Diaspora chapter Conversation with Hon. Winnie Kiiza.
On the 23rd of May 2023, the diaspora chapter of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) held a virtual dialogue with Hon. Winnie Kiiza. The dialogue was moderated by Cynthia Ayeza, the current Diaspora Coordinator for ANT. Points from the discussion are captured below.
On Floods and Other Disconcerting News from Uganda
As a country, we lack a program that makes us mindful of mother nature. When I was young there was a program where we were told that if you cut a tree plant two. We use to be told to put Ridges to prevent soil erosion. This was before the NRM came into power, but these programs stopped, and the farmers stopped being educated on ways to protect our environment. Our country is not interested in environmental protection and disaster management. We have this situation because we lack a master plan. I do not see this government getting serious about environmental protection. We continue to see a lot of sand mining. The Katonga bridge had to give way because we have done a lot of cultivation along the river, and investors have been given permission to take sand from the riverbanks. This negligence and lack of focus are keeping our country here, yet we do little in our leadership to ensure the victims of our irresponsibility are taken care of. You and I have a duty to defend mother nature and perform programs that will improve our environment and avert the calamities we are currently exposed to.
Is the current Government accountable? What practical things can we hope for?
The country has a master plan on paper. But having it put into action is the main problem. If our government had a plan of changing the situation we are in, more of the funds would be given to the Ministry of water and Environment, ensuring the community is advised on what to do. The people responsible for spoiling our environment and cutting down trees are all in the government. This government can’t pretend like they are trying to avert the situation when they are the ones responsible for the mismanagement. Everything has been politicized in our country, the politics undermine our efforts so much that people get teargassed for sweeping the markets. They make it impossible for those who have kind and good hearts, people are not given the opportunity to protect the environment.
On recent gun violence in Uganda
There is a report indicating that 14 million Ugandans have some mental health challenges, Every Ugandan faces a challenging issue. The cost of living is getting high, managing life is not easy and each one of them has an issue or two. Secondly, our government is losing control, they have recruited many people and have given them guns, and the guns are in the hands of questionable people. The Guns are in the hands of people who are annoyed and hungry. The leadership is not bothered as long as President Museveni is still in power. Security in Uganda is one issue we have been talking about consistently. President Museveni thinks security is only the absence of gunshots and war. Peace is not only the absence of war but also when your people are in situations that cause them dissatisfaction, which can lead to instability. These are signs of a regime that is no longer in control, a regime that can no longer take care of its people. This is the reason why we want to call on all of you to get involved in the affairs of Uganda. The state in Uganda scares everyone, you can’t easily invest, insecurities are increasing, and people don’t have the money to spend on invested goods, and the more the investors come the more they drain us. We all need to speak from our different positions, it does not matter if you are a leader or not, we are equal partners in the management of our country. Use social media networks to talk about these issues, and speak about the violation of human rights and insecurity in this country.
MP Salaries in Uganda
The issue of MPs setting their own pay is constitutional, and unfortunately, they are independent of the executives. It is by law that they have to set their own pay. However, we struggled hard to ensure there was a constitutional amendment to provide for a salary commission, an independent body to determine the salary of all those who draw money from the unconsolidated funds. When we get into these positions of leadership, individuals want relatives to take over positions. Politics is no longer looked at as a service to the nation, but as a way to enrich individuals. The frustration is the fact that those in leadership positions have not acted as stewards. The gap between the poor and the rich widens daily, the struggle we are in is between the haves and the have-nots. I am not shocked to see Ugandans behave the way they behave towards the rich.
The Challenges with the By-elections and Military in Politics
We are losing faith in by-elections as a political party. The intimidations scare people from voting, the cameras watch people and if you vote for an ANT candidate you face trouble. We need to first understand the circumstances of the by-elections as the opposition. The military should spring up in the by-elections, and not injure our people, we should not injure ourselves. I advise the parties to temporarily keep off from the by-elections and let us focus on building our structures to prepare for the main elections. We build our structures, so we do not fail to get agents to protect the vote. The problem of resources is what we face, I call on the lovers of Uganda and those who believe in change to contribute money and I encourage you to join The Alliance for National Transformation so that we can change the political culture and political landscape of Uganda. If we do not have these grassroots structures, the victory we are looking forward to will not be guaranteed. We cannot give up until we achieve what we want. The parliament, the electoral commissions, and the judiciary are currently under the control of the president. The powers of the president need to be slashed; the president is responsible for appointing the members of the independent electoral commission. We are not seeing an independent electoral commission, but we see a commission that is ensuring that President Museveni and his people secure victories. All judges are appointed by the president, there is no balance of power or other organ that creates a check and balance for the other. As the Alliance for National Transformation, we believe in institutionalizing all aspects of the Government, we want to begin this with our structures at the grassroots.
Campaign contributions before and after Serere
Actors in politics believe that you can only contribute to a party when they are going through elections, and because of this, many citizens contributed to the Serere by-elections. I wish we knew that before an election that there are several activities that need to be carried out. Some of those activities include building structures, ensuring that you pass the party message to the population, going to the radio stations and making a presence in the population. Many people do not know that we need this money much earlier than the campaign. We opened up a bionic system for contributions with your phone number. For us to maintain an office is an issue, we do not earn from the government as we do not have a member of parliament. The money we get is basically from the well-wishers of the pollical party. The system and channels you use to send money, I urge you to continue with the same system, let us continue with the same attitude and vigour and we will see our party grow. Changing this leadership requires money and we are open to your advice and suggestions on how to support the party. We hope that you continue supporting the party to reach out to those who may not know about us.
Holding the Government accountable as the diaspora
The diaspora community is putting pressure on President Museveni. I urge them to continue doing this. Let those capitals wherever you are that President Museveni lost his value for this country a long time ago and that he does things to enrich himself and his relatives. The support given to him is to hurt Ugandans, they need to know that Uganda still has sober and trustworthy politicians. The politicians in Government are victims too, some feel insecure, and they no longer trust their own systems. This means that the government has lost credibility among those still serving it. One of our values as ANT is Godliness; the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. We, therefore, put the country first before anything else. The other value we pride ourselves on is dignity, we tolerate people and protect and defend people. Ugandans need to be respected and treated with dignity. We believe in time management, and those in ANT know that time management is an important aspect of leadership. So, the diaspora should support us because our leaders are dependable and trusted, we believe in institutions, and you can depend on us and trust us. We are in harmony with other opposition parties, we know that a lot of them mean well for Uganda. Members in the diaspora should participate by encouraging their families and friends to join the party and support us and ask us to give an account of the support provided.