TNDQuestions: Amb. Julius Moto on diplomacy, Barlonyo massacre, agric and more

Ambassador Julius Peter Moto. Courtesy/File photo.

Host: Milton Emmy Akwam, Ag. Editorial Director

Welcome to the program, TNDQuestions Your Excellency Julius Peter Moto. You are the first Guest appearing on the ‘young show’, and we are extremely glad you accepted to talk to us today. Going forward, tell the global audience who you are; some may not know you.

Ans: First and foremost, thank you for having me on the program. I appreciate the confidence you have in me. When I was appointed Ambassador in 2012, I was working as Program Manager in a very large USAID-funded economic recovery program implemented by World Concern in Warrap State of South Sudan. I decided to return and serve Uganda. I was posted to Pretoria South Africa, as High Commissioner and Head of Mission. I covered the Republics of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Royal Kingdoms of Eswatini, and Lesotho. I was also assigned to the Pan African Parliament in the Midlands.

Qtn: You have been a diplomat for a decade now, you have excelled and if I can remember while still representing Uganda in South Africa; what motivates you?

Ans: My main motivation was loyalty to my country Uganda, loyalty to the Appointing Authority President Museveni, and willingness to learn new things. My former school motto at Ngai SS was “LEARNING TO SERVE”. In everything I do, I do it to the best of my ability. That was one of the reasons why I was voted the best Ambassador of Uganda for attracting real-time investors in 2015/16 from South Africa.

Qtn: An ambassador is the President’s highest-ranking representative to a specific nation or international organization abroad. Your role is to coordinate different departments and supervise your team. Describe the team you work with and how you have been representing your appointing authority.

Ans: As High Commissioner / Head of Mission, I worked as part of a team of diplomats from Uganda. Each of the diplomats is assigned duties by the Head of Mission in order to realize the objectives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as directed by the Minister who reports to The President and to Parliament subsequently. We maintain bilateral relationships between Uganda and the receiving countries. We also undertake commercial and trade diplomacy in addition to rendering consular services to Ugandans in our areas of accreditation.

Qtn: In one of your statements, you said “We also encourage companies in the UK and Ireland to invest in Uganda” and the key sectors are: Industrial grade sugar for the pharmaceutical industries, Iron and steel to support manufacturing industries, among others. Has this been a positive call?

Ans: We have held talks with a pharmaceutical investor in the UK. So far two companies have expressed genuine interests, namely Ms. Morningside Pharmaceuticals UK and Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd UK. London Mission also prompted the Government of Uganda to establish a specialized Pharmaceutical Industrial Park in Kampala that shall go a long way to attract more investors in the subsector.

Unfortunately, COVID 19 struck and affected all progress. The said companies are interested in investing in the pharmaceutical sub-sector of Uganda’s economy. The same applies to iron and steel. Nevertheless, there are over 100 UK and a dozen companies from Ireland that are registered and doing business in Uganda.

Qtn: UK and Uganda (schools) are (have been) working closely to improve learning. In Uganda, Covid-19 affected education; the government has urged pupils and students to embrace online learning, this seems not to work. Why is the UK not like us, and do we need a lesson from them?

Ans: One thing the readers need to understand is that the UK is a first-world economy. At one time in history between 1850 and the 1950s, Britain ruled more than 2/3rd of the world in what was called the British Empire. In fact, at its peak, the British Empire was the largest formal empire that the world had ever known. Its power, influence, covered the whole world. They set the pace for virtually everything that shaped our everyday lives. For better or worse the British Empire had a massive impact on the history of the world and Uganda was not accepted.

Fast forward: The British Empire collapsed over time. However, its education and systems had developed over time. The effects of its mighty economy and scientific development are still being felt to date. In comparison, Uganda existed as a sovereign state with effect from 9th October 1962. This sovereignty was affected by coup det etats of 1971, 1979, 1985, and 1986. With massive debts witnessed over time, Uganda became unstable and needed a total rebuild, almost from scratch in 1986 to date under President Museveni.

The UK is not like Uganda. She has been very stable from 1850 to date. We need to learn a lesson from them: Stability. Stability brings confidence that contributes to attracting new investments in all sectors such as industry, agriculture, finance, insurance, construction, mining, logistics, etc that can provide new jobs and incomes for citizens.

With instability, a lot of assets and lives are lost. No investor would want to put his money in an unstable economy. With over 20 years of instability from 1971 – 1991, no wonder, the disposable incomes of many households were affected. In fact, the average per capita income of Ugandans is US$200 per annum over the period of instability. Therefore, internet penetration was affected, including the ability of parents to afford computers, pay the costs of data, and acquire smartphones of young learners have been a major problem for many households.

Qtn: One of the many local issues affecting the Lango sub-region and Northern Uganda is that during the years 1971–2005, many people got killed under various circumstances, ranging from a violent change in government in 1971, gun-wielding cattle rustlers, local thieves who took advantage of unrests, marauding soldiers and the LRA rebels. To date, the government is yet to compensate the victims’ families. Last year, you advised that the Bralonyo massacre site be renamed Barcan—to mean “field of poverty”. Will the change do much better than families getting support?

Ans:  I am a strong believer in systems. The Lango Parliamentary Group (LPG) should take the matter of war reparations into the House of Parliament so that families can be compensated with effect from 1971. There are a lot of UNLF fighters who put their lives in line to remove Amin from power. Complete profiling and database should be developed by the LPG for onward submission to the Government for the compensation of the UNLF fighters, some of whom died, with a few senile ones still serving.

Amb. JP Moto on elections violence in 2020 ahead of 2021 general elections.

We need to appreciate them when they are still alive, and this can be possible through a structured and transparent presentation championed by the Lango Parliamentary Group as the elected representative of the people of Lango. The same can be reasoned for all other servicemen and women from other districts during the same period if they haven’t been compensated yet.

Qtn: On 26th February 2019, you said, and I quote: “Starting next year 2020, I appeal to all the MPs, District Chairs, Councilors, Faith bodies, the academics, business personalities, diplomats, ex-politicians, public servants, retired civil servants, young people, and well-wishers to converge at Barcan to observe the ‘Black Day of Lango’ as a result of several massacres during the period 1985—2005 or thereabout.” Mr. Ambassador, Lango would be glad if any UK faith organizations are joining us, not only in prayers but also giving material support, especially to the affected families. Is this possible?

Ans: The Barlonyo (aka Barcan) incident should not be forgotten. I do not accept that a UK faith organization should support us in the process of remembering our people. Should you be supported from abroad in remembering your people? This could lead to unsustainable dependency and would lead to a white savior syndrome whereby we resign to situations until a white man intervenes. We as Lango/Uganda should sponsor activities to remember all our fallen heroes, heroines, and persons who died during the period of our democratic development.

The Japanese never forget the 2 bombings of Nagasaki & Hiroshima in 1945. The Jews never forget the genocide occasioned by the NAZI Germans. The Namibians never forget the genocide against their indigenous people called Hereros by the German occupation. The South Africans never forget the evil apartheid. Likewise, the LPG and all Lango leaders, academia, business personalities, Faith organizations, cultural leaders, student bodies, etc must never forget the losses of lives of Lango people since 1971 to date.

Qtn: Again, in your words, “rebuilding an agrarian economy with teeming millions of young people in Uganda shall take a long time, from 30 to 45 years or more.” In Uganda today, most youths don’t want to do agriculture; sports betting [gambling] is their favorite, and this is because maybe they feel the government is not putting enough money into the sector. However, in Northern Uganda, youth are getting motivated are embracing tea farming with little support. Should there be a quick intervention?

Ans: There is no get rich quick. If there was, everybody would be rich!. I am glad you mentioned tea as a crop, for example. When all conditions for plant growth are favorable, and the right variety is planted on good farmland, it takes about 24 months before the tea plant is mature enough for tea plant harvesting, and about 60 months or 5 years for the plant to really become a tea leaf producer. The farmer can harvest it for over 100 years provide the soil is fed with the correct nutrients annually. Likewise, an avocado plant takes at least 48 months to start flowering and bearing fruits and the farmer can harvest the crop for over 50 years, provided he feeds the soil and maintains the crop against fungus, bacteria, and other pests.

Qtn: Agriculture, tourism, and industrialization drive economic growth and offer employment to youth and those qualified. In Lango, there are several factories making a lot of money (revenues) but paying little in terms of wages to their employees, the workers operate under hard situations, sometimes they’re harassed and no leader talks about it. How bad is this practice and underestimation to the sub-region and the country?

Ans: As I said earlier, I believe in laws and systems. There are labor laws under the enforcement by a District Local Government through the office of District Labor Officer. Where such an officer is not filled in, a district is allowed by law to outsource the services of another labor officer from another district of Uganda. Employers are urged to treat their employees with dignity and respect if they are to get the most out of them. Employers on the other hand should be honest and stick to their employments. Where there are grievances, they should discuss with the management of their respective employers to get an amicable solution.

Qtn: “Government should provide adequate protection to citizens in distress during all conditions” was a statement from you to us in 2019. During the Covid-19 lockdown, several governments across the world gave relief support to their citizens. In the (ongoing) lockdown in Uganda, several vulnerable poor from Lira City and some towns across the sub-region have raised concerns about not receiving government relief money after they submitted details. Is our government for its people?

Ans: During the first lockdown in March 2020, I was locked up in Uganda. I went and planted 11 acres of cassava on my farm in Oyam District using planting materials called NARO CASS 1 that I bought from the retired Inspector General of Police Julius Odwe. Around that time, a lot of people planted various crops as well. The cassava is now ready for harvest. People with capabilities should lead the way by producing food for the market. It is proof that it is possible to survive during hardships.

A lot of people were affected though. In 2021, the second lockdown caught people unaware.  The recent move by Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon Robinah Nabbanja, Woman MP for Kakumiro District, is a commendable job to try to save people from hunger.

However, the grants should come every two weeks and then 2 months after lockdown, in order to fairly provide foods and supplies for the vulnerable categories of our people. Note that not everyone is vulnerable. People who have no physical restraints should get up and do something thereby lead the way in producing for the market. I always say: “Do not beg. Get the skills & capital and Go for production.”

Qtn: Again on diplomacy, what relations exist between the UK government, Ireland, and Uganda that should excite all Ugandans?

Ans: Uganda enjoys a warm and cordial relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland. Ugandans have a lot to learn from these advanced economies. For example, Ireland has a population of about 4.94 million people and is growing at a rate of about 1.13% per year 70,273 square km. A very small section of this population produces all the foods the people of Ireland need. 85% of what is produced in Ireland is exported.

They export surplus products. Agriculture and agro-industries are the main sources of GDP, although the transition from an agro-based economy to a trade based one encouraged the Irish industry and service sectors to increase their productivity, thus playing an important role in the national GDP that is composed of agriculture: 1.2%; industry: 38.6%, and services: 60.2% according to the year 2017 estimates.

Ugandan farmers, with more units of arable land, should learn from Irish farmers. Through agro-led industrialization, Uganda can feed the whole of Africa! In industry, Ireland is the headquarters of major business entities due to the ease of doing business there. Labor should move from agriculture to specialize agro-led industries and services, hence more jobs for Ugandans.

On the other hand, UK has a population of 67 million on 241,930 sq km compared to Uganda’s 41 million people 197,100 sq km out of which agricultural land is 71.2% and arable land takes 34.3% of this. The most labor force in the UK is skilled up to serve the finance, insurance, tourism, manufacturing, exports, and logistics sector of the country. Very few farmers are engaged in agriculture. More than 60% of the foods and drinks consumed in the UK are imported from abroad. This is where Ugandan exporters can have some niche entries.

The UK has exited the EU in what is termed as Brexit. Brexit is an opportunity for Uganda to develop its nascent industries to supply UK markets. British companies are welcome to do business in Uganda on equal partnership arrangements as opposed to the previous colonial trade relations. Uganda can supply processed food, beneficiated minerals, tourism services, and skilled labor exports to the UK.

Qtn: And finally, what is your message to all Ugandans and people of Lango, most of whom are now in distress, worrying about the future; have lost their loved ones to Covid and other sicknesses?

Ans: Ugandans and the people of Lango should not lose hope despite the devastating effects of COVID 19. COVID 19 affected every single country and household on God’s greenest planet. Therefore, we expect full recoveries to happen again soon. However, recoveries are determined by government policies and the determination of the citizens to get up from the depressions. Given the stability that Uganda has enjoyed for the past 30 years or so, all Ugandans are encouraged to rise up and produce for the market. Produce something in your passion that can solve a human problem and exchange it in the market.

With the stability and sound government policies, the recent innovations in all sectors of Uganda should not be taken for granted. Ugandans have begun to wake up from slumber. During the period 2019/2020, the industrial sector grew from 2.1% to 11.6% representing a whopping 452% growth. Recall the industrial sector was not locked down. Recall also that Uganda imported over 94% of everyday products called fast-moving consumer goods from Kenya and Sudan in the 1970s/80.

The Uganda airline was nicknamed Stansted flights due to unscheduled trips to the UK to ferry most items needed by Amin & his junta. I built my first house in 1997-1999 using cement from Bamburi Mombasa that was stocked in Lira by Mr. Ocol Johnson, and Kenyan-made iron sheets that I bought from Mr. Anthony Okwenye Managing Director of Uganda Central Purchasing Corporation Kampala. To date, these products and many more are produced in Uganda.

Fast forward, during the period of COVID 19 i.e. 2010/2021, Uganda recorded an export value of US$4.3 billion by close of the business last year 2020 during the peak of COVID 19 pandemic, in fact much higher than the year 2018/19 when exports were valued at a little < US$4 billion. However, some sectors like leisure & hospitality due to flight restrictions and agriculture registered some negative growth due to prolonged droughts.

Post COVID 19, and with all cylinders firing the V8 engine of Uganda’s economy under the able leadership of President Museveni, higher figures will be recorded, and GDP growth is expected to exceed 4% growth in 2021/2022. Everyone is urged to exploit the abundant resources given to us freely by nature.

Thank you, Ambassador.

Ans: You are most welcome.

EDITORIAL: Our next Guest is Jane Frances Oling. She is a human rights defender, an activist, and the Executive Director, Women in Development. Jane will be hosted by our Editor Frank Oyugi to talk about “high crime rates in Lango, activism, roles of leaders”, among others.

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