Ugandans At Heart (UAH) should not be involved in lies like the current claims that im going to contribute $500000 to Museveni’s campaign. It is true that I have many friends in NRM just like I have in the opposition. I assisted in fundraising for many NRM friends who came to me for assistance during presidential and parliamentary campaigns just like I assisted many friends in the opposition especially FDC, DP and UPC. I do not belong to any political party and neither do I vote. My own sister is an NRM MP and I contributed to her campaign – including posters for herself and her presidential candidate Museveni. Salim Saleh is my friend. During the campaigns, he came to me and I helped raise for him funds for Museveni’s posters and campaign paraphernalia. I did the same for Besigye’s campaign.
If that makes me a state functionary, I am guilty as accused. But I am also an opposition functionary at the same time. It is the basis of my political philosophy that political disagreement does not mean political enmity. I am friends to Winnie Byanyima and Besigye, friends to Museveni, Muhozi and Saleh, friends to Mao and Otunnu, friends to Ssemogerere and his son Karoli, friends to Bidandi Ssali and friends with so many other Ugandans across the political divide. In fact I was close friends to Milton Obote and he treated me like his own son – just like I have had a good (even though sometimes tumultuous) relationship with Museveni who has been kind and parental to me. I do not think that political disagreement should make people enemies. Indeed, we can disagree without being disagreeable. That is the essence of democracy.
These friendships have been valuable for my journalism and also for my own intellectual growth as I have a broad and non partisan reach in terms of the perspectives I learn by interacting with people across the political spectrum. In fact I would never have broken the stories I did – about junk helicopters, torture of detainees in illegal jails, arbitrary decision in cabinet to give our national silver to foreign business crooks for a song, ghost soldiers in the army etc by being friends with only opposition politicians. It is those who sit in the army high command, in cabinet, in state house etc who know what goes on inside the corridors of power. And it is they who are allies in exposing the rot inside government because they have been willing to leak vital information to me as a journalist. These people are important to Uganda because by leaking vital information, they help promote accountability.
Thus, when I get leaks from government and publish them, I generate public debate. The opposition pick it from there and make a contribution by putting pressure on government. I believe all these people – inside government and in the opposition – have a great contribution to make to Uganda’s progress even when they disagree – in that disagreement lays the creative tension that strengthens our country. I disagree with those who say we should not work with people inside NRM – including Museveni – on matters concerning the progress of our nation. This tendency to pick and choose enemies without realizing that there is more we share as Ugandans that is above government vs opposition is not helpful.
So, my friends, neither Museveni nor NRM are my enemies – political or otherwise. There are many points on which I agree with NRM – especially on the overall macro-economic policy framework. There are many things on which I disagree with NRM – most especially on institutionalized corruption, incompetence and nepotism. Equally, there are many things I agree with the opposition – especially on human rights, service delivery and accountability. There are equally many things I disagree with the opposition – especially their tendency to give only rhetoric about corruption and incompetence instead of organizing the concerned people around these issues. But neither side should fulfil my views for me to work with them.
I did not contribute money to NRM party. But I did help raise funds for the campaigns of individuals inside NRM including Museveni. I even helped write a chapter on housing in Museveni’s 2006 manifesto – to commit the president to promoting home ownership among Uganda’s middle class. Little has been done to realize that dream. That is my disappointment. I am not ashamed of any of this. It is not a secret. I am very proud that I work with all Ugandans even when I disagree with them.
Andrew M. Mwenda
Independent Publications Limited
P.O. Box 3304
Plot 84/85 Kanjokya Street