The Chairman NRM Diaspora League Abbey Walusimbi based in United States and currently facing resistance from a faction led by Patrick Asiimwe based in United Kingdom, talked to ChimpReports about his responsibilities, early life, future plans, events in NRM and Uganda generally.
Who is Abbey Walusimbi?
I am the son son of Hajji Juma Kigozi and Rukia Namagembe who both unfortunately died in July 2008 and 1978 respectively.
My grandfather Yubu Walusimbi is from Bubajwe, Luwero and therefore I hail from the Mecca of NRA/NRM.
President Museveni appointed me Trade and Investment Representative in America under Uganda Investment Authority and I coordinated Chamber of Commerce G77 Countries for USA & Canada; Director In charge of Eastern Africa of Africa/USA Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Coordinator African Pavilion of the African Marketplace Los Angeles; Special Envoy to the President Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry and promoted the AGOA Initiative in various districts of Uganda.
When did you go to America and why should Ugandans be proud of you?
It has been incredibly a long time since the beginning of 80’s first as a student in California. I am eternally grateful, in particular, my father, Haj Kigozi and elder brother, Juma Yusuf Walusimbi (then Director, Bank of Uganda) for funding my trip, education, upkeep and mentoring in the USA.
Rev. Adonia Kirinda is another person whom I treasure; he played a key role in my trip to the USA. These people, among others, opened doors for me and gave me the platform to excel.
I eventually became a US Resident and Citizen.
From the outset I felt the need to assist and support fellow Ugandans coming into the USA.
In California we established an Association of Ugandan Community in California (AUCC) to unite Ugandans in California.
Key members included Eng. Frank Mwanje the pioneer President, Dr. William Kalema, Bonny Galabuzi, Patrick Muwanga, Damalie Mulindwa, Geoffrey Sendi, Samuel Kasozi, Benon Mukasa, Mzei Moses Kabukuru and others. I succeeded Charles Lwanga to become the President of AUCC.
I was later elected President of the United African Federation that brought together Africans in the Diaspora in USA.
The African Federation and AUCC realised that California was the wealthiest and most developed State in America with numerous people of good hearts who were desirous of assisting ‘needy’ people all over the world.
As President of the Federation and AUCC, I submitted a number of proposals to individuals and institutions for donations.
The donations received included computers, medicine, scholastic materials, blankets etc which we delivered to, among others, Nakaseke Hospital, Mengo Government; Busoga Kingdom, Masaka, Mpigi, Kampala, Mbale, Arua, Kumi high school and hospital and Madi Districts.
We arranged visits and tours to the USA for Ugandan Leaders and Business community; District LC V Chairmen (Hon Abdul Nadduli (Luwero), Hon. Vincent Ssempijja ( Masaka) , Levi Zimbe (Mpigi), Richard Andama Ferua (Arua), Peter Iku Dollo (Moyo) etc.
The African Federation and the AUCC shifted focus to “How best could we in the Diaspora play an effective role in the social and economic development of our countries while also ensuring health livelihood in our host/adopted countries?”
We moved from soliciting for donations to primarily seeking out potential and credible investors in various sectors of our economies.
I introduced Western Union to Uganda also together with Hon Vincent Ssempijja we introduced a Los Angeles based Aids Healthcare Foundation/AHF Uganda Cares to Uganda.
We were excited by Museveni and the NRM Government’s commitment to the development of Uganda as outlined in many Policy programs and the focus on attracting Investors to participate in the country’s development. We resolved to partner with government to push the development agenda.
In Uganda, we led investor teams including that Film Star John Amos (Kunta Kinte) who is best known for role on the TV series Good Times, and several hit movies – Coming to America, Roots, Die Hard 2, The Beastmaster explored establishment of Movie studios on location, the Drew Hospital that promoted Girl Child and established exchange programs for nurses etc.
We linked up with the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), Uganda National Chamber of Commerce, Uganda Promotional Board, National Water & Sewerage Authority (NWSC), Tanzania Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Kenya Investment Authority and Ghana Tourist Board.
How relevant is the NRM Diaspora League to the development of our country?
As an organ of the NRM, the party in Government, the Diaspora League plays a part in shaping the policies that are invariably translated into government programs that impact on the population.
Nearly a million Ugandans are out there in the Diaspora- in Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Lately we have hundreds in the Middle East.
There is a need to have their voice heard just as NRM has for the Youth, Women, the Veterans, Elderly and Disabled etc.
To what extent has the League achieved its mandate not only as a Party Organ but also as a player in national development?
The voice of the membership and non members is being heard in the various organs of the ruling party, Government generally and the wider Public.
We contribute to the NRM manifesto and Government agenda in our participation in NRM Organs and at the Secretariat.
We now generally have a coordinated avenue through which our concerns, aspirations and recommendations are channelled to contribute to Uganda’s development agenda.
The Diaspora Leadership, alongside His Excellency the President, other Government & NRM Leaders and other players, we have championed for increased understanding of investment opportunities in Uganda.
In this regard, Uganda has witnessed over the years numerous Governments, Party and Parastatal bodies’ officials and business person’s participation in fora in the USA, London, Scandinavian countries, Japan, South Africa etc.
These delegations explained to Ugandans and other investors the investment climate and opportunities in Uganda; encouraged Ugandans to invest and return home. Consequently many investments came to fruition.
We actively sought for legalisation of Dual Citizenship for all Ugandans in the Diaspora. We are glad this was ultimately achieved and benefits all of us both in Diaspora and our relatives back home.
Uganda’s Media in the recent past has been filled with gruesome pictures and stories of human Rights abuses by some police officers. When such events occur in Uganda, how does this affect your operations while in the Diaspora?
Uganda has enjoyed peace with improved human rights since 1986. Rogue elements in the Police tannish Uganda’s image and negatively impact on potential investors. Fortunately, His Excellency the President boldly denounced the rogue police officers; they were arraigned in court.
This helped us our endeavours to attract investors. Generally we endeavour to establish the truth behind media stories to arm ourselves with the correct position.
How would you advise the President to solve this problem so that investors can come to Uganda?
Streamline the Government bodies handling investors- one stop centres should be effective.
Weed out the corrupt elements. Connect foreign investors to guanine, effective and professional investment teams members to work out sensible and mutually beneficial investment plans.
The President set 2020 as a deadline for Ugandans to achieve a Middle Income Status. We are now three years away to reach that deadline. How would you rate Government’s performance so far in this regard?
There is ongoing positive progress and there must be more concerted efforts. We note that various exonogous factors such the exchange rate which has deteriorated, severe drought and delays in oil & gas, construction of Karuma Dam and a number of infrastructures has negatively impacted on attainment of the 2020 goal.
Uganda is facing a problem of Unemployment especially among the Youths. What should be done?
Government and NRM have put in place many Youth Programs alongside Wealth Creation Programs and Retooling Uganda.
The government should reinforce these programs to retrain /retool the youth, encourage entrepreneurial spirit among them. Promote programs to drive the Youth away from substance abuse, unsafe sex and easy money (betting) and join cooperatives.
Many Youth are taking advantage of labour opportunities in the Middle East Countries.
Government should continue streamlining the Labour Export Companies and our Embassies to ensure our Youth are treated well.
The NRM Secretariat, where you also sit while in Uganda, is full of fights among its top leaders. Even in your Diaspora League leadership, you are fighting. What is the cause of all this and what should be done?
Generally at the Secretariat and Diaspora we have good working relationships. However like in other organisations, we witness instances when there are flares up. NRM has mechanisms via round table discussions to amicably resolve such issues- though some take time and often blown out of proportions.