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Beti Kamya: Kampala thought I was a joker but that did not bother me

Beti Kamya campaigns during her 2011 presidential race

This is the second part of BETI OLIVE NAMISANGO KAMYA-TUROMWE’s tale of her time as a presidential candidate in 2011. Kamya, 58, is the founding president of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) party. I

n 2011, she became only the second female presidential candidate in Uganda’s history, after Miria Obote five years earlier. Speaking to Benon Herbert Oluka, Kamya discusses her message to the voters, and how she was received by different parts of the country.

One of the things that I said which was very controversial is that Museveni is not the problem of Uganda; he is just a product or a symptom [of Uganda’s problem]. That was huge with the opposition and they were like, ‘You see, how do you say that Museveni is not the problem? That woman has eaten money.’ They used it as a big thing.

My people were intimidated and they came and said, ‘Listen, you can’t say that. People don’t want to hear that.’ And I said, ‘It’s the truth. You stick to the truth; it will always bail you out.’

And I am telling you Museveni is not the problem of Uganda; the problem of Uganda is bigger than Museveni. He inherited it [juts] as Obote inherited it, as Amin inherited it, as Lule inherited it, as Beti Kamya will inherit it – until we deal with the problem. But we are dealing with symptoms. That’s why we are not prescribing the correct diagnosis and that’s why the problem is not going away.

The problem is our constitution, which over centralises power. There is no democracy in the world where power is so centralised as in Uganda. Check them out; not the USA, not Britain, not France, not Germany, not Kenya, not Tanzania, not South Africa, not Nigeria.

That was the message and I said it and I said it until people started repeating it. I have even heard people like Dr Besigye saying the problem of Uganda is bigger than Museveni. I agree, except that the changes he is focusing on are the electoral reforms and for me I told him that the electoral reforms are the tail end of the huge snake.

Electoral reforms are focusing on the electoral commission but the electoral commission is just one institution out of 300. All the institutions are deployed to do the president’s work.

So, when you focus on the electoral commission, you are missing the big picture because let me ask; is it the electoral commission that is stopping Dr Besigye from holding rallies? No, it is the police. And they are quoting the public order management act; is it the electoral commission that passed the public order management act?

No, it is parliament. Is it the electoral commission that lifted term limits? No, it is parliament. Is it the electoral commission that is giving NRM MPs money to go around the country to popularise a single candidacy?

No, the money is coming from Bank of Uganda. Is it the electoral commission that packs bags of money for the president to go round giving to the people? No, the money comes from Bank of Uganda. Is it the electoral commission that pulled Lukwago out of office? No, it is the judiciary. So when you focus on the electoral commission, you are missing the big picture.

I am disappointed they are just concentrating on just the electoral commission whose role comes on the last day of a five-year cycle. The five-year cycle begins with one election and ends with the next election. During these five years, all the other institutions are deployed by the president to gain an upper hand and the electoral commission’s role comes on the very last days of a five-year cycle.


The most memorable rally was actually in Lugazi. I have never seen a rally as big as that. It blew me away, absolutely. There were some really big rallies; Lugazi, Jinja, Manafwa, Isingiro and Zombo. The smallest rallies were here in Kampala. They thought that I was a joker. But it did not disturb me.

Beti Kamya campaigning in 2011

My main focus was on the message and the press because there is no rally which can have 50,000 people, so rallies cannot really be huge avenues of disseminating a message. It’s the media that will reach millions of people.

And you know how they play with the cameras; so, even if you have a small rally and the press is friendly with you, they can make it look like a big rally. So, the most important thing was that I had the channels to disseminate my message and the message went to millions of people rather than only those who came to the rally.


Crossing to Tanzania [was by accident]. I was supposed to go to Isingiro courtesy of a very strong DP man. He arranged a very big rally in Isingiro; so, when we were driving, we got our directions confused.

We stopped somewhere to ask, ‘where is Bukangala?’ A man said, ‘You have left it behind. This is Tanzania. You are 10km into Tanzania.’ So, we just drove back. That wasn’t a big thing, but of course the media enjoyed it. The following day it was a headline.

Acholi was a very bad experience but I also appreciated the hands-on encounter with the people. They had suffered. You know when you’re here in Kampala and you just read about Kony, you don’t know what happens. But when you are campaigning for presidency, it’s a new experience because you reach every corner of the country.

I went to Atyak, I went to Barlonyo in Lango where they had massacred people and I heard horrid stories. I even met mutilated people. That was imprinted on my mind.

I really empathised with the war situation. Nobody should start war again. Nobody needs war. We should do everything possible, we should make every compromise and every sacrifice to avoid war because wars are really ego things between two people and they get everybody in the war and yet these two people don’t get hurt, it’s the others. We should never allow war at any cost.


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