It has been 14 years since you left the post of vice president. How has it been leaving the power and glamour?
Have I been out of power and glamour? When I went to Harvard, I was a celebrity; the flag of Uganda for the first time flew in the school of public health. Yes. I was respected; I was even given somebody to support me for almost six months, to show me around and to make everybody know that I was of a different status. I was in the news, I was being invited to schools to address them, social gatherings, even government meetings even when I was at school, I had opportunity, I mobilised Africans, Ugandans to start this NRM diaspora which you hear about. I was very active because even before I joined mainstream politics, I was very political. What people call glamour is being saluted, I am still up to now being saluted, when I go out of the country I am given escort.
So has life remained the same?
I think even more interesting. Yes, because I now have my mind, I am an adviser, I speak my mind. I am not constrained by the Cabinet rules. If I hadn’t joined politics, I wouldn’t have understood people the way I do now. The moment people knew I was no longer vice president, even calling they would not pick my calls. Suddenly, they knew there was nothing to give. Then when they hear you have come to chair Micro Finance Support Center, they call you “oh madam, madam this…” When I coordinated the NRM campaign in 2011, everybody was like she is coming back to government. I told them I was not and I didn’t.
What is it you miss about politics?
To tell you the truth, I don’t miss anything. Ok, may be you say I miss having people know why they are electing their leaders. That I miss very much.
When you are in public office, people develop certain image of who they think you are. At some point do you sit back and say may be you were misunderstood?
I think the media and politics then painted me in an image which was supposed to place a woman where she should be. You came in and you would see ‘girl this is not your place, girl get out, girl you are doing this’. I want to tell you, I grew up with eight boys, I was the only girl. I came in as a young woman pursuing my career. I entered politics to serve my country, I have talents, my brain is endowed, and it is quite smart even now so you can’t put me down. You see this office when I came here; they refused to facilitate me, no assistant, no budget and I said yes. If you see the work I have done on health reforms someone will say it took more than a billion and I say it did; that is what educated me (laughs). The people who knew me continued to encourage me and I knew these are just politicians but in my professional field I am highly respected.
You were always very blunt and unapologetic in your remarks, especially in Parliament. You told your colleagues that they had smelly socks….do you ever regret?
I have no regret having said that. If you are an MP and you don’t brush your teeth, how will you mobilise your people about oral hygiene, you don’t bathe, you don’t do whatever. Then the following day, the whole village goes to ask for hospitals.
If I may take you to what is going on in the country now...
I am not following a lot of what is going on because if I have to be a champion for an HIV free generation, I have to read. If I have to come up with a health insurance programme or re-channel the energies of government in the community I have to read. I hear what is going on but I just want to focus.
There are one or two things as you move around that you hear…
I hear what people are talking about but I have not applied myself to it.
You have worked with President Museveni; he has done many good things and perhaps failed at many others. Some people want him to change the Constitution to stand again. Do you think that is good for this country and do you think President Museveni wants to do that?
As a matter of policy, never ever make a law to target an individual.
Why am I saying that because it has affected me, people really hated me that I should not benefit as a former vice president from the emoluments? I was in the Constitution making exercise. For me the first point is what is the political system because if he is to stand or not, it is really politics.
We sat in that CA and agreed that we shall have a Movement political system, a multiparty system and any other in the Constitution. When we said Movement political system, we said term limits. It is an individual; you come on individual merit, why because a few people will tell you to stand. When we go to the multiparty system, the term limit should not be there, why, because that individual is fronted by a political party. If you don’t change the workings of the political party, they will continue fronting the same person. Actually it is happening in Germany.
So for me this debate is going on and I have said it at the AU, in Durban I said we are missing the boat. The politics of multiparty democracy must go to building the capacity of the party, if the party is owned by an individual, by a family and you are under a multiparty system, that person will continue.
For me, I prefer to think systematically. When we came to the issue of age limit we used the issue of life expectancy but even the issue of age limit some of us who were women opposed the retirement age of 60. As a woman I spend almost 30 years of my productive life doing public service in the home now my potential as an individual Ugandan will be after I am 40. To me the debate of age I take it from the gender side.
Learning points. Politics is a very interesting thing, one of the things I learnt when I went to study strategic planning and institutional building I got convinced that when you are given a task or responsibility, the problem is not the people so I focused on the task ….[when] the president said now I want you to focus on making sure the policies are coordinated, I focused on that and I chased these ministers. They complained but we put in place the policy on corruption that is how we ended up with Matembe [as Ethics minister].