MBALE- Uganda recently conducted Local Council elections at village level where the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party swept the elections claiming 90 per cent of the village leadership position countrywide. The Mbale District Local Government Chairman Benard Elly Masaba Mujasi spoke to Our Special Correspondent, Julius Odeke-Onyango what it means to the ruling party and to the person of President Yoweri Museveni.
LC elections at village level have been concluded with NRM party taking 90% of leadership positions countrywide. What does it mean to the ruling party?
As leaders of the ruling party, we have been telling people in our country that NRM has a strong foothold of its support in the population that is close to 40 million people but the opposition leadership was rubbishing us every now and then.
This election serves as an opportunity for them to know that they don’t have support and this presents to the whole world that President Yoweri Museveni is a leader with a vision for Uganda. Now opposition has realised that what we have been telling them is true. The common person who is at the grassroots knows that President Museveni is a visionary leader who has the country at heart so they cannot afford to vote him out simply because newcomers are propping up with divergent views which seemingly look nice to Ugandans but are baseless and without a backbone to support such views.
How come Elgon region’s support of the party is waning?
Well, it’s true. It is because there are some people within our party who do not have the party at heart. They too, at times help the opposition to spread malicious propaganda and that is why [the] opposition finds it easy to have their footprint in Elgon region. But in Mbale, where I am the Local Government chairperson, we are looking for young cadres with whom we shall entrust with political leadership positions so that we strongly and firmly hold the ground.
Why were dragged to court in 2016?
My opponent Vincent Magombe dragged me to court basing on unfounded allegations that I rigged the election. Magombe was simply exercising his democratic right as a bonafide citizen of this country by going to court, but I am happy that Uganda has an efficient judicial system that looked into the allegations keenly and found them malicious and baseless. So, court had to uphold my victory. You know Uganda in East Africa is a democratic country where aggrieved parties are free to go to court at any time they want.
At the age of 73 like President Museveni whom Ugandans want to retire. When will you retire from active politics?
In Uganda, we have the biggest problem in NRM party that the young cadres who are educated do not want to take up leadership positions and that is why we are still around. For example, in Mbale the urban citizens who are educated are unwilling to contest for political leadership and this has posed a big threat to our party. You find that it’s the mediocre group of politicians with no education, who tend to show up because they have money but without a political agenda to deliver to the electorate. I am trying to woo the elite class so that we can nurture them but they are not interested in politics. They fear losing in the contest and its affecting the political fabric of the party so much. And people like Magombe, those are wrong people whom we cannot trust with the leadership of this district and since they continue coming to contest for political leadership, I will not retire. Those are the people who want to grab both people and government’s land for their personal gain which is very wrong.
Mbale has big chunks of land that we are looking for international genuine investors to come and build factories here so that the youth get employment. And above all, for a person to come wanting to contest for the Mbale district leadership, then that person must support President Museveni. If President Museveni is still running then I will also contest so that I can give him the base to do the job properly. The president is a patriotic leader unfortunately it is those whom he appoints who have disappointed him. I have known President Museveni as a leader who means good for Uganda and he wants Uganda to attain middle income status at all costs.
You have been singled out as President Museveni’s critic in the party opposing his directives all the time. What is your take on this?
I am not a critic to President Museveni at all and I have never at any moment opposed his directive. What I know is that one day the president came to Elgon region to meet the party leaders. But he came hurrying that he was going elsewhere to campaign for a party flag bearer in a by-election, I told him that Mr. President these people have gathered here with an aim of talking to you. It is wrong for you to come and quickly leave without listening to them. The president took a long thought and considered remaining to talk to us. But many people said I was opposing the president. I was simply being honest and that is me. I don’t pretend. I am an old man, I have learnt not to tell the president what he wants to hear but what the community wants him to hear and I say it in good faith. I thank God that the president has learnt it and that is why he has trusted me and the people around me because we are honest and President Museveni doesn’t take offence of my honesty.
What have you achieved since 2001 when you were elected into Mbale Local Government’s office?
I am proud of what I have done since I came to office in 2001. Mbale was the third worst performing district in the whole country. Corruption was at its peak. The leadership in this district before I came in was full of bad leaders, people who stole virtually everything that they could lay their hands on. They were grabbing people and government’s land and even houses but when I came in that vice stopped because I don’t tolerate corruption. It is only Mbale District in Uganda where pupils do not sit on stones while taking lessons neither do they sit under trees. In other districts pupils still sit under trees and to make it worst they sit on stones instead of sitting on desks or benches.
I have fought and wiped out corruption in Mbale. That is my greatest achievement and I am proud of it. And when it comes to the health sector, we have built health facilities in all the sub counties in the district even in the hard to reach mountainous areas like Bufumbo, Busano and Wanale. It is only the three-newly created sub counties of Namabasa, Bunamasikye and Rwaso that have no health facilities but those too shall get the same benefits because we want all our mothers and children not to walk long distances while seeking such basic services.
You are a rich man with several businesses and buildings in Mbale city. Many people question your riches. Where did you get your wealth from?
I worked in Nairobi, Kenya as a Senior Bank Manager since 1976 before retiring in 1999 and coming back to settle in Uganda. Now if a man retires at the rank of a senior bank manager more so from a foreign country (Kenya) which is the biggest economy in East Africa do you expect such a man to be a poor that he cannot afford to buy a building? I have also been tagged to other people’s buildings in this city just because the owners are my relatives, which to me is wrong but at times I am happy because it makes me prominent although they are not mine.
Explain the allegation that you masterminded the killing of Emmanuel Bwayo Wakheya Amin’s Finance Minister in 1976 and took his wealth.
[Pauses for about three minutes, speechless] I wish people knew. I left Uganda for Kenya in 1975 as a refugee. While on my way to Nairobi, I got stranded around Nakuru starving for two weeks but I was only lucky that a relative picked me and took me to Nairobi. The late Wakheya, I knew him as a son of Bugisu region and a minister of Finance in Amin’s government and that was all. I have never worked in Uganda’s civil service so there is no way people can say that I worked in the Ministry of Finance so that I could mastermind the killing of a finance minister.
People say [Daniel Arap] Moi used you to steal government funds hence explaining the source of your wealth. What is your comment?
I wish you worked in the bank. A bank is a private sector that there is no way one can steal money from it. And more so, as a senior bank manager you do not have any single access to money, it’s the lower managers who deal in cash transactions but a senior bank manager’s duty is simply managing the employees. It’s worth noting that I was not in politics. I was neither a Member of Parliament nor a councillor in Kenya so that those in political leadership would even come to know me. I left Kenya in 1999, and I don’t think President Moi and his senior ministers even came to know that I lived in Kenya but this is the perception of people because I carry myself as a person who is reserved and who can look after myself and my family.
Position: Mbale District Local Government Chairman and he is also an elder in Bugisu sub region in Eastern Uganda who is tasked with advising the president on a range of issues that affect the region. He also serves as an elder, who advises the Inzu ya Bamasaba aka, Umukuukha, a cultural institution of the Bamasaba – people who constitute a total population of seven million living both on separate borders of Uganda and Kenya in Kitale and Bungoma Counties in western Kenya.
Experience: Mujasi, 73, a former senior banker with one of the most reputed banking institutions in Kenya during President Daniel Arap Moi’s regime retired in 1999 and he returned to his home country Uganda to serve as District Chairman in 2001 and he has never lost an election basing on his honesty and willingness to fight corruption in a district that was at once ranked the third worst in the country and now is one of the best in the country. He has not only fought corruption in the district but strengthened the support of NRM party even with some opposition strongholds in the region. He has the President’s ear when it comes to decision making of the party on a range of issues to be implemented in the region such as education, health and infrastructure development.