Tracing Museveni’s Friends

Presidency appears to be Museveni’s only real friend as old allies either die or they are cast by the wayside, writes Sulaiman Kakaire.

President Museveni once said in a 1994 newspaper interview that he had no friends. Of course the president is a politician. And politicians, we are told, have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.

Still, there were people who seemed (and believed they were) so close to Museveni you could be forgiven for thinking of them as his friends. But you would be wrong. The September 18 sacking of Amama Mbabazi as prime minister has further diminished the group of Museveni’s long-term confidants still working with him.

Mbabazi, 65, had worked closely with Museveni since the early 1970s. The president even credits Mbabazi for reviving the internal network that fought Idi Amin when it almost collapsed around 1974. In his book, “Sowing the Mustard Seed,” a chronicle of his political journey from his youthful days up to 1996 when Uganda held the first universal suffrage elections under NRM, Museveni lists his friends and foes.

A review of Museveni’s book by this newspaper found that of the nearly 200 people he mentions, 158 belonged to what the president called friendly forces in the struggle while 29 can be referred to, in the context of the book, as enemy forces. The names on the “enemy list” include former presidents Apollo Milton Obote, Idi Amin Dada, Tito Okello Lutwa and Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa.

Our review also found that 85 of the 158 ‘friendly forces’ – made a significant contribution to Museveni’s political journey. Among the significant contributors are people Museveni met in school and during his early political activism campaigns. They include Martin Mwesiga (RIP), Black Mwesigwa (RIP), Eriya Kategaya (RIP) and Valeriano Rwaheru (RIP), who he met in the 1950s as a student at Kyamate primary school and Ntare School.

At Dar es Salaam University, Museveni also met people like the late Dr John Garang and James Wapakhabulo (RIP) who participated fervently in the University Students African Revolutionary Front to discuss Africa’s problems. During that time, they would invite political scholars like Walter Rodney to provide insights into some of the problems that the world’s post-colonial states were facing.

“This was during the time he (Rodney) was writing ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’,” Museveni notes.

The president mentions Kategaya and Martin Mwesiga as some of those who participated in the discussions. When he graduated from university, Museveni in the late 1960s joined “progressive voices” within the UPC such as Raiti Omongin (RIP), Kirunda Kivejinja, Dani Wadada Nabudere (RIP), Bidandi Ssali, Zubairi Bakari (RIP), Richard Kaijuka and Magode Ikuya.

In 1971, when Amin assumed leadership, Museveni mobilised some Ugandans under Fronasa to fight the dictatorship. They included Kategaya, Amanya Mushega, Ruhakana Rugunda, Maumbe Mukhwana, Haruna Kibuye (RIP) and Abwooli Malibo (RIP). Others that Museveni cooperated with under Fronasa include Mbabazi, Kahinda Otafiire, James Birihanze, Kahunga Bagira, Augustine Ruzindana, Salim Saleh, Fred Rwigema, Ivan Koreta, Chefe Ali, Chango Machyo, Sam Njuba and Sam Katabarwa.

During the 1980 NRA bush war, Museveni acknowledges to have worked with, among others, people like Fred Rubereza (RIP), Gen Elly Tumwine, Tadeo Kanyankore (RIP) and Dr Kizza Besigye.

Current relationship

Our analysis of Museveni’s friends reveals that of the 85 great contributors to Museveni’s political journey, only 35 are alive. Of these, 26 still work with Museveni while nine are in the opposition. Nine of Museveni’s former friends fell out with the president due to their opposition to his long stay in power. These include Mushega, Augustine Ruzindana, Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Colonels Samson Mande and Anthony Kyakabale.

Besigye left Museveni’s government after he refused to address his call for reforms on governance. He has since stood three times against Museveni and remains the leading opposition player. Mushega, Ruzindana and Bidandi parted ways with Museveni following the latter’s push for the removal of presidential term limits.

Some of Museveni’s friends who are dead disagreed with Museveni in their last days. Among these are Nabudere, Sam Kalega Njuba, Kanyakore and his childhood friend Kategaya. In his book, “Impassioned For Freedom,” the late Kategaya expressed his disappointment with Museveni’s about-turn on stepping down from power.

On pages 131-132, Kategaya writes

“Of late, I have been told that politicians are people without a sense of shame. All along I trusted President Museveni whenever we agreed on what to do but the kisanja project (deletion of two term limits) has shaken my faith in him. It is not only President Museveni who has shaken my faith and trust in leaders but some of my colleagues in cabinet are equally guilty. It seems the survival instinct overrides everything else.”

Although Kategaya was dropped from cabinet for his stand, he was eventually recalled after making his own U-turn. Njuba and Bidandi also wrote in their autobiographies about how they were forced to leave government for questioning the lifting of term limits.

Play safe

From available statistics, it seems the safest way to remain within Museveni’s inner circle is not to express interest in the presidency or even criticise Museveni, his family or the UPDF – which he sees as the regime’s ultimate guarantor. Almost all of Museveni’s close comrades who have continued to work with him have played safe politics or not posed a threat to his power.

The 26 friends still living today include Prime Minister-Designate Rugunda, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and Gen Elly Tumwine, a UPDF MP. Others are Kirunda Kivejinja, Kintu Musoke, Gen Ivan Koreta and his brother Gen Salim Saleh. So, to stay with Museveni, one has to identify and take care of his permanent interest, which can now be presumed to be his presidency.

Where Museveni friends are


Year of meeting for politics Where are they now

Martin Mwesiga 1953 He was killed in Mbale

Eriya Kategaya 1953 Died in 2012. By the time of his death he was serving as First Deputy Prime Minister and minister for East Africa Community Affairs.

Black Mwesigwa 1953 Died during the unsuccessful invasion of September 1972

Valeriano Rwaheru 1950s Killed by a grenade that exploded in his hands when he was attacked by Amin’s soldiers in 1974

James Wapakhabulo 1960s Died in 2004 served as minister for Foreign Affairs

John Garang 1960s Died in a plane crash in 2005

John Kawanga 1960s He is currently in private practice and a member of DP

Prof Dani Nabudere 1960s Died in 2012. By the time of his death he was mobilising a citizen led movement to call for governance reforms

Kintu Musoke 1960s Retired politician but currently working as Special Presidential Aisor

Jaberi Bidandi Ssali 1960s He stood against Museveni in the 2011 presidential elections and is president of People’s Progressive Party

Kirunda Kivejinja 1960s He is a Special Presidential Aisor and member of NRM’s Central Executive Committee

Raiti Omongin 1960s Died during the unsuccessful invasion of September 1972

Richard Kaijuka 1960s A silent member of the FDC

Erifazi,Laki 1960s Died

Yuda Katundu 1960s Died

Abbas Kibazo 1960s Died

Zubairi Bakari 1960s Died

Ikuya Magode 1960s Retired and member of NRM NEC

Amanya Mushega 1971 He is FDC vice president in charge of Western Uganda

Ruhakana Rugunda 1970s Prime Minister

Maumbe Mukhwana 1970s Retired farmer in Mbale

Haruna Kibuye 1970s Died

Haruna,Bakari 1970s Died

Akena P’Ojok 1970s Died

Abwooli Malibo 1970s Was arrested in one of the tea rooms in Kampala, executed in Fort Portal in 1973

James Karambuzi 1970s Executed by Amin in 1973

Joseph Bitwaari 1970s Was publicly executed By Amin In 1973

Samuel Kagulire Kasadha 1970s Was the estate engineer at Makerere killed by Amin in 1972

Edward Rugumayo 1970s Retired and currently at the Mountain of the Moon University in Fort Portal

Obitre Gama 1970s Died

William Ndahendekire 1970s Died

James Birihanze 1970s He was found dead after the Kyambogo incident when Amin soldiers surrounded Rwaheru and James Karuhanga

Kahunga Bagira 1970s Killed during the unsuccessful invasion of September 1972

Samora,Machel 1970s Died in 1986

Augustine Ruzindana 1970s Opposition–deputy secretary general in charge of research in FDC

Mpiima Kazimoto Wukwu 1970s He was killed during the first Fronasa attack in Mbale

Joseph Bitwari 1970s Was arrested and publicly executed in his home town of Kabale in 1973

James Karambuzi 1970s Was arrested and publicly executed in their home town of Kabale

William Nkoko 1970s Executed in Jinja in 1973

James Mbigiti 1970s Died

James Karuhanga 1970s Amin’s soldiers publicly executed him in front of his parents in Mbarara town

Obwona Labeja 1970s Was executed in 1973 in Gulu town

Janet Museveni 1970s First lady and minister for Karamoja Affairs

John Wycliffe Kazzora 1970s Died in 1999

Amama Mbabazi 1970s Secretary General, NRMFormer Prime Minister

Kahinda Otafiire 1970s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs

Salim Saleh (Caleb Akandwanaho) 1970s Special Presidential Aisor

Fred Rwigema 1970s Died during RPF’s Rwanda Invasion, 1990.

Chefe Ali 1970s Died

Ivan Koreta 1970s Ambassador

Wanume Kibedi 1970s Chairperson of Citizenship and Immigration Board

Chango Machyo 1970s Died in 2013 and by then he was a special presidential aisor

Rhoda Kalema 1970s Retired

Sam Njuba 1970 Died in 2013 and by then he was FDC National chairperson

Gertrude Njuba 1970s Special presidential aisor

Sam Katabarwa 1970s …

Sam Magara 1970s Died during the bush war

Ahmed Seguya 1970s Died during the bush war

Fred Rubereza 1970s Died during the bush war

Elly Tumwine 1970s Army MP

Brig Tadeo Kanyankore 1970s Died in 1999

Matthew Rukikaire 1970s Retired but recently served as chairperson of Makerere University Council

Brig Andrew Lutaaya 1970s Retired into private business. He is the owner of Ssese Construction Company and a host of other businesses.

Col Charles Tusiime 1970s Col. Charles Tusiime, a historical who took part in the 1981 attack on Kabamba Military Barracks but was recently promoted

Nathan Ruyondo 1970s The father of the late Colonel Patrick Lumumba

Patrick Lumumba 1970s Died in 1991

Brig Julius Chihandae 1970s But he later fell out with the government, spent about a year in a cell at Lubiri military barracks after allegedly aiding his friend, Col. Ahmed Kashilingi, to flee the country. Kashilingi, who currently works in the President’s Office, was accused of plotting a coup especially after the burning of military documents at Republican House, where he was in charge. Today Chihandae is an attacheacute at Uganda’s embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Hannington Mugabi 1970s Killed by one of his colleagues during the NRM struggle

Jack Mucunguzi 1980s Is the brother to Maj. General Fred Mugisha, the former Force Commander, African Mission in Somalia (Amisom), worked for the defunct Coffee Marketing Board and later as a security officer at Uganda Revenue Authority.

Anthony Kyakabale 1980s Exiled in 2001

Bomboka Edidian Lutamaguzi 1980s Died during the bush war

Moses Kigongo 1980s NRM vice chairperson

Col Fred Mwesigye 1980s Member of Parliament for Nyabushozi County

Pecos Kutesa 1980s in charge of army doctrine

Andrew Kayiira 1980s Died under mysteriously circumstances in 1987 he was then the Minister for Energy.

Moses Ali 1980s Second Deputy Prime Minister

Shaban Kashanku 1980s Was killed during the early years of the struggle for travelling,to Kampala from the jungles of Luweero without getting permission of his commanders

Dr Ronald Batta 1980s Died

Rtd Col Dr Kizza Besigye 1980s Opposition and former president of FDC

Stanley Muhangi 1980s He died in 1991

Maj Gen Joram Mugume 1980s He is the former deputy army commander and commander of land forces

Maj Emmy Ekyaruhanga 1980s Died

Paulo Muwanga 1980s Died in 1991

Stephen Kashaka 1980s Military attacheacute at the Ugandan Embassy in South Africa and previously served in the same position in Tanzania.

Maj Gen Fred Mugisha 1980s In charge of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre.

Ahmed Kashilingi 1980s Security Analyst,,ministry of Foreign Affairs

Col Samson Mande 1980s Exiled in Sweden

Brig Peter Kerim 1980s He died in 2012 and by that time he was serving as a deputy reserve force commander

Benon Tumukunde 1980s Died in early days of regime

Namara Katabarwa 1980s Died in the bush

Source : The Observer

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