By Mukomboozi Juma
The Outspoken Priest of Kitanga Parish in Kabale Diocese Rev. Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda has broken silence on allegations that he defected back to the NRM after he was pictured donning a yellow Shirt with a Portrait of President Yoweri Museveni.
Responding to allegations, a renown critic of President Museveni, Fr. Gaetano who is also the Vice Chairperson of Kick Corruption Out Uganda – KICK U said the shirt was for the presidential Campaigns in the 2001 elections in which Museveni emerged a winner .
In an interview with this news website, the Kigezi Region Chairperson of the Inter-religious Council of Uganda – IRCU, started by denying allegations that he had joined the opposition against the ruling party NRM.
“First of all, I have never left the NRM. I bought that shirt before the election that handed Museveni his second term as president of Uganda in 2001. I was one of his chief mobilizers,” he said.
However, Fr. Gaetano noted that it was the period when “Museveni was still sober,” and had not tampered with the constitution to remove term limits that would stop him from contesting again as president after his second term expired.
The 7th Parliament removed term limits from the constitution in 2005 when Uganda was transitioning from the movement system of government to the multiparty system
It is alleged that most of the MPs who voted for the removal of term limits were given Sh20 million before they accepted to remove the only barrier that would stop Museveni from standing again in the presidential election which he won later in 2006.
Fr. Gaetano who is one of the members of the famous Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 constitution says the removal of term limits to favour Museveni was the beginning of Uganda’s problem and the common debate on“Overstaying in power”.
While members of the 1995 C.A were voted for, Fr. Gaetano was hand picked by Museveni. He says in those days he was a political mobilizer and friend to the president and some bush war veterans who were vital in the capture of power by the NRM in 1986.
Father Gaetano says he was also friends to the core group of Museveni’s advisers from Kigezi Region including Former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi and his successor Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
“So, Museveni picked me on merit. It was not accidental I worked for it,” he said.
Fr. Gaetano went ahead to explain his closeness to Museveni in the later days. He says Museveni and his wife visited his home in Kitanga, Rukiga District in 2000. He also adds that he pleaded with Museveni never to betray his people like his predecessors, and prayed for him.
“ He came at my home and had lunch with me. I took him out of the house and asked him to remain true to his people. After that, I prayed for him,” he said.
However, Fr. Gaetano says he now feels betrayed by the man he thought was the best of all presidents that had ruled Uganda since the country gained independence in 1962.
He said Museveni had not only removed the the term limits but also the age limits from the constitution, and “that was a sign of selfishness and betrayal to people who designed the supreme law of Uganda.
“When he looked at the constitution, Museveni said it was the best book of laws he had ever seen. He promised to uphold and protect it. But look at what he has done today. Changing the constitution to suit his interests!”
Nevertheless, the priest says he has never stopped loving Museveni. He says he has also stayed in the NRM as a party member even though most people attach him to the opposition.
Fr.Geatano says he still loves Museveni like it was in the early days despite the betrayal. He also says he sympathizes with Museveni, describing him as a person experiencing a nightmare, whose group of close friends have refused to help but instead praise his mistakes.
“I love Museveni as an individual, but I hate his mode of operation. All these years I have been praying for him to wake up from the nightmare. But unfortunately, there are people who claim that they love him more than I, and they have constantly tagged me as an opposition Activist whenever they hear me talk about my old friend,” he said.
About, the shirt, Fr. Gaetano says he still keeps it, and once in a while, he feels like wearing it to express his undiluted love for President Museveni and the NRM party.