Muhammad Nsereko is the Kampala Central MP, and five months into the 9th Parliament, the young legislator has already taken the country and his party, NRM, by storm, with his controversial stand on a number of issues.
He explained to Edris Kiggundu why he often takes these positions and why he is not about to stop.
Since the 9th Parliament began, you have opposed many government policies and some people would think you belong to the opposition. Why is this so?
There is nothing unique here. That is my nature. I am straightforward and open-minded and so, whoever does not want open-minded people might feel uncomfortable with me.
But what lies behind this opposition? Are there unresolved issues within the party?
It is my upbringing and nature. I know people would like to speculate that it is this and that, but there is nothing. I believe in truth and fairness.
You have been very outspoken against the giveaway of Mabira forest and on the proposal to scrap bail for some crimes.
There is no question about these two issues. My position still stands that I oppose the giveaway of Mabira and removing bail because I believe these are very important issues. You know how Mabira forest helps the country and you are aware that it is everybody’s right to get bail.
You have drawn comparisons with Julius Malema, the leader of the ANC Youth League, who is currently facing disciplinary charges. Both of you are young, flashy and rebellious. Does Malema inspire you in any way?
The case of South Africa is South Africa, and Uganda is Uganda. But this comparison notwithstanding, you cannot swim against the tide, which in this case are the people. The more you suppress people’s views and feelings, the more you breed discontent.
We are serving in a social contract with the people; therefore, we have to put their interests first.
You are not the first rebel MP in the NRM ranks. In the last Parliament there was Henry Banyenzaki, who is now a minister. Where do you see your opposition leading you?
Each of us has a different reason why we joined politics. If Banyenzaki thinks he can continue to change the country through government, blessings to him. Wherever I am, I am ready to speak my mind.
Whether I am appointed minister or not, I will speak my mind. The people did not elect me to be appointed; they want me to serve them.
You represent an urban constituency where the opposition has a strong presence. Does this sometimes shape your views?
Absolutely not, because I am not a member of opposition.
But would you agree that your opposition against the eviction of street vendors, for instance, was a populist move?
By the way, despite the police patrols in the city, vendors are still there. I have seen them around traffic lights.
At what point will you feel that your effort has paid off?
Until we clean up the whole country; until we rid it of corruption. Until I see many youths employed and economic independence in the country, we shall keep on with the struggle.
It would appear that NRM has no internal mechanism that allows members to express themselves freely. Is this so?
I cannot say no, but we do not attend to all views in the caucus.
Have you received any threats from some people in the party due to your stand?
Threats from who? No human being holds a right to threaten another. Why should you threaten me? It is those that are threatening others that move with big convoys . . . cars escorting them. Why?
You walked out when Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was being vetted by Parliament. People would want to know what’s between you and Mbabazi.
No, we do not have any personal differences. The only difference is on principles.
Which are those principles?
The way he works; I disagree with it. Even you can see that they [the Mbabazis] are pushing our country into the drain.
Some people within the party say he should resign the post of secretary general because of his busy schedule as Prime Minister. What is your view?
He should step down and we get someone that has time to do party activities. Right now, he doesn’t have time for party work.
Some members of the NRM, notably Capt Mike Mukula, have called for the restoration of term limits. What is your view?
I support restoration of term limits.
We are about to move into the [East African] political federation and this calls for uniformity. What is wrong with doing away with term limits? Those who want them to stay should come and tell us why. I know if you asked around Parliament, you might fail to get 10 people in support of term limits.
On October 2, you have organized a rally at Kololo Airstrip to talk about the hard economic times. How sure are you that the police will not stop it?
I am consulting my people, which is a constitutional right. Police has always told people to use Kololo [Airstrip] as a venue for political rallies. Secondly, it will not be a working day [Sunday]. Why would police interfere with it?
How much can government do to reverse the economic situation, because much of the world is experiencing the same?
Government can do 100%. It is the doctor and we are patients, and if it cannot succeed in treating us, it should leave.
Are you saying President Museveni and his government should resign?
It should not be us to defend government. If they cannot do their work, let them go away; we will give them solutions. The President has the prerogative to sack his cabinet.
How do you assess the performance of President Museveni since he swore-in in May?
He is limping.
What do you mean?
I mean that if I was an examiner, I would give him [Museveni] average marks – say 48 out of 100.
Some people have called for the likes of you to be disciplined by the party
To discipline me on what? It is laughable! They are jokers and idlers that have nothing to do and say.
Do you have a last word for Ugandans?
On October 2, we have a rally in Kololo and I am inviting everyone to come dressed in black and white. Whether you are a member of the opposition or the NRM, as long as you live in Kampala Central, you are invited.
Why black and white?
We are seeing darkness when we are supposed to see light.