and not personalities. However, that has not stopped Museveni from taking jabs at his former confidant.
During the Lira press conference, Museveni said Mbabazi was being deceitful with his campaign promises.
“He should stop deceiving people. Instead, he should read through my manifesto so that he stops promising what the NRM has already done,” Museveni said.
Mbabazi seems to have since realised that he can’t run a campaign without countering his former boss’ statements. As he began his campaigns in western Uganda, Mbabazi seemed to change his rhetoric to include sharp criticism of his friend-turned-political foe.
The former premier has also taken the unusual step of revealing some details about the way government operates under President Museveni. For instance, Mbabazi talked about the procurement processes that he said are the reason why the list of government creditors keeps growing.
“For example, when I was appointed minister of [state for] Defence in 1992, I found the systems there down,” Mbabazi said.
“Although the ministry was getting about 60 per cent share of the total national budget, they were getting supplies on credit until a time when the suppliers refused to make any more supplies until they got paid.”
He added: “They were never paid, and the ministry got other suppliers who were paid cash on delivery but when I got there, I stopped that, the system changed.”
This, he said, is the same problem that has plagued the protracted compensation of veterans of Uganda’s various struggles for liberation.
“I am not saying that the veterans have not been paid. The question is, ‘how many and after how long?’ And I am not only talking about the veterans of our [NRM/NRA] struggle, I also mean those that took part in previous struggles,” Mbabazi said.
“Some died long ago and it is now their offspring [and] grandchildren that are chasing for their compensation.”
Much as he indicated that he has a response to every issue that Museveni comes up against him, Mbabazi said he will not respond to issues raised by the “small minds” within government and NRM.
Mbabazi also spoke about what he termed as the continued political witch-hunt of his coordinators, citing two cases in Sembabule district where a house and a car of his coordinators in the district were set ablaze.
“Many more in Sembabule have had their homes visited at night with all sorts of threats but they [government] should know that we are like flood waters. No amount of intimidation or force will stop us,” he said.
“I know [Retired Lt Gen Henry] Tumukunde has been there [in Kasese and Fort Portal] intimidating the people not to turn up for the rally, but all that is a waste of time,” Mbabazi added.
In Kasese, he promised to upgrade Kasese airfield to an airport and also compel the Chinese firm at Kilembe mines to give job opportunities to locals. The promises were based on issues raised by Moses Kalemba, the former minister for chiefdoms, clans and culture in the Rwenzururu kingdom.
Kalemba, who is vying for the Bukonzo East parliamentary seat, also accused the government of fuelling tribal conflicts in the area. At least 70 people were killed in July last year during violent clashes between the Bakonzo and the Basongora.