To most, Mbabazi is a tear away from the old “gang” who have failed to deliver promises and instead exploited Ugandans for their own gains. His recent declaration is but a gimmick, which should be ignored. In his declaration he talked of a change in “system of government” without elucidating as to what that system would be. It is clear he has no idea what he is talking about and how it would be delivered. Like his rival, they have no clue as to what is good for Ugandans and simply carried on from their predecessors, with the same results.

Mbabazi would never be a first choice for Ugandans but in the current state anything but Museveni would do! Mbabazi needs to re invent himself by apologising for the exploitation of Ugandans for the last thirty years and counting and then embrace federalism by acknowledging that the system is broken and must be damped. This will provide Ugandans with a viable alternative. Other than, he and his nemesis are birds of the same feather albeit the sound of Mbabazi’s drivel, disregard the substance; is more easy to the ear than the alternative. Mbabazi has also got to drop his arrogance. With the assertion that “Ugandans do not know what they” one is reminded of the arrogance with which they managed to divide people and how the gullible swallowed it “hook, line and sinker” while singing praises way after the drummer had stopped.

For his sin, Mbabazi, with a working microphone in his hands and still alive, must start singing the federal message because it is the message that Ugandans want hear or else, he should follow the rest to the dustbin of history.

Akim Adongo via the UAH Community


John Nsubuga: Abbey, since it seems that a batch of thorns is being thrown into KB’s path to stand for the last time, should we consider eloping and discover new love in team JPAM.? You’ve seen the life our fellow MP Adam Luzindana lives.

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
:There is something about Mbabazi as a person in his face and presentation that makes me a bit uncomfortable. He doesn’t smile a lot, does he? But then again, he has got a very adorable wife and beautiful daughters. His Rachel is so beautiful. And with this, I’m sure we can come to some sort of an arrangement if he wants our support but Rachael but must make sure our Ramandhan remains intact!

But seriously, Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye is still the man……even Museveni knows this. Mbabazi is just a distraction that hopefully will go away with time.



ALLAN BARIGYE:Me thinks even those funny wattsup msgs pitting bahima against bakiga were doctored by team M7 to be used at a later date.
Thats how M7 operates .

Gook Akanga:I wouldn’t put that past him! Remember the putting on of UPC Tshirts in Luwero to commit atrocities?

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba:One thing for sure is that there’s an irrefutable network on the ground everywhere in Uganda ready to carry Mbabazi’s message. How he has kept it together and away from the eyes of the security circles, it’s a million dollar answer.But the NRMS are intentionally trying to make someone who was unpopular to become popular suddenly. They all seem to be working for him knowingly or unknowingly!

Gook Akanga:When the time has come everything u do seems to work against u!And JPAM works well underground!He is a night dancer!

Abbey Semuwemba:Gook,Well, we have got to give it to Mbabazi. …….He has also played the game of being a liar to the last dot , and ,in a way, I’m happy that he was only lying to the super liar! He promised to support the best leader of the NRM revolution at Kyankwanzi if he was to offer himself for presidency as many times as he wanted, only for him to turn around and declare his candidature too.

It just goes on to show that nobody can detect a liar facially because there’s no mirror for it. Museveni has been telling lies to us for ages, but now he has met his match!

John Nsubuga: Museveni is no match to JPAM when it comes to political deception, he beats his mentor hands down. Mbabazi is never in a hurry, he takes his time to study the situation and the outcome, but when he launches, he lives a mark. We’re so used to president Museveni’s lies because he is repetitive, the saaaaaaame lies, industrialisation this and that but nothing happens on the ground. Musajawo nga yayimba AGOA, ne value addition?

I’m going to conduct a one day course in reading letters without opening the envelop that conceals them for all UAH members. Didn’t I tell you that president Museveni was hoodwinked to hunt for small time supporters of Mbabazi upcountry when the actual promoters at work are part of his government? They are sited besides him and yet he can’t see them. Why can’t these people consult me for advise?

The been weevil is at work from inside – out.


The day Anne Mugisha’s dad was arrested!

“In the United States I confronted similar isolation as that which I had experienced in Uganda. A group of Ugandan’s appalled at the violence and injustices of the 2001 elections had formed a non-profit organization, RESPOND Uganda and shopped for an Executive Director to run it to create awareness amongst the Ugandan Diaspora and the US government of the democratic deficit that was now apparent in the country. I was identified to head the organization and this is how I obtained a visa to travel to the United States from South Africa where I was living with my paternal Uncle, John Iraka.

Within three months of my arrival in June 2002; the organization was appalled by my ‘in-your-face-activism,’ and they had also run out of funds so I was given notice of termination of my contract. The United States had been attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists in September 2001 and all focus on foreign policy was directed at fighting terrorism. Uganda jumped on the band wagon and passed its anti-terrorism law, identifying exiled opposition activists with terrorism. It became increasingly difficult to find organizations and people willing to fund a cause which was now associated with a group known as the People’s Redemption Army (PRA.)

Ugandan security agencies led by David Pulkol and Noble Mayombo appeared on radio talk shows and gave interviews linking Kizza Besigye and his erstwhile supporters to the PRA. Many activists were detained illegally and tortured to give evidence that would link Reform Agenda activists to the PRA. When James Opoka, Besigye’s political assistant on the EKBTF was killed by Kony in Northern Uganda, the rumor that Besigye (now exiled in South Africa) and anyone who supported his candidature was a terrorist linked with the infamous Lords Resistance Army; gained credence.

On 26 July 2003, my parents who chose to live a quiet religious life got thrust into the drama of my political activism. The government had launched an operation (Operation Wembley) purportedly to arrest thugs who were committing violent acts of robbery and many were shot down extrajudicially in this military operation that swept through Kampala. On that day the operatives found their way to my parent’s home in Bugolobi to arrest my father who they alleged was recruiting PRA rebels. They found my parents at home and ordered my father who was sitting in the living room with my mother to get up and follow them to their vehicle. My mother being the more outspoken of the two told them to wait because there was no way they were taking him in his slippers. She insisted that he goes upstairs and puts on his shoes so that he would leave the house presentably! She must have got their attention because indeed they allowed him to go upstairs and put on his shoes. Then they threw him in the back of their vehicle and took him to a ‘go-down’ in Kireka, an un-gazatted place of detention where they proceeded to ask him to remove his shoes and locked him up with several other people in a dark holding place.

My mother went to work. She called church leaders and relatives that she knew in government. Miria Matembe, then Minister of Ethics and a relative through marriage, was outraged when she heard the story. She called State House and told them that they had just committed a big blunder. My father is a respected figure in the Church of Uganda and his arrest was about to cause the government great embarrassment. Within two hours of his arrest, he was called out of the packed dark hole where he had been thrown by someone who asked: Are you Anne’s father? He told me that when he heard those words he thought he was dead but he could not deny who he was so he identified himself as my father. They took him to an office where a gentleman who released him chatted with him and said he had been to school with me. My father told me that when they brought him his shoes and socks, he could barely tie the laces because his hands were trembling. Once he had his shoes on they told him he could leave and opened the doors to the street. He jumped onto public transportation and made his way back to Bugolobi. My mother spoke to the press, probably for the first time in her life; and told them that the family should not be penalized for my political activities and they should be left alone.

I followed the saga from the USA and started to understand the impact of my activism on those who loved me.The US State Department Human Rights Country Report of 2003, published on 25 February 2004; reported the incident under the section on Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence. ‘The Government at times punished family members of suspected criminals and political opposition members. For example, on July 26, George Mugisha, father of RA activist Anne Mugisha, was arrested and temporarily detained for alleged links with a rebel group. He was released after 2 hours due to the lack of evidence, but he claimed the arrest was a form of mistreatment due to his daughter’s political activities.’
When President Museveni’s office announced that he would be attending the Uganda North America Convention in Seattle in September 2004, I knew I had finally got my opportunity to say some of the things that needed to be said in the safety of the US jurisdiction. I had been invited to speak on a political panel at the event but the government started to advocate for my removal from the panel. A Ugandan newspaper wrote that I intended to abuse the President and pelt rotten eggs at him during his visit to Seattle. A former President of Uganda Law Society, Andrew Kasirye (also one of Museveni’s numerous private lawyers); wrote an email to the Convention organizers inciting them to throw me out because I had decided to organize a peaceful demonstration to coincide with the presence of Mr. Museveni at the Convention. The government was taking measures to silence a single opposition voice.

At first I was told that they were throwing me off the panel because the organizers were funding my participation and did not want to be said to be funding a demonstration against the President. I agreed with them and immediately paid for my registration and reserved my accommodation. But this was not enough to assuage the detractors. I informed the City of Seattle and the Police Department and they responded saying they had no objection to a peaceful demonstration. I appealed to UNAA members who believed in the right to associate, the freedom of expression and right to be heard; to join me outside the Convention Center (Seattle Sheraton Towers) on 4th September 2004, to hold placards that would send our message to the Ugandan and American public. My placards (which were mistaken for rotten eggs;) were about Museveni’s move to amend the constitution to run for a 5th term in office, HIV/AIDS and the return of peace to northern Uganda. Eventually, folks like Dr. Muniini Mulera and a few other UNAA elders prevailed on the Convention organizers and I got my demonstration and an opportunity to speak on the panel.

The demonstration attracted at least 25 Ugandans and some Seattle residents many of whom stopped, participated or listened and then moved on. It took place outside the Seattle Sheraton Towers where the President was due to speak to participants in the Uganda North American Association Convention. Some of the participants included FDC activists Peter Otika, Moses Sebunya and Rukia Tezikuba. It also included members of the Acholi Community in Seattle and California as well as DP-USA Secretary-General Lawrence Kiwanuka. Several members of the international community, including Amnesty International members, brought along pictures of the war and destruction in northern Uganda and joined the demonstration while a volunteer group called Peacemakers, brought people to make a ring around the demonstrators in case of any threats. As it turned out, they were not needed. There were a dozen policemen on bikes who were happy to stand around and enjoy the day with us. Members of the Presidential Guard Brigade, the erstwhile Presidential Protection Unit (PPU,) which had tortured KB’s supporters in southwestern Uganda; tried to stare us down and one said to me in my native Runyankore that what our small group lacked was a thorough beating. I thanked God that we were not demonstrating in Kampala.
At 50 I know that it does not take many people to shake a government into realizing that it derives it’s power from the very people it purports to represent. The hard part is finding the people to stand up and confront the government with this truth.”—-Anne Mugisha


By Abbey Semuwemba

The concept of voter fraud is fascinating to me and I suspect that Gen.Sejusa and Mr.Amama Mbabazi will have the final word on this before and during the 2016 elections. I also suspect that in order to do it, you’d have to know who you were posing as, their exact address, where to go to vote, and you’d have to know that the person you’re posing as isn’t going to show up sometime that day. And in most precincts you’d have to wait in line to do so. If you could manage to do one an hour, you’d affect a dozen votes.

This means nobody in Uganda could vote as Museveni, Besigye, or any of the famous people in the country, but it means anybody could vote as any of the Ugandans in diaspora(who are denied the chance to vote or register for ID), and most probably get away with it. Anybody could forge an ID under my names and vote, and I don’t think it will be detected.Please don’t vote in my names for you know who!

It would actually be easier to make a dozen fake IDs, if you think about it under the following categories of people:1- those living abroad; the dead; ghost soldiers;disabled; mentally-ill in Butabika, e.t.c and drop all the pre-ticked boxes in the box of the candidate of your choice.

Voter fraud is a very bad crime,because it pretty much portrays the loser as the winner, and the winner as the loser, as was allegedly the case after the 2006 elections.

Another way to rig is to consistently causing voter suppression by enacting laws that make getting ID’s hard to get, throwing out previous ID’s, legislating obstacles to voting, intimidation,….all PROVEN to be against those most likely to vote against Museveni and his NRM. That’s why I think Gen.Sejusa’s message in the Saturday Monitor makes more sense than that of the DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE– Alliance or not, somebody else will be controlling the 2016 elections, and that somebody will make the opposition look like losers again!



What this document means is that Mr Omara Bashir has to appear in a South African court within the next 48 hours to “show cause” why he should not be handed over to the ICC for prosecution. The lawyers for petitioners in South Africa will argue very strenuously in court that:

1. The Arrest Warrants issued by the ICC are valid and pending
2. That the government of South Africa is a party to the Statute of Rome and is therefore under an international obligation to cooperate with the ICC.
3. Mr Omar Bashir has not cooperated with the ICC since the warrants were issued more than three years ago, and is not likely to cooperate if he is allowed to leave the jurisdiction of the court.

Mr Omar Bashir’s lawyer’s will argue in court that:
1. The government of Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, therefore all its warrants are invalid in so far as they apply to citizens of Sudan.

2. The matters alleged in the indictment fall within the sovereign jurisdiction of the Republic of Sudan and therefore the doctrine of state immunity should prevail.

3. That he Omar Bashir is a sitting head of state and therefore enjoys immunity from on the basis of that status.

4. That there is a bi-lateral agreement between the government of Sudan and South Africa and a tri-partite treaty governing relations between member states of the African Union, which guarantees his safety and freedom of travel ie , he could not have traveled to South Africa without being given a legal guarantee, so therefore the legal issue would be the determination of the hierarchy of laws, which should prevail, International human rights law or domestic law?

This is playing out the Pinochet case in the UK in 2001 in which I participated on behalf of Amnesty International. It just depends on the attitude of the South African government,but I can see Zuma letting him go, eventually.

This case of Omar Bashir will depend on the attitude of the South African government and weather Jacob Zuma has got political authority in the current South African political dispensation to make a bold move in the interests of international human rights law. There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on him. But he has to decide whether he wants to maintain the status quo in Africa, where brutal leaders like Bashir and Museveni enjoy immunity and are allowed to gallivant all over the continent to plan the brutalisation of their citizens and to import instruments and means by which they may effectively inflict such suffering. One of three things will happen:
1. The High Court may dismiss the interim order on a legal technically, for eg that the Petitioner, a South African Muslim Human Rights Group, does not have standing in the case (locus standi rule) since it is not a victim.
2. The Court may decide that Bashir entered South Africa under a bi-lateral agreement with the Republic of South Africa that guarantees his freedom from arrest and freedom of travel. It would therefore rule that this agreement over-rules the ICC warrants of arrest, and by implication imposes supremacy of domestic law over international human rights. The Statute of Rome, which created the ICC, imposes a duty on parties state to it to cooperate with the ICC.
3. The government may declare Omar Bashir persona non grata (unwanted person) and then expel him from the country.

The precedent in a case of this nature is the R v Pinochet which started in 1996 with the arrest in London of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet upon a warrant for his extradition from Spanish Prosecutor General to stand trial in Spain for the murder of 2,597 people. I participated in this case as a Legal Researcher for Amnesty International, which had applied for and been granted the status of amicus curiae (friend of the court) or co-petitioner in the case. The case went on for 4 years, ending with Pinochet being allowed to return to Chile on health grounds. But along the way, I think the most important principle of international criminal justice was established in this case. In many ways, the decision of the House of Lords in R v Pinochet stands as the greatest judicial decision of the 20th Century and one of the greatest ever made in a common law jurisdiction.

George Okello via the UAH forum


MUNTU AND BESIGYE It was a mistake for Dr Besigye to quit and hand the torch to general Muntu. Dr Besigye quit organized opposition in favour of the informal one where he and Lord Major Lukwago seem to dominate. I have never seen general Muntu threatening YKM. I suspect that is why General Sejusa who can speak his mind is now causing waves in Uganda.

Let us wait and see how things will turn out in FDC. I see general Muntu doing to FDC what Ed Miliband did to Labour in the UK, hang on leadership fully aware they are the problem and not the solution. I still believe Labour could have done better had it elected the elder Miliband. but Ed Milliband entered the race to spoil for his brother. Now he is dead politically and finished kabisa. Labour will soon do what FDC members are doing in begging Dr Besigye, beg the elder Milliband to rescue labour. The odds are high.

In reality Dr Besigye never let the political scene. So he overshadowed general Muntu and other opposition figures. He could come back but under a different arrangement or umbrella.

Well Dr Besigye should make up his mind pretty soon.

QN: Why do you thinks diehards party members are prone to screwing up? Mr Blair made Labour electable so to screw him they went for Ed Miliband who has now made labour unelectable. I compare Ed Milliband to firebrand senior Senator Elizabeth Warren-unelectable nationally.

WBK Via the UAH forum

Why it is that Uganda and Burundi that like Kenyan have soldiers in Somalia are not prone to terrorism”?

Many journalist compare Uganda, Burundi and Kenyan without taking into consideration the geography. On many times the nation has asked the question: why it is that Uganda and Burundi that like Kenyan have soldiers in Somalia are not prone to terrorism”? think about that/ A serious editorial board of one of the best newspapers in Africa or aspires to be asking such a dumb question. Of course, a) Ugandan and Burundi do not border Somalia, and b) Uganda and Burundi do not have an ethnic Somali population.

sometimes you read stuff in Africa’s papers and you simply shake your head. Most times they write forgive me for being rude, rubbish.

When was the last time you read a thoughtful editorial in an African paper/ Which paper was it? Most times the editorials are driven by raw emotion and have nothing thoughtful in them.

That the papers mint a lot of money despite such very low standards is an indictment of our people for indulging in mediocre reporting. Just think about it, if the Daily Nation can go that way what about the rest?.

Have you ever wondered why the most narcissistic professionals hide behind the caption ” team”?. Why not take the credit directly? Because they are in most cases peddling lies and rumours.

Just yesterday even the Nation was caught up in the rumour that Mzee Moody Awori had passed away. They then turned around and blamed twitter. The other day they reported that so many police men had been killed in an ambush in Garissa which was not true.

What happened to the time proven virtue of verify? I suspect journalist may claim that they do not trust politicians. But what about journalists? How trusted are they? No better than used car salesmen who sale to you a lemon without blinking. That is not good for the fourth estate.

QN: why do African editorial boards never ask to meet with influential opinion leaders including politicians? Put differently, why do not we see president or presidential candidates and other politicians having editorial meetings with leading African papers? Yes I know many politicians hate the press, but not all so why not try?

WBK via the UAH forum


Tanzania has avoided the menace because it is a nation thanks to Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision. Muslims in TZ have never felt marginalized because they have held the highest office not once but now twice. In fact in the coming October elections it is almost a given that the next TZ president will be Christian due to the rotational rule within CCM.

Another take is that TZ is relatively equal with less opulent one sees in Kenyan especially at the Coast where many seem to protest the opulent lifestyles.

Yet another is that Kenya lacks a strong state because they copied without contextualizing their new constitution. Recently Mr. Charles Mugane Njonjo has lamented that during his day anyone could go to North Eastern and return to Nairobi alive. In his view that is no longer the case.

For some reason elite Kenyans including leading opposition figures were stupid to delude themselves that peace falls like manna from heaven. No. Countries are peaceful and secure because they have a strong-read intrusive -state. Put differently, the Kenyan elite-hello Ugandan elite-thought they could have their cake and eat it too. Hell no. I am sorry there is a trade off between liberty and security and anyone who tells you otherwise I fool period.

Do not think for a moment that state agents in Uganda like it it when sheikhs get killed, they do not, but they understand what is going on. What the heck , in Uganda sheikhs are being eliminated , okay murdered, so that the majority of Ugandans can have peace. That sounds utilitarian so to paraphrase Mr. Al Gore , it is the inconvenience truth. Some lives have to be sacrificed so the majority (emphasis added) can enjoy their rights or peace. No need to be politically correct.

Listen folks, state security is not pretty. We enjoy the peace over sadly, dead bodies and again, anyone who tells you otherwise is in denial.

I am confident that eventually Kenya will get it right. It may not be pretty and will be deadly, but they have to for the sake of their country.Mr. Onyango-Obbo said something that reminded me of Kenya’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS. Because of their tourism sector, Nyayo did not want to scare tourists by openly doing what YKM was doing in Uganda with the help and courage of the late Mr. Philly Bongoley Lutaaya (RIP).

We all know how Kenyan ended up. So if Kenyan will not adopt Uganda’s tactics of fighting terrorism because it doe snot want to scare away tourists, it may be in for another rude shock. Better to face the reality now in order to save the tourist industry in the long term.

TZ is unique not just in EA, but Africa. It is a nation in the real sense where ethnicity and religion matter, but do not dominate as in other African countries. In Uganda it is religion, in Kenya it is ethnicity and so on. So Muslim, Asians , Chagga, Masai, name it all feel they belong with a good chance to make it politically as longa s they belong to CCM. I have met many Indian students from TZ who always said they were Tanzanians and spoke Swahili to the surprise of other Indian students. Their loyalty to TZ is something to admire.

And of course TZ has a very strong state . One theory which may apply to Uganda and Kenyan are divisions within the Muslim leadership. You rarely hear of divisions in TZ the way you do in Uganda, which has created a situation where different factions are funded by different foreign countries and even groups/princes within countries. You know and it is true that Saudi Arabia, yes, is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. This is one of those inconvenience truths.

Actually the Muslim community in Kenya is fairly united compared to the infighting and greedy factions in Uganda. The problems in Kenya are found mostly in Coast and North Eastern. Ironically the problems have escalated under devolution which is meant to promote inclusion and level the playing field.

The boom line is that when it comes to matters of national security appeasement has never worked. One side has to enjoy a monopoly of violence to avoid a stalemate. In plain English many more have to died to create that position.

Funny, Kenyans miss the no nonsense tactics of the late John Michuki who never discriminated and went after anyone including Mungiki elements. Mungiki’s capability was significantly degraded. editorials that sued to criticize him now remind current office holders to emulate the late Michuki. Again, they miss the problem.

Mr. John Njoronge Michuki wasa hardened administrator who knew the system and the effectiveness of state apparatus all the way to local chiefs. Can you imagine the Kenyan elite wanted chiefs abolished. So who would be listening on the ground?


Anne mugisha on 2001 Kizza Besigye’s Task Force

”The afternoon I was introduced to Kizza Besigye’s Task Force in November 2000, we got down to work and our first order of business was to draft a response to a missive that President Museveni had released in the media in response to Kizza Besigye’s decision to run for the presidency. We were at once surprised and disappointed that the President had responded in a very personal tirade that left him open to our stinging response. He was like a boxer who throws his best punch with the confidence that his opponent will be knocked out and does not anticipate what he would do if the opponent took the blow standing. We stood around Winnie in their little study room in Luzira and framed a response to the missive. We got into the technicalities of the ‘individual merit’ of candidates and whether there was internal democracy in the ‘all-inclusive’ monoculture of the Movement system of governance. Everyone chipped in and each response was followed with hoots of laughter. There was complete disbelief in the room that the President had made himself such an open target. We tore his missive apart while enjoying some good wine and glasses of beer. All went well for me until Beti Kamya turned to me and asked if I could participate in the Capital Gang Radio Talk show the next Saturday to represent our position.

I was a total mess. What was our position? Who were we? I stopped her right there and asked her to think of finding someone with a little more political weight that myself, an unknown activist. Who would take me seriously? Was she serious, this was me Anne, I liked to have a good time, swig some beer, have a good laugh and the reason that I had recently taken up independent consulting instead of getting a regular job was because no one could fire me even if I was asking for it! I was my own boss. Oh please! So I left Luzira feeling less than honorable. I was elated that I had participated in something meaningful and did not care that we might have only a limited impact on the political scene. It was enough that we could create the space to publicly express an alternate view to the monolithic rhetoric that was churned by what was effectively a one party state. When I got home, I called my friends and family to tell them about my encounter with Kizza Besigye and Winnie and I got mixed reactions. Some were clearly proud of my association with a budding opposition others thought I was getting involved in personal battles that were of no concern to anyone but the principal players.

About a week later I went shopping with my mother at the new Shop Rite supermarket located at the busiest intersection leading into Kampala city. In 2000, the main road into the city from Entebbe International Airport was a narrow two-way traffic corridor that was joined at Kibuye round-about by two more busy routes from the Natete and Makindye towns. On a busy morning the short distance from Kibuye to the clock tower could be a nightmare from which there was no escape since there was no detouring out of the corridor until one reached the clock tower. Congestion increased as motorists from Katwe, Nsambya, and Nakivubo joined the drive into the city center at the Tower and after a driver navigated their way to the next roundabout they approached the chaotic scenes of the main Kampala taxi park where drivers and pedestrians made their own traffic rules. Woe to the driver who was not quick to learn the rules that changed every hour. In 2000 the roads were dusty and there were potholes lying in wait to trip even the most experienced driver. It was in the midst of this chaos that a South African supermarket had opened its doors to the general public. The novelty of a modern supermarket with imported foodstuffs and a well equipped and well supplied butchery was enough to draw us out of upscale quiet suburbs to mingle with shoppers who had discovered the joy of shopping with a cart around the long straight corridors of a mega super market.

“It is just like being in South Africa,” my mother remarked, “or Tesco’s in London.” “Is this not the development that Ugandans wanted?” My mother had clearly bought into the spin of those who never paused to acknowledge that the average Ugandan would never set foot inside Shop Rite because they simply could never afford the items on sale inside the supermarket. Shop Rite was for people like me who escaped the trap of poverty because we grew up at a time when hardworking parents could rely on government to admit deserving students to its higher institutions of learning. An education system based on merit meant that a peasant’s daughter could stay in the same dormitory with a Minister’s daughter and compete for scholarships to the national University. We took it for granted that a good education would lead to a good job to pay for the finer things in life. No one ever thought that a time would come when sending your child to school was not the same thing as getting them a good education. Somewhere along the way we exchanged education quality for quantity and generations of Ugandan students whose parents could not afford private schools would never get the opportunities of my generation. It never crossed my mother’s mind that November morning that we were among a small elite minority of the Ugandan population who cared for well stocked supermarkets packed with their favorite delicacies.

I ran into an activist as I roamed the wide shopping rows at Shop Rite. We had last met at Besigye’s home and she seemed happy to see me. When she told me the campaign was looking for someone to join the host of the Capital Gang show to speak on behalf of the campaign for the presidency, I decided to take the plunge. If this team thought I was a good enough spokesperson for the candidate then I could use the position to get a few things off my chest. The show was hosted by upwardly mobile journalist Robert Kabushenga who still claimed a neutral role in the upcoming campaign. This would not be the first time that I was interacting with the media, after all I had been a government spokesperson for a controversial policy of privatization through which government had disposed of national enterprises to the private sector. The difference between advocating an unpopular government policy and supporting an opposition candidate for a presidential election was not apparent to me as I climbed the narrow stairs that led to the studio of Capital FM in Kamwokya on a mild and sunny Saturday afternoon in November 2000. I would answer the questions put to me as honestly as I could and then rush over to my friends flat in Wandegeya for a postmortem of my performance and a cold beer. The level of my ignorance about what I was about to do and the consequences that would follow bordered on extremely naive.

I knew Robert Kabushenga as an upwardly mobile professional in my age bracket that lived in Kampala. Kampala was a small town and the people you had not met in person you still knew by reputation. The studio was a deceptively small private space where I felt safe sharing my thoughts with a familiar face. It was easy to forget that there were thousands of people out there listening to every word that I said so I opened up to Robert Kabushenga and answered his questions as though we were speaking alone. I was his only guest that day and we touched on issues related to corruption, political intolerance and nepotism.

I left the studio feeling a whole lot lighter after I had laid out my issues as I saw them at the time. Looking back they seem to have been very narrow issues that led me to the opposition. One would have liked to think that I had greater concerns but that really was the gist of my concern. The increasing disparities between the highest and lowest incomes of Ugandans, the emergence of a group of government officials who dipped their sticky hands into public coffers without fear of prosecution. The untempered greed of those who openly amassed wealth using their government connections. I had worked on government’s privatisation program and it struck me as grossly unfair that only a limited number of people seemed to have benefited from the sale of national assets. And because I had been a spokesperson for the privatisation unit of the Ministry of Finance I spent the next few years trying to explain that this position did not make me complicit in any shady deals that were struck between politicians and privatization officials. The underhanded deals that may have taken place were well above my pay grade and I only had the thankless task of defending them after they leaked to the public.
When I left Capital FM, I headed directly to Enid and Jimmy’s apartment over in Makerere looking forward to the usual laughter and merriment of a night out with my girlfriends. Instead I found my small circle of friends in a rather pensive mood. ‘Do you know what you are getting yourself into?’ During the interview with Robert Kabushenga he had pointedly asked me which candidate I would be voting for and I had evaded the question by stating that I would vote for the best candidate, but my accompanying remarks had been interpreted to mean that I was not going to support the incumbent. It was my friends’ feedback and the reaction of people after the Capital Gang show that sealed my decision: I now knew that I had a responsibility to support Kizza Besigye’s Task Force.

Up to that point I had been flirting with the Task Force. I knew many people that were quietly grumbling about corruption, injustice and inequity but there also seemed to be an unspoken agreement, a conspiracy of silence against publicly opposing the status quo. It seemed pretty obvious to me then that if we did not take these private conversations into the public sphere to debate them exhaustively and rally support against abuse of power, then nothing would change. The status quo would remain intact to the detriment of the people whose voices were not being heard.

I did not seek to become the conscience of the middle class and I never sought justification for our collective negligence. There were no grand visions and agendas when I took the plunge into opposing the government. I was pushed by the willful blindness of the elite and a strong belief that there ought to be alternative views to those with power. I was pulled by the availability of a platform however temporary to express myself. The campaign had now become a struggle for my right to associate, to be heard, to make a difference in people’s lives. What had started as an opportunity to shed light on issues that had been nagging at the back of my mind became a mission.

This realization did not happen in a dramatic ‘Saul to Paul’ moment. In fact, I did not for a moment think that the mission I had embraced required me to leave my comfort zone. All that was required, I thought, was an extension of myself beyond the consulting work that I was doing; to put some arguments on paper and share them with the public through the Elect Kizza Besigye Task Force. I did not think this extra assignment would interfere with my daily socializing rituals, instead I saw an opportunity to get serious with the people I socialized with. Many of them shared my disgust at the increasing corruption and abuse of public office. We all knew that the government was sworn into office following the sacrifice of many young crusaders of democracy and good governance, and surely we had a responsibility to check the emerging trends of bad governance. It all seemed so obvious, but how wrong I was, how naive indeed. I completely underestimated the impact of 15 years in power and I overestimated our ability to make a difference in a few months.

At 50 I know that joining the Elect Kizza Besigye Task Force was a major turning point in my life and today am grateful for that platform which gave me an opportunity to meaningfully participate in Ugandan public life.”-–ANNE MUGISHA


‘On the 19th day of February 2001, I sat staring at my computer monitor wondering whether I had heard right or whether a Radio Simba journalist was playing tricks on my exhausted mind. I thought I heard that Major Okwir Rabwoni a star campaigner on the Elect Kizza Besigye Task Force (EKBTF) had crossed to the Museveni camp. I gathered my wits about me and called Okwir’s cell phone. He responded but sounded distant and tense as he told me to hold on. When he returned to the line he was still whispering and he told me that he was at the Nile Hotel where he was conferring with General David Tinyefuza but he also said that I should not worry and he would soon come and explain everything that had happened. I wondered what he would say because by that time there were radio announcements calling on youth from different parts of Uganda to go for a meeting at Ranch-on-the -Lake where Maj. Okwir Rabwoni was scheduled to address them on the merits of Museveni’s candidacy. I turned off the radio and sat there unwilling to believe what I was hearing and then there was a knock on my kitchen door but it was only Grace, one of our more active fund raisers. One look at her distressed face told me that the news I just heard on Radio Simba was true. She was beside herself at Okwir for abandoning ship when we needed all hands on board. We stared at each other in disbelief and then spontaneously started cursing Okwir for being such a turn coat. Then came another knock on the kitchen door, I opened it expecting to see another campaigner coming to share the same disheartening news but lo and behold, there stood Maj. Okwir Rabwoni and his beautiful wife Solange.

Okwir was clearly in a panic. He explained that he had been coerced into making the statements that had been aired on radio and he had used the first opportunity to escape from the close watch of Gen. David Tinyefuza to come and explain what was happening. He said the meeting at Ranch-on-the-Lake was arranged by Amelia Kyambadde the President’s Assistant but he had no intention of addressing it. He was frightened for his life and kept saying ‘You have no idea, what these people are capable of.’ He had attempted to call the US Embassy but as luck would have it they were closed for a holiday, it must have been Martin Luther King Day in the US. Okwir was so insecure that he wanted to hand himself over to the Americans so that they might assist him to leave the country. This was clearly not a case of paranoia, he was visibly shaken, so we decided to drive to the US Ambassador’s residence, which was handily close in Kololo. We were there in minutes, Okwir kept ducking his head afraid to be recognized by anyone. We arrived safely at the Ambassador’s residence and rang the bell at the gate but they would not let us in. We were told to wait for a US security officer outside the gate while Okwir kept his head low in the vehicle. After what seemed like forever a US security vehicle arrived at the gate and we explained Okwir’s predicament. They whisked Okwir to another residence nearby and took him inside for an interview which lasted well over two hours. Grace, Solange and I sat in the car outside waiting impatiently.

When he returned from the interview, a crest-fallen Okwir informed us that the US Embassy could not assist him to leave Uganda and his best option was to find his way across the border into Kenya and hand himself over to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We went back to my apartment and pondered the meaning of these developments. What were we to do with Okwir, he was now a fugitive and his fear was so tangible and contagious.

We called Kizza Besigye who was on his way returning from rallies in Western Uganda. He advised us to proceed to his residence and wait for him there. The level of fear, suspicion and paranoia at this time of the campaign was so high we were not sure whom to believe anymore. We listened to news on the radio as commentators reacted to Rabwoni’s decision to return to the Movement and there he was seated in the car headed to the home of the opposition candidate. At Kizza Beigye’s residence in Luzira, Okwir pulled out a pistol and handed it to a soldier at the gate. Now we knew that Okwir had previously been stripped of his pistol by the military at a rally in Kabale so the fact that he had his pistol again made us nervous.

In the evening we were joined by the candidate and his entourage, I had tipped Andrew Mwenda at the Monitor newspaper that Okwir had not crossed to the Movement and asked him to come to Luzira to take pictures of Kizza Besigye with Okwir Rabwoni to disprove the ‘rumor’ of his returning to the Movement. The impact the following day was a dramatic victory for us as the New Vision, a government run newspaper, published a lead story of Okwir’s desertion while the independent daily Monitor run a front page story accompanied by a photo of Okwir and Besigye in which Okwir denied that he had abandoned the EKBTF. The repercussions would be far reaching, especially for Maj. Okwir Rabwoni.

At 50 I know that there are times when the character of a person is tested by the circumstances of the day and it becomes difficult to estimate their commitment to a cause. Time alone will sieve out those who had a calling and belief in the mission from those who were flirting with it.”—ANNE MUGISHA


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