‘Open up the Political Space for Competition’
Until now, most of the dissenting voices about Uganda’s political transition from President Yoweri Museveni, especially from within the ruling NRM party, have been whispers or exchanges between confidants, as members of the party feared to attract the wrath of their leader.
But typical of their fearless attitude, Bakiga have yet again produced someone to challenge President Museveni’s autocratic handling of the transition in which he appears to be positioning his son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba to take over from him, as early as 2026.
Retired Dr. Kizza Besigye, also from Kigezi region (Rukungiri district) was the first NRM member to challenge Museveni’s hold onto power in 2001 when he declared his intention to contest for president, a move that earned him extreme hostility and full force of all the government’s tools of coercion including the army, police, prisons and the government-leaning judicial officers. Besigye has contested for President for four times, without being declared winner, even though he claims to have won some of the polls.
Now, Henry Banyenzaki, the former MP for Rubanda County West in Kabale district, and former State Minister of Finance for Economic Monitoring, has come out to challenge President Museveni as the NRM party chairman, accusing him of double standards, dishonesty and violating party principles by anointing his son to start campaigning instead opening up space for competition.
“We’ve just finished one year in the first term of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa, but we are witnessing an unprecedented full blown campaign supported by the first family,” Banyenzaki told The Sunrise in an exclusive interview. He added: “Previously, the NRM machinery including President Museveni himself have always discouraged political talk and campaigns when the time is for service delivery and development. What has changed now? Is it because we have only one person who is being hyped, or that other voices are being suppressed?
“I want to say that if the time has come, let the space be opened for everybody to start campaigning,” said Banyenzaki.
Describing himself as a firebrand and a member of the post-bush war generation, the 55-year old Banyenzaki says he can secure the support of his home region – Kigezi, as well as other regions, he can effectively replace the aged Museveni.
“If the people of Kigezi are willing to support me, and they’re willing to talk to the people of Busoga, Buganda, Acholi and other regions of Uganda, I am willing to offer myself. Why not?” Banyenzaki said confidently.
He dismissed recent media attacks that his planned challenge on Museveni or his son, is motivated by ill-will because he was dropped from cabinet.
“By the time someone like me comes out, he must have a transformation agenda,” Banyenzaki said, insisting that Uganda needs a new team of leaders who understand the challenges of ‘our time’.
“As we speak now, the transformational agenda that President Museveni ushered in has run its course. There is a call for another generation not the one of bush war liberators.”
Banyenzaki described Museveni’s style of management outdated and his team bloated that he cannot spare money to invest in service delivery for the people.
“Now we have e-government yet you still have this generation that doesn’t know anything about e-governance. They are not living in this IT revolution. They are living in the past. They still surviving on tired clichés of Twebaletera Mirembe ‘we brought peace’.
Banyenzaki says that the government has no right to impose itself onto people using the claim of peace.
“For citizens peace is an inalienable right. People must enjoy peace. No body merits the freedom you have. If they did bring peace back in the day, there was a call for them to fight. Now the whole of Africa is in peace, so they must go,” said the former Minister.
Perhaps hinting at what he might deal with, if he succeeds the 78 year old Museveni, Banyenzaki said he would drastically cut the size of government and especially eliminate most of the political offices as well as other government agencies that are duplicating work.
“The public expenditure is too high and it’s unsustainable. How can you have a Parliament with 600MPs? How can you have a cabinet that is nearing 100 people? You have over 200 presidential advisors and thousands of other political administration offices. Where can you get the money and yet cater for development?”
Banyenzaki says recent proposals to merge government agencies, was his idea while he was still Minister of Finance, even though he observes, the rationalization of government has suffered from political interference.
The amount of support from within the ruling party towards Banyenzaki will likely determine Museveni’s response to this new challenge, as well as to the whole transition question.