1. INTRODUCTION: It took place in Serena Hotel Kampala lasting for four hours from 9:00pm on February 13 to 1:00am on February 14. All eight presidential candidates including incumbent Yoweri Museveni attended. Others were Amama Mbabazi, Rtd Col Dr Kiiza Besigye, Rtd Maj Gen Benon Biraro, Dr Abed Bwanika, Elton Mabirizi, lady Maurine Kyalya and Prof Venacious Baryamureeba. The debate was moderated by Uganda’s journalists working with international media establishments. They were Joel Kibazo (BBC), Shaka Ssali (VoA) and Suzzie Muwanga of Makerere university. The debate centered on regional and international policy as well as international trade.
2. Opening remarks: (i) Maurine Kyalya—elderly leadership must give way to young. (ii) Kiiza Besigye—wants to reset foundation of democracy as cause of 1986 bush war has been betrayed by Museveni. (iii) Biraaro—wants leadership that respects people’s hearts and minds—to end teargas, poverty and cause unity government (iv) Baryamureeba—to fix education system, healthcare, unemployment and cause regional autonomous governments (v) Mbabazi—Uganda not at war but not secure due to alarming poverty, 83% youth unemployment, 16 women dying every hour. Wants to fix those challenges for Uganda to be fully secure. (vi) Bwanika—revived Ugandan economy from ‘enclave’ economy to a diversified vibrant economy. Democracy is if people votes for you. (viii) Mabirizi—Wants integration of all social strata include the elite and non elite in national institutions.
3. How to fix regional security: (i)Kyalya—(misunderstood question to refer to internal regions)…saying all 15 original regions (chiefdoms and kingdoms) of Uganda must dialogue. (ii) by addressing the ideological problem—which generates the conflicts such as in Somalia. Communities must overcome religious, ethnic, tribal differences for social tolerance.
4. War on Nile waters: (i) Mabirizi: There won’t be any war. Institutions in Uganda must cooperate with institutions in other countries. (ii) Mbabazi—those who advocate war especially Egypt, must know that the world has changed because no one has no capacity to defend themselves.
5. Solution to excessive militarization of politics: (i) Mbabazi—security agencies must avoid partisan politics because it’s a recipe to insecurity.
6. Is UPDF continued presence in Somalia a source of insecurity (terrorism)?: (i) Maj Gen Biraro—Uganda should help build Somalis capacity to resolve their problems not impose solutions on them. Also UPDF must have a withdraw strategy from Somalia.
7. Uganda’s presence in Somalia, South Sudan, CAR—should it be a regional police? (i) Besigye—practice not bad but how it’s done. It’s done with disregard to national laws and constitution. Parliament just informed afterwards. Cases like invasion of DRC in which Uganda was condemned by international court of justice (ICJ) to pay DRC US$9bn disregarded parliament as so was the intervention in South Sudan. (ii) Museveni—intervention in DRC was in self defence against NALU—a rebel group. Uganda can’t be compromised on its security by anyone. (iii) Bwanika—Uganda should not act unilaterally, should seek regional joint commands for regional engagements.
8. Should Uganda remain a signatory of ICC?: (i) Bwanika—Uganda should withdraw from ICC because its biased against Africans or else it should have arrested some western leaders already. (ii) Museveni—even though Uganda is a founding signatory it should withdraw. Africa should form its alternative court—the African Court of Justice.
9. On East African integration: (i) Museveni—intentions are prosperity and strategic security. If America dominates on four dimensions of space, land, air and cyberspace, Africa without unity is at risk. EAC will form nucleus of self defence unlike during colonialism when Africa was defenseless. Tanzania not against the spirit of integration but the approach. It doesn’t want the fast tracking approach but a gradual process. (ii) Mabirizi—differences in structural systems hamper progress of EAC integration—ie land tenure system in Uganda encourages land grabbing which Tanzanians fear. Also presidential terms limits are present in other member states except Uganda (and lately Rwanda.) (iii) Besigye—narrative on integration process must be extended from top government officials down to the people.
10. What to do to make Ugandans in Diaspora invest at home: (i) Besigye—make investor climate okay, stop systematic corruption and stop tear gas, provide credit facilities. (ii) There already Ugandan investors in Uganda—and this has benefited many people. Investors no longer Indians as was the case in past and this has expanded tax revenue. Although Ugandans are not yet into manufacturing (iii) Kyalya—foreign investors turning local workers into slaves—overworking them and paying peanuts—such as in cotton ginnery in northern Uganda.
11. Policy on oil and gas: (i) Museveni—NRM discovered oil in Uganda and directed it shouldn’t extracted until Uganda has developed own capacity to handle it by training scientists in that field. British colonialists had failed to locate it. Oil money will be used for infrastructure development and training of more scientists. It is subjected under strict accountability. (ii) Oil was known to be Albertine region by independence in 1962 (not discovered by NRM.) On accountability parliament is often taken for retreats in Kyankwanzi and arm twisted to overturn important resolutions on oil and gas policies.
12. How to integrate youth in regional politics: (i) Kyalya—my age links with them best. Will therefore represent their aspirations more easily. (ii) Besigye—relevant and quality education—by vocationalsing formal education. Involve then in industrial agenda. (iii) Mbabazi—build their capacity with necessary skills demanded outside Uganda.
13. Your most important decision and regret: (i) Bwanika—forfeiture of job opportunities as university lecturer to serving communities from church. No regret. (ii) Mbabazi—to live and die fighting injustice and for democracy. Regret taking long to fight dictatorship. (iii) Baryamureeba—forfeiting offers abroad to come home and initiating employment opportunities for many people. No regrets. (iv) Biraro—declined bribe offers in 1986 as presidential district officer in Kitigum district. Regret: neglect of ulcers that have worsened now. (v) Besigye—abandoning of job in Nairobi hospital for bush war in Luwero. Regret decision to challenge dictatorship but failing to secure family support. (vi) Mabirizi—after losing father chose to support self in school. Regret: conducted a mock election but failed to announce results. (vii)Museveni—1966 chose to study at Dar-es-Salaam University— linking with Nyerere and Samora Machelle. Regret delay to shoot Idd Amin’s soldiers on Jan 22, 1973 in Mbale.
14. Closing remarks: (i) Kyalya—want a peaceful election. (ii) Besigye—country worried because of no history of peaceful transfer of power—because of no free and fair elections. Elders must weigh in against statements like crime preventers in elections. Hopeful that Uganda has a wonderful opportunity to express strong sentiments of change of duties-to end unemployment, have good infrastructure and swag. (iii) Biraro— to resolve statement between 2011 and 2016 Ugandans must elect a neutral government (of mine). Also people must fast for the country on Feb 17, 2016. (iv) Baryamureeba—new leader to invest in people so that in next five years Uganda is an economy of US$100bn. (v) Mbabazi—Like Magufuli of Tanzania I can change Uganda phenomenally. (vi)Bwanika—Ugandans must be given opportunity to elect a president they want. This is in Badru Kiggundu’s (chair EC) hands to ensure a free and fair election. (vii) Museveni—there will be a free and fair election. Nobody can disrupt our peace it’s not acceptable.