In 2021, the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) rolled out a countrywide campaign with an economic growth message which aimed at encouraging Ugandans to demand and restore their lost property such as land and mineral deposits among others.
NEED, a political party headed by Joseph Kabuleta was officially launched last year with the objective of empowering Ugandans economically.
Muhamadi Matovu spoke to Kabuleta on a number of issues including how he plans to hold conversations that will change the political dynamics of the country.
Why have you changed the party offices from Bugoloobi to Rubaga?
We had an office we were using before but people were uncomfortable because apparently it was in a very posh neighbourhood. So, we wanted to bring the office closure to the people where they can come and feel comfortable. You see politics is not run in posh neighbourhoods, that is why we have decided to come to where people are. The office is going to be the centre of discussion of all the things that are going on as we go ahead to build our structures.
What does NEED mean, especially for those who have never heard of it?
It means National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED). There has been a lot of economic disempowerment. Things which people could do as a community or as individuals have been taken away from them and then the government promises them handouts. There has been a lot of disempowerment to the extent that when you go to places where people were productive to make themselves rich are now waiting for handouts.
We want to create an environment for everybody to go and actually earn money for themselves in a way that the government supports them rather than pushing them down. We know that the government has used middlemen and policies which are very unfriendly to curtail things which would make money for so many people.
What makes NEED unique from other political parties?
The party stands for two things: Economic empowerment which has not been there, giving people the share of resources that are within their localities which has not been the case, making sure that every natural resource that comes out from a specific area, the people within that place get a good fraction of it. We came out with a purpose of sending an ideology into a personality because other political parties have been wrapped into a personality. One big personality forms some kind of cult personality where people are following the person and the party is a vehicle. Now we want to create a party where the ideology is a vehicle and people just come and touch themselves to it. The ideology is economic empowerment or financial liberation. We have the resources in this country to make us have a good life.
What does this launch mean for the party and you as a person?
As a party it means that we are taking a route in the community in a place where people are comfortable to come and interact with us. There have been so many people who have been listening to us and want to associate with the party and previously we didn’t have a specific place where we could tell them but now, we have an address. At a personal level to see other politicians come and celebrate with us in the launch of this of, it means a lot to me.
Why should Ugandans take you seriously?
We are serious. By the way let me tell you when I started NEED, I wasn’t thinking of being in opposition, I was thinking of power. The thing is every party has its own uniqueness. We really want to push the issue of ideology more than anything else more than personalities, more than political activism which has been the case. We want to push an ideology that everybody can associate with and that means that they go to different places and even people who want to stand under NEED, have that uniqueness.
Don’t you think that you need structures in order to achieve some of these objectives you have highlighted?
The thing is we need structures. We know that but we have gone some distance in putting up structures. It is not going to be something you will see Kabuleta fighting with Police, at some stage it will come (but not now). You see we are trying to avoid that activism politics. Because the politics we have been having is activism and at the end of the day nobody is addressing the real issues of the people. We are going to build the structures. Let me tell you in one year that we have been in existence, there is no region in this country which has not felt our presence. We are going to do politics not just in Kampala, we are going to do it across the country. Real politics not activism politics.
There have been several calls for the opposition to unite in order to remove president Museveni from power, do you have any plans to work with some political parties?
Yes, we have plans to work with political parties but not around the themes of removing Museveni from power. What happens if we remove Museveni from power? You have to have something which transcends a human being, especially those who are in the evening of their lives. That is a very myopic way of looking at things. Why do we shape our politics on someone who is around 80 years old (Museveni). I never entered politics with Museveni in mind. I was thinking way past him. I am thinking about Uganda where he would not be an issue and where he will long be forgotten. Museveni is a temporary problem. We are going to deal with ideology and that is going to be the main thing. We are not going to come together to remove Museveni, that is not enough reason to come together. There should be something tangible that transcends Museveni.
In your view how best can the opposition work together?
The mindset of Ugandans in not multiparty politics. The mindset of Ugandans is by-party politics that is movement and opposition. That is a temporary thing of where one party is a total domination. When we go into true multiparty democracy, you are going to ask me how I am going to convince the electorate that my political party is better than the rest because we are in the competition. The thing about the party coming together is a Museveni mindset. What does that do to the mindset of people when you have 10 political parties fighting one man? Now when that man is out of the way as soon, he is, then we shall know that NEED is a rival of another political party because we all want power. We are all looking for the same market. Let’s not forget the fact that we are competing. That is how true multiparty politics works.
How do you plan to build capacities to ensure that your message of economic liberation sinks in the mind of Ugandans.
Reaching out to different people and getting leaders, associating with them. Appointing leaders of NEED in different places and making sure that they understand our ideologies. Recently we trained some people from across the country. When they go out to places where they came from, they know exactly what NEED stands for and that is very important. From there we can build capacities based on that. Within a short period, we shall be having leaders in all those sub regions.
Are you not afraid that Ugandans are getting tired of the empty promises from the opposition about the change of the regime?
Ugandans are tired of Museveni and in most parts of the country various people have appreciated what other people do to bring him down. The fatigue is not with people who have tried. Just because we failed 10 years ago, doesn’t mean we are going to fail now. Even a strong lion at some stage down the road becomes very weak. Change will happen.
You are advocating for provisional governance. How will this work?
The best form of governance we are going to do is provisional governance. We want 15 regions in the country each to have a governor, each sharing national resources equally based of course on population and things like that.
And then the people of that region manage their own resources. If they have resources which come from that region, for instance Karamoja, the reason why they need resources from here is because (regime) is stealing their (resources). If we just give them the percentage of what comes from their region, they don’t need us, we need them and that should be the same for all the other regions.
If they just get a percentage of what comes from their region to manage at their level, and then they send the bigger percentage to the national offers to be split among others a lot of regions can develop in a matter of five years. We want to create a governance of governors. One of the problems why it is not possible to get democracy here in Uganda is because power is centered in the hands of one man.
Everybody who has power firmly in his hands is bound to misuse it. That is why people create checks and balances all over the world. Democracy is sustained by checks and balances.
How far have you gone with the message of economic liberation?
It is awareness. We believe we have gone some distance in creating awareness across the region, now after that we are going to look at the actual things, those that can be done outside the government because we know we don’t have a government, we just have thieves with guns. Now what can be done outside for the people themselves to start, that is the empowerment we are talking about. How can we solve problems using dialogue because dialogue has been a very big problem.
Ugandans seem to be losing trust in opposition and they feel betrayed, how to plan to earn their trust?
I know people don’t trust opposition politicians, if you don’t that is your problem. You trust me because I cannot change what I believe in. I come from a very strong conviction, if something is not within my means, I will do what is within my means. I am not going to go outside of my means to convince somebody. What makes (some opposition politicians) go to the ruling party behind closed doors at night is trying to go outside their means. This can make you vulnerable.