As we step into 2024, there has been a call from various quarters for Ugandans to recognize the significant issues in the country’s leadership, noting that it is not progressing in the right direction.
In an interview with the Nile Post, the former Minister for Ethics and Integrity Miria Matembe highlighted that Uganda is heading in the wrong direction due to elevated levels of corruption, greed for materialism, power, and self-centeredness, hindering the nation’s progress.
Matembe stressed the importance of transformation, emphasizing that it can only occur with a collective realization of existing problems.
Urging the acknowledgement of the need for change and the cessation of greed and fear, she emphasizes the urgency for Ugandans to work towards positive transformation. Additionally, Matembe suggests that, if she were the prime minister of Uganda, she believes she would have performed better than the current prime minister, Robinah Nabbanja.
In this new year of 2024, where should the focus be?
The focus should be on praying for the nation. People may laugh at me, but I believe that as an individual, there isn’t so much I can change. If I cannot change things, I pray and play my part. If each of us knows the role God has given us, and as we pray for the nation, God will redeem us.
I don’t believe in fighting; Uganda has suffered enough senseless deaths, torture, and imprisonment. If this government is removed, we may sadly see more of the same.
Looking at the broader picture, reflecting on 2023, how are we progressing as a country?
When I saw the parliament allocate funds for vehicles costing 700 million each for former speakers, many of whom are still employed by the government, it raised concerns. Even though they are no longer speakers, they have everything they need, and it seems excessive to provide them with such expensive vehicles, especially when they already hold high positions. This kind of allocation needs to be scrutinized within the broader context of our country’s progress.
But don’t you think that people who have served diligently for the country need to be appreciated?
I don’t mind people being appreciated, but I want to ask, and I am not being self-centred. If you are rewarding people whom you appreciate, whose work you appreciate. We worked in the Sixth parliament and the seventh Parliament. Personally, as an individual, I am not grumbling, that I am not rewarded. But I am looking at if you were to be rewarded. I worked as a member of the Uganda Constitutional Commission, I made the Draft Constitution with all my colleagues.
We went through and passed it. From there, I was a minister of ethics founding the ministry, and from there I was one of the founding members of the Pan-African Parliament. I am just telling you if you are rewarding people who have worked and made an impact for sure, nobody can doubt that Matembe and her team with whom they worked never made an impact on this country.
But I want to tell you that all those members of parliament, including me, with the highest level even me having been chosen as one of 100 women heroes of the world by New York and went and raised the Uganda flag. When I said no to the removal of the term limit, immediately I became garbage and deserved nothing.
No pension, no gratuity, nothing at all. There are so many members of the Sixth and seventh Parliament who worked, and actually, that is the best and even people will tell you that those were the Parliament of Uganda. But all of us, no pension, no gratuity, no nothing.
We went home. If you look at some of those people, they are dying in misery, and suffering, and yet, you pick people who never retire. Edward Ssekandi is still serving and he sustained all the vehicles he had, and here you are giving him more. Talk of Rebecca Kadaga with all the hotels and malls in town.
So do you mean all the years of commitment you were never rewarded?
My 30 as of total commitment, by the way, up to now that’s why you are looking for me. I continue serving God and His people in domestic violence; I run to redeem people when it is defilement. I run to redeem people without fuel, and I do it on my own.
My concern is whether the opposition or the government, this country is at a loss.
What are your thoughts on the recent reshuffle in the Shadow Cabinet in Parliament?
First and foremost, I am expected to understand the strategies and how they will impact the opposition. The politics of Uganda should not be viewed solely in terms of opposition versus government. The press tends to focus on both sides, but I believe everything that is done should be considered within the broader context.
So, in your view, where is the leadership, both opposition and the government taking this nation?
Let me tell you when you go to Mulago, that beautiful hospital for women which was put up and painted very well, and now it is going in reverse. The toilets don’t have water, the doctors are not being paid, and some of them are just running away and leaving. I have had my nieces and nephews (giving birth there). Recently my niece was having another grandchild, I went to that wonderful structure, but there was no water, the doctors were not there, and people died because there was nobody.
But when it comes to going where you need an X-ray or scan or something, you don’t find anybody. But where you are going to pay, you’ll find like three cashiers waiting for money. But where you are paying to get the service, where you go to get the service, there is no doctor.
And that is the hospital which was put there, fantastic for the government, and people care a lot of money.
Now when you look into other things, I would like you to look at the country generally. And see the leadership of this country as we go into another year. Sure, this is what should be done right now.
Do you think it was right for Robert Kyagulanyi, the leader of the National Unity Platform(NUP) to remove Mathias Mpuuga from the position of Leader of the Opposition?
As far as I am concerned as an experienced impactful and influential leader, because I even continue to influence people in this country, I do not think that Mpuuga should have been removed because he had the experience. He had the ability, wisdom, and characteristics of a leader, patience, tolerance, and wisdom to see how to move.
I am not underrating Joel Ssenyonyi; no, he’s a young man with vibrancy, who is very committed to this nation, who would like to see if things change for the better, and he’s been working. I don’t underrate him because he has done a lot in The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE). He has done a lot of investigations come out with the wrongdoings and made recommendations, but the government does not implement them.
So, what does this mean for him as he takes over the mantle?
Ssenyonyi, as a young man who came in and started leadership, and I as a person who is here watching and listening as a public figure, feel that he’s doing good work. But again, in my view, this is his third year in leadership. To make him the leader of the Opposition, those people who became leaders of the opposition reached a certain level of ability and experience. So, I wouldn’t remove Mpuuga, but now that they have removed him and put Ssenyonyi, I am not saying that he is not capable of leadership; it is better he sticks near Mpuuga.
Do you think his appointment will weaken the opposition in Parliament in your view?
But was it strong? Because what I know is that what may happen is that we have different characteristics. For instance, here I am. Do you think if I were to be the prime minister of Uganda, the government would run the way it is running under Robinah Nabbanja? No, of course, we have different characteristics, abilities, and approaches.
So, we are waiting to see. You can’t underplay somebody. We never know. Like I told you, if they had not changed, things would not be so bad. We were not seeing fights and so on. But now, if we go into these young ones, if they have to behave like Francis Zaake, then things will not be fine. The challenge (with young people) is the ability to be patient and tolerant.
Mpuuga has been accused of being diplomatic, and that his approach was different from his boss Robert Kyagulanyi?
Unless people don’t know the role of the opposition. The position is not to physically fight in Parliament; it is to do oversight, to make the government work. You are watching and saying this is wrong. And when you say all that, then the government sees them and works. The only problem I see here in this country is that, first of all, the opposition is not recognized. The role it plays is not recognized. It is demeaned by the government. The role of the opposition is not appreciated and understood by the government itself. They are perceived as enemies, as useless, which is very wrong. Therefore, they never want to implement the recommendations made by the opposition. Everything wrong is only seen by the opposition, which is not right.
What should be done in this case if the government is not listening?
This forces the opposition to want to fight physically. If you are not listening to us, we are going to fight; you are going to see us. Now when there is diplomacy and a person who knows the role of the opposition like Mpuuga who was performing well, they look at him as if he is being bought by the government, which is not true. They may think that Mpuuga is a mole. They want you to fight and fight.
What advice do you have for Ssenyonyi as he takes his new role as the Leader of the Opposition?
I congratulate him for being elevated to that higher position, but the advice I give him is that he needs to be close to the former opposition leaders because they are still there. Winnie Kizza is there; he could always be close to her. There is Betty Aol Ochan, and we also have Mathias Mpuuga. He should be close to those people who have experience.
Your last word to the people of Uganda?
The call I make to the people of Uganda is that they need to know that there is something wrong in our leadership. They need to know that this country is not heading in the right direction.
The level of corruption, greed for materialism, power, and self-centeredness is too high and takes our nation nowhere. We need transformation, and this transformation can only come when we all realize that something is wrong. You cannot change things unless you know there is something wrong. I want to appeal to Ugandans to accept and acknowledge that things are not well. They should know that there needs to be a change and stop the greed and fear. They have been gripped by fear.
They fear the government. I want to appeal to them that this country does not belong to any individual as it has been grabbed by an individual. It belongs to all of us, and we all have a part to play in redeeming it. The country is not owned by an individual. We have to repent, raise, reject wrong, condemn and repent, and pray for the nation.