Fresh from jail and seemingly steeled by the two months’ prison stint, former security minister Henry Tumukunde has plunged straight into political battles that will shape campaigns for the February 2021 general election.
Speaking to journalists recently, the three-star army general said he will do everything possible to stop the Electoral Commission’s scientific general election, which disallows on-the-ground campaigns by political candidates. He called upon all opposition politicians to push in the same direction to stop the Electoral Commission from conducting an election, which he said is neither free nor fair.
Baker Batte Lule, recorded the question and answer session with slight edits for clarity. Below are excerpts.
Political parties and other organizations are presenting their views on the 2021 elections to the Electoral Commission…Why are you not taking yours?
Whatever they said doesn’t stop me from saying what I think is important to say and in any case, they speak on our behalf. I could also have my own approach on this matter by giving you these details. They are very critical of the decision taken by the Electoral Commission on these elections.
NRM is in meetings trying to find ways of conducting these elections… Why are we not seeing you meeting to move ahead other than complaining?
I have just been meeting a group but I had to rush to this press conference; but we are meeting. But of course, there is also the issue of how much time you give to things like memorandum of understanding and others. I’m not a witchdoctor. So, I don’t think I can really change the way things are done in our own system but we are doing something and we don’t have to say everything in the press.
Away from complaining about what the Electoral Commission has done, what’s your own roadmap?
There are two clear things; a roadmap for all of us and a roadmap for individual groups. For me, I’m still trying to see that we get a roadmap for all of us.
However, very soon if time keeps running out, we shall give you our own roadmap. There is also another fact; I was distracted for two months during this very critical time [arrested and remanded for treason] but we are working on something and if other options don’t work, we shall present our own roadmap.
What keeps you afloat amidst this uncertainty?
Credentials; I have got a reputation, I have a name and I’m sure unlike other Ugandans, I have got quite some impressive networks in this republic.
That’s why I’m not panicking. You don’t know how many of you I know in person. Take your road from here to Mukono, Buikwe, you will be surprised by how many people know me.
The other problem we have in the opposition is that you plant yourself first and foremost in search of leadership offerings. My approach is different. Like I have told you, me I’m truly working. You can choose to always be addressing press conferences but you also need foot soldiers to run your course.
Do you know how many polling stations we have in this country? Do you know that you must have people at all these 34,000 polling stations? Where do you want to put your priorities? If it’s a question of marketing yourself, I’m doing it. How many of you are here now; but does that guard your vote or does it give you people to raise 100 names of voters from 60 percent of the districts in Uganda to help you be nominated?
You said western Uganda has had its fair share of leadership and that it’s important for a leader to emerge from some other place. Have you changed your mind?
No, I told you we are in meetings…I don’t see people coming out to offer themselves. Those who have come out, we are talking though there is one or two complications. That’s why for me I don’t find it tactical to be fronting myself. That’s why I’m calm and reserved but Uganda has to go forward.
If the Electoral Commission doesn’t listen to you, shall you go on with the election?
We shall sit with the opposition and decide the course of action but I propose we first sit with the Electoral Commission and give our deeper details about our issues.
If they don’t respond, we shall then sit together and agree. If the opposition doesn’t agree, then I will decide my own course. And you know I have followers, don’t take me lightly.
How about defying the scientific election?
I have said this is too short a time and too many things packed together; we cannot easily turn out a proper election.
Who are you meeting? Bobi Wine, Kizza Besigye or Amama Mbabazi?
If everything is not revealed to you, does that mean that we are confusing? We can’t flush a video extract for every meeting we hold… Of course I meet them and we are discussing but some of these things must remain secret. I saw somebody writing that Tumukunde is being isolated by the opposition; do you know who isolates leaders?
The voters, but which opposition leader has so much power to isolate me? By what means? You go to your local town and ask about Tumukunde. I don’t have to speak through anybody. So, isolation is just a gazetted joke.
As a general who participated in the liberation war, do you think a mere ballot can cause change in this country?
You want me to announce; ssebo, you know Congo [DRC] who was [Joseph] Kabira’s candidate? Check what happened. When Ugandans are organized, we can change the regime…The opposition has not won power here for 34 years. We don’t want to use the same methods and get the same results.
What the opposition say we do, I will do until they sharply contradict my position. For example, what they did of drumming of busefuliya [saucepan] I’m not sure about that but still remember the East African Community when Tanzania was reluctant, we moved on. They wear red colors, I don’t have to wear them but one of these days I will introduce to you my colors. But the most important thing is coming together to change things.
By going for the Electoral Commission, aren’t you targeting the wrong person because it’s the politicians who can change the law to postpone these elections…
The Electoral Commission has one simple job to do, which is within their means to do and leave what they can’t do to those with means to do it. For example, they can’t amend the law, let them leave it to those who amend laws.
If this thing doesn’t work, are you participating in this election?
When this doesn’t work, I believe in us coming together and striking a position. These TDA formulas where everyone goes in saying it’s me, I don’t think it has taken us far.
We must not repeat things we know have not taken us very far. We shall do everything possible to stop a negative or a wrong election from taking place and once we agree, I will be with them. I don’t want to be escorting them, I’m here but I’m dependable and you can count on me.