By Ahura Mujuni Mark
President Yoweri Museveni was interviewed by Al Jazeera host James Bays at the sidelines of the 68th General Assembly in New York last week.He opened up in a number of issues like his alleged succession plan ,the peace keeping mission in Somalia ,restoration of peace in DRC ,Uganda’s fight against corruption among other issues.Below is Museveni’s full interview with Al Jazeera.
What do you think of the al-Shabaab attack in Kenya?
Museveni: That attack was horrible. However, it was not surprising. This is a direct consequence of the world preserving terrorism. When you allow terrorists to occupy territory for years then you are asking for something like that.
What do you think needs to happen on the ground?
We have cleared the towns. We need more troops to clear the countryside so that there is no base…
Where are you going to get those troops and who is going fund them?
First of all we should have Somali troops themselves. They should develop their own army.
They are a long way off that one?
Yes, but meantime we can raise troops from other countries and have enough force to clear the countryside.
Tell us about the enemy you are facing in Somalia. What is your view of exactly who al-Shabaab are now?
The enemy is very weak. Why do I say they are very weak? The fact that they have been given free territory for 20 years, if they were a really potent force, they would have become very big by now. But they haven’t. They just survive by default. They are not a strong force.
You are one of the world’s longest serving leaders. How would you describe the state of Uganda?
Uganda has made very big progress from where we started off. We are talking about the MDGs. We have achieved MDGs on poverty eradication, on primary school enrolment, gender equality, on infant mortality. We still have issues with maternal mortality; we are still lagging behind on HIV.
We have done well although new infections have started coming up again. But more importantly the economy has grown and is growing.
What about the corruption?
Yes there is corruption but we know how to fight corruption, like we fought all the other crimes before.
Last year there was claim that aid money (11.6m euros) was stolen.
Yes the people involved were arrested they are in court now.
How could the system let that happen and how do you need to change?
Uganda had become more or less of a failed state. It was rescued by us who were students in 1960s who turned political and we took power. We initially reformed the army, that is why it is exemplary. The civil service was educated but had a bit of corruption because we had not yet reformed it.
There was a claim that 30 million Pound Sterling were spent on buying for you a jet. What do you say about that?
You see Uganda has got its own money. We are now getting only 18% as external aid, much of our budget is by ourselves. The plane, manning of our army, equipping, infrastructure, are by our resources not donor money.
Is Uganda becoming freer or more autocratic? Daily Monitor was shut down this year. Is Uganda more autocratic?
Not at all! Uganda is one of freest countries in the world. But freedom does not mean you trample on other people’s rights.
Why then did you shut down the Daily Monitor?
It’s because they don’t respect other people’s rights, don’t have professional responsibility. They are open liars, that is why we had to discipline them but we eventually opened them.
In the last three elections there were claims of irregularities. What do you say?
(Laughs). In 1996 I got 75% of the vote. Now if I was cheating where did the other group get 25%? In fact that time we lost a whole province, showing the attitude of the people there.
But in the last election your opponent spent most of the time in custody. That wasn’t a free and fair election…
That was in 2006, because he was breaking the law. It doesn’t mean that when you are a presidential candidate you are above the law.
Is that what it means in your country? How do you see the political future of your country?
The political future is stable. We have got a good political network — every village, sub-county, district has got an elected council, we have a good network of carders so there is no potential problem for Uganda.
Is your son a potential candidate to be the next president?
That man is an army offi cer- he is not interested in politics at all. Certainly he is not interested in politics in the short run. Any leader of Uganda would have to go through a democratic process.
But he might in the long run?
That is up to him and the people of Uganda, but it is not in the short run.
Do you think that if he gets interested that would send a message of hereditary transfer of power?
There cannot be such a transfer because Uganda is not a monarchy. We go through elections.
When you took power everyone knows you restored Uganda from a period of a lot of violence, repression, and you wrote in your book that the problem of Africa is leaders who do not want to leave power. After 27 years, with due respect, haven’t you overstayed?
I am in power because of elections not because of no elections.
So will you run again?
That is for our party and family to decide.
What will your family think because you have stayed a long time yet there are other things to do?
I spent quite a long time as a resistance fighter, the last 50 years I have been in political struggles. That will be for my party and family to decide.
In 50 years what Uganda would you like to see in Uganda?
What I would wish to see is a modern Uganda, with a very large population of elite class who are working, in a federated east Africa. We are aiming at a Federation to be one country of Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda because of a joint market for our produce.