Truth Can Prevail Over Ambush Journalism

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[Black Star News Editorial]

A reporter for NTV in Nairobi, Kenya, who interviewed Olara Otunnu, former United Nations Under Secretary General, who is returning to his native Uganda for the first time after 23 years, was utterly biased. We are all for tough, probing and challenging questions. That’s the hallmark of serious journalism; not the ambush journalism practiced by the NTV reporter Linus kaikai.
The best way to deal with such interviewers is to turn some of the questions right back at them; especially when some of them are nonsensical observations such as Yoweri Museveni “single-handedly” restoring stability to Uganda. Here’s how to expose such “reporters.”

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Below are our recommendations in terms of how Kaikai should have been dealt with.
Question: What is the larger mission in your return to Uganda? Do we understand it right that you would like to run for President?
Answer: The larger mission is not about me. The larger mission has always been about Uganda. That has been the problem to a large extent since Independence in most African countries. What has been the problem? Megalomania. Individuals have emerged as president and ended up claiming that they are the only ones capable of being president; they want to become life president’s and they scrap term limits and abuse the Constitution, to the detriment of institutions of state. Is it not sad that almost 50 years after independence, we still don't have enduring institutions? In most African countries were something to happen to the president, the result would be chaos and bloodshed. These are the kind of things I would like to see change for ever. Let’s resolve the question of smooth and regular transfer of power on a date certain so that we can focus our energies on building our economies and lifting our standards of living into the 21st Century. That the presidency is not the solve-all solution in African countries or in Uganda. 

Question: So you're saying you're running for President?
Answer: I'm not ruling out anything or ruling in anything. Yet as an unambiguous
Ugandan citizen; fully born in Uganda, with generations of ancestors buried in Uganda, I am certainly entitled to run for the presidency of Uganda. I have a vision for Uganda which I want to work with others to attain; I don't have a vision for presidency alone; certainly were I to ever become president, I would work to implement the vision that I have for Uganda. Uganda first.

Question: Now 23 years; do you think that Olara Otunnu might find it very difficult to fit into the political landscape in Uganda? Considering that the older generation remembers you as the last foreign affairs minister of a defeated government and the younger generation--anybody under 25 may not know much at all about you, in as far as your political background is concerned inside Uganda. All they know is the Olara Otunnu they see at the UN
Answer: Well first of all, the United Nations is not such a bad place at all. Many who have served at the U.N. have returned to their respective countries and contributed in many capacities including as president.
Second thing: the older generation does vote as do the younger generation. I am not claiming entitlement or that I am owed anything. Every person who aspires for national leadership must make their case. We must present our ideas and not impose ourselves through the barrel of guns. So we all campaign. As I would if I were to decide to run for the presidency of Uganda, as any other unambiguous citizen has a right to.

Like any other candidate, should I run, I would have an opportunity to make my case before the older generation as well as the younger generation. I would argue that we cannot have an ethnically and regionally balkanized Uganda of North versus South; Central versus Western; Central verses Eastern. We cannot have a Uganda where merit does not count but connection to the presidential family. We cannot have a Uganda where the government that is charged with the security of all Ugandans has in fact presided over a genocide in northern Uganda; and an invasion of neighboring countries, where again massacres were committed such as in Eastern Congo, as the International Court of Justice found Uganda liable for in 2005 and the ICC has subsequently launched its own investigation. War crimes against Congo; massacres and plunder. These are things that many Ugandans cannot be proud of. Uganda can do much better than that. Hopefully the older generation as well as the younger generation will respond to such a message.

And I must say I disagree with you that the older generation remembers me as foreign minister of a defeated government. I would argue that many remember me as the Ugandan who might have become the first African Secretary General of the United Nations Organization. That would have brought honor to all Ugandans, had the candidacy not been undermined by the current president of Uganda. As I said earlier, Uganda first.

Question: [The part about Mr. Otunnu’s record at Makerere being too old would not arise: The so-called “reporter” would have still asked about “the stability and peace over two decades under President Museveni.”
Answer: Stability and peace? What is your definition of stability and peace? You mean because the suffering in some parts of Uganda is not adequately covered by many media organizations, including quite obviously by your own, so therefore we have stability and peace? That is a definition that I don’t accept. That is a definition that people in northern Uganda in those concentration camps don’t accept; and the people in Eastern Uganda don’t accept that definition. That is also a definition where people in Central Uganda don’t accept as they strive to protect their land rights. If there was so much stability and peace why would demand for federal form of government be growing louder each day?

Question: But others would say Museveni has single-handedly saved Uganda from the plunder that it experienced under President Amin, President Obote and even General Tito Okello
Answer: That’s not true at all. Who is saying this really? When was that last said? Remember that fiction about the new breed of African leaders? You are not still referring to that are you? Here again I must ask where is this impression coming from? It cannot be from reporting from the source. If you had reported from Gulu or from Soroti or even from Buganda right now, I don’t believe you would be so sure about that impression. What is Uganda’s ranking on Transparency International’s index of corruption? Uganda is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Have we already forgotten that even millions of dollars Which was meant to fight HIV/Aids was embezzled including by government officials? And where are the government’s priorities? Uganda bought a new multi-million dollar luxury jet for the president and hosted a multi-million dollars Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at a time when citizens were drowning from floods and dying from famine. One thing I can tell from this interview is that Museveni has done a brilliant job in convincing many in the media that certain parts of Uganda, and the people there, really are not important even though the count in the millions. Yet I am happy to note that even some of Museveni’s staunchest supporters in the West seem to be changing their tune. Do you believe that in the old days
a United States Secretary could come to East Africa and not visit with Museveni at Entebbe? Why didn’t Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visit with Museveni? So perhaps we should all update our impression of the reality on the ground in Uganda and separate that from wishful fiction.

Question: You say all these things about Ugandan and president Museveni and yet you still can’t state firmly that you want to run for president in 2011?
Answer: I think my answer is very clear. I have not ruled out or ruled in anything. There is a process and mechanism before one can become a presidential candidate. I am very confident that I would be able to do a much, much better job for all Ugandans that the current president and government has done if I were to ever attain that honor. Yet you cannot have the cart in front of the horse.
Question: But Uganda is far more stable right now than when you were foreign affairs minister.
Answer: There you go again. We could even argue that South Africa was stable during apartheid. You’re certainly not saying that apartheid should have been maintained?
This argument for stability was also made to justify colonial rule in Africa for decades. I am quit sure that regardless of all the challenges, Kenyans, Ugandans, and Tanzanians would not trade their Uhuru for anything on this earth.

Question: Let’s go back to Saturday and beyond. The day of your return to Uganda. You’re retuning to; you’ve been associated with UPC the Uganda Peoples Congress. Is that a party that maybe you feel could be too tainted for you to be associated with considering its history?
Answer: First of all when we talk about political parties we must judge it over its entire record. The UPC was a Pan-African and nationalists party in Uganda. The UPC was a party that led Uganda to independence and—please let me finish my sentence for once; the UPC built roads, built hospitals; the UPC government built schools, built airports. These are the same schools and the airport that Museveni is now selling to his investor friends. No party had duplicated this record. A UPC government would not sign a contract with foreign oil companies and seal it in secrecy. Who does the resources belong to? The Presidential family or to Ugandans? Now did the UPC have its failures later on and did not deal with the pull of national and regional politics? One can make that case strongly. This government is struggling with those same challenges. But political parties have a long life span. I am quite sure the National Resistance Movement would prefer to be judge by the rerecord of its first three to four years in office even if massive abuses occurred then; as when compared to its record over the last 15 years or so which is
characterized by massive corruption; foreign wars and massacres, with a reported five to seven million lives lost in Congo; maybe more than a million lives lost in Uganda itself especially in the north; plunders in neighboring country; and the shame of presiding over Uganda when the World Court found Uganda liable for war crimes and awarded Congo $10 billion on compensation.

Question: But Mr. Otunnu UPC is also synonymous with Milton Obote; a name that is quite a polarizing one in Ugandan politics
Answer: Just as NRM is synonymous with Museveni; and therefore one could also associate all the transgressions that I have just outlined with Museveni if one is not charitable at all. Also let’s recall that when the body of Dr. Obote was returned to Uganda after her died in exile, hundreds of thousands lined the streets throughout Uganda, not only in his home district. To me that was the most democratic referendum that a people could exercise freely. They spoke very loudly. Obviously there must be some disconnect between the impression of Obote as an utter demon and the turn out to see his body throughout the country.

Question: Is the FDC and Dr. Besigye part of your welcoming party on Saturday?
Answer: I have been informed that Ugandans of various political affiliations will appear. That is what I have been told. Dr. Besigye as you know is a courageous man. He is also a friend of mine. Ugandans and the entire would saw how he was mistreated and abused and jailed and tormented when he also returned from exile to claim his right as a citizen to run for the highest office in the land. It is partly because of his sacrifice and suffering and his courage that the regime was exposed for its brutality. As I observed earlier, some of the regime’s staunchest supporters in the West are now backing off.
It is because of the resistance of people like Dr. Besigye and others that the space is slowly opening up so that unambiguous Ugandan citizens who aspire for political office can freely make their case to the population. Then the people will decide. Uganda first.

Question:  Mr. Otunnu right through this interview you have declined to state 
to state whether or not you are running for president on 2011 and on Saturday and beyond what would your message to Ugandans who would be connecting the dot who will see your return in direct relation to the 2011 election and that is the presidential race?
Answer: There is a time for everything. My message is that the future belongs to the young in Uganda. To all Ugandans. A United Uganda. Not an ethnically and regionally balkanized Uganda. Uganda first.

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