My fellow citizens, my fellow Ugandans:
I accept your nomination with gratitude and humility. It is a great honour for me to stand on this podium today and address you, for the first time, as a Presidential Candidate.
In the coming weeks and months, I will rely on the support of a great number of people. Some of them are sitting behind me on the podium, others are sitting or standing in front me amongst the crowd. I would like to recognise and thank those who have accompanied me here: my nominator and proposer: Honourable Beatrice Anywar and Ms Rosette Nsonga; TDA party leaders: Ambassador Olara Otunnu of UPC, Honourable Norbert Mao of DP, Mr. Asuman Basalirwa of JEEMA, Honourable Beti Kamya of UFA, Dr. Dick Odur of PPP, Honourable Mike Mabike of SDP and Mr. Samusu Mugobansonga of CP;
Eminent persons: Owekitiibwa Mulwanyammuli Ssemwogerere, Honourable Steven Kaliba and Honourable Miria Mtembe. Representing my supporters are Ms. Lina Zedriga Waru, Honourable Chemaswet and Mr. Aliro Omara. Representing the youth: Ms. Cecilia Anyakoit and Mr. Adam Luzindana.
Here in the place of my wonderful wife and family are my daughter Rachel Ciconco Mbabazi and my sister Ms. Juliet Tumusiime Bagowabo. Last, but not least, our Chief of Staff Ms. Solome Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe without whom, and together with her team, none of this would be possible.
Before us is the most wide-open race in our political history, one that I believe gives us the greatest chance to achieve a historical first in Uganda: peaceful transition of power. Indeed, this is what I seek: a change in government through peaceful means and a change in governance.
To look out at this gathering is to see a multitude that reflects the power and reach of the Go Forward message and movement. The gathering here today is a true union: for whilst we are not all the same, we are all in agreement. We mirror the rich cultural diversity of this nation (indeed some of us are from the north, the east, the west and the central regions, some are Muslim, others Christian; some of us are UPC, others DP, FDC and NRM and other political parties and from civil society) and we are all here because we recognise that Uganda is, once again, at a critical turning point in her history; because we know that the battle before us is not merely a clash of values, it is a battle for the future of our children and the very soul of this nation.
Peaceful change is no light matter, for it speaks to the stability and endurance of a nation and its systems when individuals die. For what is one man when we’re talking about systems, about the future, about an entire nations’ coming of age? What is the promise of an individual political agenda against the promise of a Uganda that works for everyone?
When individuals are permitted to stand in the way of this transition, when right and wrong is determined by powerful personalities instead of the law, then we put this country and the lives of our children at risk of great instability. Because individuals and personalities are temporary; but systems, strong institutions – these things last and they are at the heart of every strong and prosperous nation on Earth.
Meaning of “Go Forward”
Indeed, this is our common purpose: to see Uganda become strong and prosperous and to make Uganda work for everyone. For the youth and for our children – who deserve a good quality education and who desperately need jobs; for the women – who desire not to be treated as second-class citizens but as full citizens with the right to an education, the right to a healthcare system where childbirth is not a pathway to the grave and the right to have their freedoms observed and upheld; for our farmers – who are the heart of our economy and who need to be empowered by the economic might of government and through restoration of cooperatives; for our ex-combatant soldiers in the North, in the East, in the Central and Western regions of Uganda, who need to be paid their retirement dues and to be better supported, better integrated into their social environments and re-skilled so they can easily find work; for the men and women who graduate from university and other tertiary institutions but end up spending twenty years of their lives unemployed or under employed when they could do so much more; for our diaspora, who are just as Ugandan as anyone else, who contribute so much to our economy and yet still don’t have the right to vote; for our minority groups who deserve to be protected by government rather than scorned for being a particular ethnicity, or holding to a particular belief; for all Ugandans.
Civility & change
The time for change is now!
With our society increasingly divided and militarised; with a government increasingly hostile to its own citizens; with the erosion of rule of law and the separation of powers; with our soldiers and police being forced to do things that violate their mandate to serve and to protect; with the rich getting richer and the poor simply becoming worse off: the time for change is now. With 64% of our youth unemployed and many more Ugandans underemployed; with corruption eating up this nation: the time for change is now! With our political culture so uncivilised: the time for change is now. The time to debate the worthiness of our ideas and the realism of our plans is now.
Now, is the right time to make major investments in people more than in buildings and weapons: the poor, the aged, the weak and the afflicted must be treated with respect and compassion and it must be our central aim to lift them out of poverty, sickness and despair, to make old age a time of ease of life and dignity. We must build a new society.
This is what “Go Forward” implies. This is exactly what, in its simplicity, it recognises: that it is our noble duty to do whatever we must to survive, to endure, to succeed. Our vision is to enhance the quality of life of our people. Our challenges are old (poverty, corruption, poor healthcare) but they are also new (globalisation, technological advancement). And so for this grueling endeavour, the endeavour to foster good governance and nation-wide prosperity, we need a new type of leadership. We need both managers and statesmen. We need both experience and freshness of ideas. Those who are more inclined to abuse rather than debate cannot be fit to be heads of state.
Neither are those who spend all their time lamenting, instead of identifying problems and finding long-lasting solutions.
The work is not easy and it is not meant to be. It requires someone with the right cast of mind, someone with determination and tolerance; someone who is patient, who has the strength of will and can see the bigger picture. This change we need requires serious leadership and I am offering myself to see it through. I will draw upon my experience in the most important areas of government and governance: defence and security, law and order, diplomacy and public administration.
But then it will be time to hand over to the next generation of young Ugandans to lead the country. Indeed, my task will be to preside over the transition of power from one generation to the next. In the meantime, I will get our great nation fit for the future challenges that lie ahead.
The Past vs the Future
My name is Amama Mbabazi. Many of you have heard of me either in good terms or bad. I would like, for a moment, to tell you a bit about myself. I was born in Cocezo, Kabale: a place so deep in the valleys of the high mountains of Kigezi it is said even eagles are afraid to land.
My mother was a farmer and a leader in the church. My father was a catechist, a lay reader and a canon. They were simple, modest people who instilled in us, their children, certain unshakeable values: to love hard work and discipline; to shun laziness, mediocrity, greed and entitlement; and, finally, to never forget the importance of our spirituality, as well as our relationships to both God and others.
I never betrayed these values as a young boy and I pledge to you, the Ugandan people, that I will not betray them now.
To every member of the Democratic Alliance and to all that embrace the idea of peaceful transition now: all of us here have walked distinct paths to come to this place; we may not always have agreed, but we share the same dreams, we have a common purpose: to build and secure a Uganda that works for everyone.
A new dawn is upon us and upon this our focus must rest. As Winston Churchill once said: “If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future”. Let us leave the quarrels of the past behind in favour of unity.
Let me say something else: the group of people that accompanied me here today do not comprise some new political party or organisation. These are people of different backgrounds who have answered the call to action I made on June 15th.
These are people who have realised that it doesn’t matter where or what you are from, here anyone can belong: Catholics, Protestants, Born-Agains’, Bahai’s, Muslims and Traditionalists; NRM, FDC, DP, UPC, JEEMA, PPP, CP, SDP. THE JUBILEE COALITION and many others. Ours is not a partisan political idea but a universally applicable one. For the act of going forward is one every person is familiar with. Everyday we all commit our lives to doing so, to growing older, to growing wiser, to daily becoming a better version of ourselves in order to survive and to succeed.
In life we have two choices and so it is in this campaign. We can choose to be governed by confusion, intimidation and bribery; we can choose to stay in one place, to wilt and to wither; or we can choose to move on to better things, to be governed by grace and common sense. In fewer words: to go forward.
I know you will make the second choice, the right choice. And I know, that with God’s help, we will prevail.
God bless you.
God bless this Country, Uganda.