GULU-UGANDA: One of the eight presidential candidates in the Uganda’s February 18 election has said that he doesn’t want to be apologist for what the national army; Uganda Peoples’ Defense Force (UPDF) did in northern Uganda.
Being a bush-war comrade of Gen. Yoweri Museveni himself, Maj. Gen. Benon Biraaro Buta said he would defend the UPDF operations in Northern Uganda except for the single incident where 55 people were roasted to death in a rail wagon at Mukura in the Teso sub-region on July 11, 1989.
“I don’t want to be apologist. I would defend the UPDF operations in Northern Uganda except for Mukura. Mistakes could have been made”. He said.
He made the remarks while meeting journalist in Gulu from the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) office on Wednesday, January 20, 2016.
He said the people affected by the over two decade war should not expect reparation money for losses incurred during the war to be paid in individual account. He said money for recovery from war losses will be ploughed into agricultural budget.
“War victims should not expect direct reparation, but they will benefit from the shs30 billion that comes their way through agriculture”. He said.
He applauded the people of Northern Uganda for rejecting the insurgents by taking risky moves of living in “protected camps” and allowing their sons to be recruited into auxiliary forces who fought alongside the national army to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
“The people of northern Uganda ended the insurgency in Northern Uganda. It was a risky move but it was successful”. He told the press.
Mr. Biraaro also scoffed at people who are advocating for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Uganda, saying they risk opening up a “Pandora box” where there will be accusations and counter accusations.
“By establishing a truth and reconciliation commission, you will be opening up a “Pandora box”. How far do we take that? There will be accusations and counter accusations. You will polarize the country more”. He said.
Mr. Biraaro said he advocates for a “coalition government” as opposed to “Federalisms” as that would divide Ugandans along ethnic lines.
“Let us do a constitution that has “unitary government”. Uganda first, tribes next”, he told journalists.
Mr. Biraaro, whose party is the “Farmers’ Party”, said he would inject shs3 trillion (about US$88 million) in agriculture every year to spur production through establishing District Farm Institutes (DFIs). He accused Museveni of neglecting district farm institutes which were established by the colonial and post independent government of the late Milton Obote.
“When you establish an institution, you want to set standards. We want to spend shs30 billion every financial year for the establishment of district farm institutes in every district. This should help teach our farmers modern methods of agriculture”, said Biraaro.
He said the the major challenge to agricultural production in northern Uganda is the land fragmentation and the lost of two generation of youths who do not know what farming means.
“We have a big challenge in northern Uganda and that is the fragmentation of land which does not promote large scale commercial farming. I will solve that dilemma by legalizing land ownership in northern Uganda through the establishment of “clan land boards”. The land boards will be tasked with the registration and leasing out the land not under production by the clan members”. He said.
He also criticized the current policy of trade with neighboring countries where it is Ugandans who take good from Uganda to these countries instead of them coming to Uganda. He said if elected president, he will establish boarder markets to attract South Sudanese and Congolese to come to Uganda to buy our products and return to their countries with merchandize.
“We should establish boarder markets to attract South Sudanese and Congolese to come to Uganda buy our products and return to their countries with merchandize”. He said.
He also had no kind words for the current failure based Education system which encourages high drop outs because there is no space for higher level of education. He said if elected to office, he will introduce a national examination at Primary Four to determine whether a child is fit for academic, skills and hands on training or sports.
“The current education system has many bottlenecks from Primary Leaving examinations, secondary educations where every time we have failures because we don’t have space in the next level of education”. He said.