COL. TOM BUTIME rarely speaks to the press, but when he does, he always has something serious to say. His interview with DAVID TASH LUMU is not different. The NRM historical speaks about his refusal to take up appointment as junior minister for Karamoja, disagreement with President Museveni, corruption, and the Electoral Commission, among other subjects. Read on:
My first ministerial appointment ever was as Deputy Minister of Lands and Surveys. After that, I became Minister of State for Internal Affairs before being appointed minister of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning; then Minister of Internal Affairs.
When I was Minister of Internal Affairs, the biggest responsibility which the President gave me was to start the Anti-Stock Theft Unit in Karamoja. This was a specialised Police unit meant to fight cattle rustling.
I [considered this] a very important responsibility. I thought it was going to be very successful, but afterwards, there was pressure from the President to put the unit under the Army. I advised the President that it was not correct because the Anti-Stock Theft Unit was a civilian force and could not be under the Army. I advised that the Army could only come in to assist if matters got worse.
However, I think the President was under pressure from Karamoja and Teso leaders to place the unit under the Army. Unfortunately, I disagreed with the President and the President thought I was not giving him the correct advice. And I think that is why I was removed from Internal Affairs because when I left, the Anti-Stock Theft Unit was immediately put under the Army. But [the unit] did not last three months.
Actually, the Army officer who was commanding that project ended up in Luzira [Prison] and the unit died because it was wrong to remove it from the hands of the Inspector General of Police. It had to collapse. It has just been revived now under Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura [the current Inspector General of Police]. So, it has gone back to where I had wanted it to be. If the President had left it under the Police, the problem we have in Karamoja today would extremely be minimal as far as safety and security is concerned.
Unfortunately, almost nine years after I had left the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the President appointed me junior minister in charge of Karamoja. But my job was already spoilt. Where was I going to start from? The President had already forgotten that I left Karamoja because we disagreed over the Anti-Stock Theft Unit. Now, sending me there when I was powerless would not do any good. There were no funds, and there was nothing for me to undertake this responsibility again. When I was Minister of Internal Affairs, I had the capacity to mobilise [resources] to carry out this activity. But now he (Museveni) was sending me there, nine years after my job had been spoilt. There was nothing I could have done in Karamoja at the time the President sent me there. He was taking me there late, without facilities. He had forgotten our disagreement and he was taking me there when I was actually powerless. I knew I was going to fail, and there was no reason for me to take responsibility when I knew I was not going to succeed. But people in Karamoja did not understand [why I refused to serve]. They thought I had despised the portfolio. No, I didn’t have the capacity. And at that time, Karamoja had only Shs 480 million on its budget. Really, this could not handle the problem. The second reason why I refused to go to Karamoja is because I had been a senior minister before that. Now, there was no reason why, in 2007, I should be a junior minister. That was a pure and simple demotion. And if you read that your President is about to demote you or drop you, you assist him by saying: ‘Thank you your Excellency; let me do other things.’ You assist him by volunteering to leave. And that’s what I did; I volunteered to leave.
So, I told him: ‘Your Excellency, I think you don’t have anywhere to put me anymore, give me an opportunity and I leave.’ And I had detected that, so I said: ‘Your Excellency, I think you are suffering with me. You really don’t have where to put me anymore. Let me assist you by stepping aside so that you can look for somebody who you can happily work with.’ And one can discern that the head of the state has lost confidence in you, and that’s what I did.
Thirdly, you see, the Minister of State in charge of Karamoja is in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the first minister there is the Prime Minister and then the second minister is the Minister of General Duties. Now, the Minister of General Duties was Adolf Mwesige (now Local Government minister). This means that I was going to work under Adolf Mwesige, my younger brother. This is a man I helped and groomed. Now, for you to put me under him is an insult. And secondly, it would have made him uncomfortable to chair a meeting when his senior is just seated there. It would have created an embarrassing situation for the young man. Why should someone create this kind of situation?
And fourth, I was under a lot of pressure from people in my constituency. When people in Mwenge North heard about this appointment, they didn’t accept it. They demonstrated. There was a huge meeting in Mwenge North, and they told me: “If you go to Karamoja, we shall re-call you and elect another MP,” because at that time they thought that the minister in charge of Karamoja must live in Moroto. They didn’t know that you can be a minister for Karamoja and live in Kampala. But fortunately, I am a person who wants results. I don’t want to do a job just because I want to do it. I want to do a job and succeed. I would have sat in Karamoja and worked there if I had the capacity to do that job. If I had gotten that job with the full confidence of the President, I would have done it. In fact, if I had been appointed a full minister for Karamoja, I would have accepted. Anyway, people in my constituency protested and I had to listen. I cannot go against the will of the people who elected me.
Now, what’s very interesting is that after I declined to take up the Karamoja portfolio, the President in his wisdom appointed Aston Kajara, who is from my area (He is the MP Mwenge South]. I had no problem because Kajara was a starter. He was a newly appointed minister, and that was in order. He fortunately took up the position, although it had a lot of repercussions back at home. Mwenge North said our MP should not go to Karamoja and Mwenge South was celebrating a minister being appointed. The move had a kind of conflict which developed but we had to work very hard to make sure it doesn’t explode or to allow that kind of misunderstanding to develop. So, we ensured that a misunderstanding doesn’t emanate from that kind of situation where one MP declines a position and the other takes it. But fortunately, the Karamoja portfolio, because of my decision to decline the appointment, became a high profile position. Now, my brother Kajara made a statement that caused him problems in Karamoja. If I am right, he said that for the Karimojong to eat rats is not because they are hungry but it is rather a delicacy. Now, this made the Karimojong very angry and they made a resolution, which they forwarded to the President, asking him not to take Kajara back to the region. And quickly, the President had no alternative but to transfer Kajara to become Minister of State in charge of Investment. But fortunately, because of the profile of the position, the President found himself appointing Janet Museveni (MP Ruhaama) and First Lady as Minister of State for Karamoja. And I personally think that’s wonderful because under the First Lady, the [resources will be available]. She is now building houses in Karamoja and NGOs are moving up and down. The position is no longer the same because of my demonstration that Karamoja needed more than a mere ministerial appointment. The profile of Karamoja has gone up because I declined the position. Now by appointing the First Lady as a minister, the President is saying that you man you refused to take up this job but you can now see that my own wife can take it up. And for me I am happy for having raised the profile of Karamoja as a region. I am sure the country and the people of Karamoja will benefit from the First Lady being the minister in charge of Karamoja. So, I am happy for having declined because I caused Kajara and the First Lady to go up, and Karamoja should congratulate me. The President can as well consider me for another position in government because I am entitled to a ministerial or any other appointment like any other Ugandan. I am here, I am not FDC. I am going to be elected in 2011 as MP. I am not very old and I am not sleeping in Parliament, like many other people do. So, I expect to be re-appointed and I will take up the appointment—of course not Karamoja. But I am ready to work because, for me, I am not corrupt.
CORRUPTION IN NRM
You see, some of us didn’t come to government to make money. We didn’t go to the bush to hide there and then, come out to make money. We went to the bush to change a system. We went to the bush to change government so we can help the people in this country to live a better quality of life. What I get as a minister, as MP is what I deserve. It is what the people of Uganda can afford to give me. But I don’t have to steal to amass wealth at the expense of the people of this country. So, that’s the difference between us and those people who steal money. There are those revolutionaries who came to change a system and do good for the people of Uganda. If the standard of living in the country is high, then I will also benefit. But I don’t have to be on the tenth floor and everybody is living underground. I would rather be on the third floor when people are on the first and second floor. But when I am on the tenth floor and people are not even on the first floor, it doesn’t make sense. We should go back to our [NRM] Ten-Point Programme. We should go back to the basics, and the only person who takes full responsibility is the President.
He takes full responsibility because he can still correct this situation. He is our leader, and there is time for him to [correct the situation]. He should bring into place a leadership which has a relationship with what we fought for. I mean those who cherish the ideals that took us to the bush. They may be new but they must cherish those ideals. And there are those who are old but they still cherish those ideals that took us to the bush. These are the people who should be in government. But if people come into government and their programme is to amass wealth, steal and become millionaires, it’s too bad. We shall end up in problems. People will continue to ask us: “Why did you bother so much to go to the bush?” It is a pity that people in charge, new and old, don’t cherish the ideals that took us to the bush.
Those who are new and are not ideologically prepared to cherish those ideals that took us to the bush should not hold responsible positions of power. And the President is the one with that opportunity, capacity and power to take the country back to the ideals that took us to the bush. There should never be a time for anybody to say that we went to the bush in vain; that would be very unfortunate. Any system that does not change does not survive. So, at any given time we must continue changing so that we survive as a regime and government. And corrupt people should not be in President Museveni’s government. They shouldn’t. And the earlier he gets rid of them, the better for the country and for us all. There are leaders who don’t understand, cherish and appreciate the ideology of NRM. And many of them are in charge of many sectors, and the only thing they see in those positions they hold is to be big and make money. They don’t understand the ideology that took us to the bush, which was to liberate the people by improving the quality of their life. The word quality of life is very important; it means improving education, health, reducing poverty, availability of shelter, clothes, food…. Once a leader doesn’t appreciate that, all he [goes for] is money to buy the best car, build the biggest house, drink wine and live in luxury. Now if you have such a leader, it is too bad.
In my view, those [leaders in NRM] are too many; everybody knows them, and they should not be holding those positions. But at the same time, they are the ones who dance best before the President. They are the ones who are very humble to him. They are the ones who are supposed to be very loyal to him; and therefore, he keeps them in those positions. But ideologically, they are bankrupt, and at the end of the day we don’t get results because they don’t appreciate that the purpose of leadership is to liberate the Ugandan and improve the quality of life.
Next Thursday, Butime talks about the need for an independent electoral commission and presidential term limits