I am not a land grabber, Gen. Saleh says as he explains his role in OWC
By Our Reporter
Gen. Salim Saleh, the co-ordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and President Yoweri Museveni’s younger brother, has denied claims he is involved in land grabbing.
Saleh instead accused Kiira Municipality Member Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda of being the mastermind and friend to land grabbers in Kampala.
Saleh, who was on Saturday appearing on a radio talk show the Capital Gang, explained his role in OWC.
He also discussed the deliverables the organ had made ever since it was set up in 2014 and UPDF officers appointed for implementation .
Achievements under his tenure
Gen. Saleh effused that through their intervention at the commercial level and farming, the country had registered a surplus and that all this could be reflected when you talk to the agencies responsible.
He said that they had handled the planting, post-harvest situation, which involved distributing post-harvest equipment across the whole country, adding that they were in the process of putting up 20 rural industrial hubs in the whole country, including the 27 industrial parks, which had been designed.
The General, however, pointed out that the country was lacking agricultural labour, capital and markets and that that was why they had a surplus.
He disclosed that the biggest challenge OWC faced was the disconnection between the political class and the bureaucrats.
“If you are going to talk about wealth creation you must mention factors of production such as land, labour,” said Gen. Saleh.
Gen Saleh said OWC is doing well as it delivers through the agencies such as trade, local government, agriculture and projects.
He noted that those questioning OWC should ask the inter-ministerial committee on OWC, which was composed of six ministries, which included the Ministry of the Presidency and that of lands.
He noted that OWC was not about the army and that they had also recruited the academia, non-state actors and the population.
Saleh admitted he was the face of OWC because he had brought along co-ordination between Government and the non-state actors, including farmers and that he was just missing out on the politicians.
He noted that, until recently, OWC was working with the district structure because they were the ones who were identifying the beneficiaries, but that in the second phase, OWC would interact with the private sector, which had been clearly set out in the National Resistance Movement manifesto.
Challenged over suitability to the task
One of the panelists, Maryanne Kasule Nanfuka demanded to know the criteria which was used to choose Saleh to head OWC and his educational, technical background and whether he was an economist or agriculturalist. Saleh asked the panelist to go to Kapeeka and see what he had done.
Saleh also wondered why the panelist was questioning his competence.
“I am always losing on account of my education. In 1998, after defeating the Sudanese army, President Yoweri Museveni appointed me Minister of State for Defence.
Winnie Byanyima, who was the cleverest MP at the time, objected. I was 38 years then. I went back to Nakasongola and sat for Senior Four, did my A’level. After that I was qualified by the Constitution because I did not want to use a shortcut to get into Government.
When the professionalization of the army exercise started, all the generals were sent to Senior Command and Staff College in Kimaka for one year.
I chose my subjects carefully and focused on food security in Uganda and I got a B+.
After that, I went to the ministry of finance and built almost 794 SACCOS, created a policy for agricultural credit facility, created facility for the purchase of land for poor peasants,” Saleh explained.
On who pays him, Gen. Saleh noted that he is only paid an allowance by the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS).
Saleh noted that OWC had fully supported so many programmes. “Once we go into the field, we study the active players. In Buganda, we found there the Buganda Coffee Development Foundation, which we supported.
We use culture and administrative structures to get to the people. Simply because we do not talk doesn’t mean we are not working,” the Saleh stated.
The Ssemujju accusation
Kira MP Ibrahim Ssemujju alleged that NAADS had provided Saleh cover to siphon money.
Ssemujju said OWC had illegally taken over NAADS and that the budget of NAADS was sh450bsh500b and that as soon as Saleh took over OWC, the first thing he did was to siphon away sh70b-90b to buy vehicles for military colonels.
Saleh denied claims that OWC was an illegal outfit.
“Let him check with the presidency and the Attorney General. We are a legal entity carrying out an operation that is mandated by the Presidency so the illegality does not arise. “We don’t control resources and Ssemujju knows that. All the money we are talking about is handled by the agencies like NAADS, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).
We are given just facilitation for fuel and night allowances when we are out. I don’t know why he gets this impression that we are handling billions of money,” Saleh said.