Long live Yoweri Museveni, he’s going to give me a new iPhone

Saturday June 27 2015

The older I grow, the more I cringe at the thought of spending a thousand dollars to buy a phone, an iPhone to be precise. That is what the one I covet costs in Kampala and I am not about to borrow that amount for it. But now I won’t have to. Someone is going to provide.

Let me first tell you why and leave you to figure out how.

In 1996, as we were celebrating 10 years of the liberation from dictatorship and anarchy led by Yoweri Museveni, a highly respectable man threw a spanner in the works.

Dr Paul Ssemogerere, the man it is widely believed won the 1980 elections but was cheated of victory, declared that he was going to stand for president against our earthly saviour. It was a tough choice for voters, between Mr Clean and Mr Liberator. Ssemogerere promised universal primary education (UPE). Museveni who was the incumbent, simply declared the UPE.

In 2001, a man who had worked as Museveni’s personal doctor, had been minister of state for internal affairs as well as a national political commissar who organised so far the only 100 per cent credible election to the national legislature in 1989, declared he was challenging his boss for president.

Dr Kizza Besigye was coming from deep inside and was bound to be a stronger challenger to Museveni than even Ssemogerere had been. Among other things, Besigye castigated graduated tax (GT), a colonial per head tax every male over the age of 18 had to pay every year or face three months’ imprisonment. After Museveni won the elections, abolition of the tax was supported by all Members of Parliament and so it went.


Dr Besigye fled to exile in South Africa, but returned to Uganda in 2005 and declared he was challenging Museveni again the 2006 elections. It was the nastiest of presidential campaigns, one every adult Ugandan would rather forget.

The Electoral Commission courageously nominated Besigye in absentia since he was in prison on rape and treason charges. The day it arrested Besigye, the government declared universal secondary education (USE), leaving editors to figure out which was the bigger news.

In 2011, Besigye declared he would never seek election or legal redress under the current set-up, so it looked like the end of strong presidential challenges to Comrade Museveni. Until the Mbabazi affair.

Suffice it to say Amama Mbabazi comes from deeper in the Museveni circle than even Besigye. Mbabazi and Museveni started plotting together against Idi Amin (a name from history books for majority of today’s voters) while Besigye was a teenager. When Museveni was in the bush from 1981 to 1986, Mbabazi was doing the external co-ordination from Nairobi. He automatically became the chief of external intelligence when they took power in 1986.

Later, he held several powerful ministerial positions, becoming the first full minister of defence under Museveni, a portfolio the president had held until it became constitutionally untenable.

Now, Amama wants Museveni’s job. After getting UPE from the Ssemogerere’s challenge and USE and GT abolition from Besigye’s, we can only expect UUE (universal university education) from Amama’s threat. And for us aged fellows who cannot enlist (again) as freshmen at campus, I am confident it will be free WiFi and iPhones!

Long live Yoweri Museveni!

Joachim Buwembo is a Knight International Fellow for development journalism. E-mail: [email protected]