Senior journalist Andrew Mwenda’s The Independent Magazine, has exposed the faces behind campaign to lift age-limit and secure President Yoweri Museveni’s life presidency project.
In an analysis running under the headline: “Inside Museveni’s life presidency project” and published on August 7, 2017, Lt. Col Michael Katungi, is the main face of the project.
“Members of President Yoweri Museveni’s inner circle know something is serious if Lt. Col Michael Katungi is involved. He is a very quiet officer who likes to keep a low profile but has been praised by Museveni for pulling off sensitive and very discreet assignments, writes Haggai Matsiko, the online editor at The Independent Magazine.
The report says on July 24, Katungi called a special meeting at the Office of the NRM Chairman located near the Army Headquarters in Mbuya which was attended by Museveni’s most trusted staffers, selected government technocrats and loyalists.
According to the report, the agenda of the meeting was to launch a mobilisation campaign to ensure that the presidential age limit is removed from the constitution for Museveni to be eligible to run in 2021.
Museveni will be 76 years old and, since Article 102 (B) of the constitution sets the age range for president at 35 to 75 years of age, he cannot run for the presidency again.
Katungi, writes Haggai, often works closely with Molly Kamukama, President Museveni’s current Principle Private Secretary (PPS) who before the 2016 elections headed the Mbuya office—which was the hub of mobilisation for Museveni’s 2016 campaign.
Kamukama was Museveni’s de facto campaign manager. They have handled many special assignments for Museveni.
Early this year, Katungi vied for the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on the ruling party ticket but pulled out, he said, on Museveni’s advice.
In 2015, Museveni hailed Katungi and a one Janet Mugabi, for discreetly arranging the return of General David Sejusa from exile in London where he had gone after leaking a letter in which he warned of a plot to have assassinated those opposed to a plot to have the Maj. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba replace his father as president, also known as the Muhoozi project.
On the age-limit campaign, Haggai writes, Katungi is also working with David Mafabi, the President’s Private Assistant for Political Affairs, Stephen Othieno, a personal assistant to the president’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and Nyombi Thembo, the former state minister for ICT.
Others on the team are a host of legislators like Simeo Nsubuga and Col. Fred Mwesigye, RO 27 or the 27th guerrilla to join Museveni’s 1981 war, who is the MP for Nyabushozi.
Katungi’s July 24 meeting appeared to be a follow up to a July 18 conference of sorts held at Kati Kati Restaurant in Lugogo, a Kampala suburb, where a core team of Museveni staffers, legislators, and an army of NRM youths inducted through ruling party ideology at the Kyankwanzi-based National Leadership Institute (NALI), officially launched the campaign to eliminate the age limit.
Nyombi Thembo, Simeo Nsubuga and Col. Fred Mwesigye, were among the legislators that joined Katungi, Mafabi, Othieno and a host of NRM youths at the event. Other notables behind the campaign include; MPs Juliet Kinyamatama (Rakai), Micheal Tusiime (Mbarara Municipality), Peter Ogwang (Eastern Youth MP), Kenneth Omona (Keberamaido), James Kakooza (Kabula) and Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua).
At the Kati Kati meeting, Muhoozi’s PA, Simon Othieno hardly spoke to the press although he chaired the meeting. Instead, it is Museveni’s assistant, David Mafabi, who spoke.
The meeting passed several resolutions, top of which was about the issue of age limits. This was read by Phoebe Namulindwa, an NRM youth.
The implicit stamp of approval was all over the meeting; including on the lunch coupons, which bore a State House stamp.
The event was marketed as counter mobilisation against those opposing the campaign. It came hardly a week after July 12 when police arrested NRM youth leader, Robert Rutaro and others under their group UB40 (Ugandans Under40) for organizing a press conference at Makerere University where they lambasted the move to lift the age limit.
Most of the youths at Kati Kati have gone through inductions in Kyankwanzi. These youths were promised jobs, which have never come.
But when some youths in Mbarara attempted to march through town carrying a casket with a portrait of the president with an inscription reading; “Rest in peace Museveni,” they were arrested and jailed for it. The message was clear going forward.
Touching the leopard’s “something something”
The Independent then dives into how former Museveni “right-hand” men like Mugisha Muntu, Amama Mbabazi as well as Miria Matembe, among others fell off the yellow bus after smelling a life presidency rat.
Muntu, a former army commander is now the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party President. “He [Museveni] is a crafty operator,” Muntu says of his former boss.
Muntu recalled a 1986 meeting of the army High Command to discuss how long they would stay in power before handing over to private authority.
The meeting was in Mengo, where the army headquarters used to be. A question came up about the period of time that the military establishment needed to re-organise the country before handing over to an elected civilian government.
One of the attendees suggested four years. “Four years?” a seemingly surprised, Museveni reportedly asked, “for what?”
Museveni said they needed only two years to reorganise things and hand over power to an elected government.
Political strategists like then-leading party ideologue, Amanya Mushega, convinced everyone that they needed atleast four years to stabilise government.
The National Resistance Council (NRC) thus added Museveni another four years to complete the constitutional making process that his government had commenced.
This led to the 1994 election of a Constituent Assembly (CA) that met for over a year to make the constitution that was promulgated in 1995.
With the 1995 constitution in place, an election was set for the following year, 1996. In the meantime, Museveni had already stayed in power for over eight years without subjecting himself to any form of election.
While writing his manifesto for the 1996 elections, Museveni promised he would not seek a second term.
Bidandi Ssali and Amanya Mushega, who were then members of Museveni’s cabinet, attempted to convince him to remove that from the manifesto.
But after the 1996 elections, Museveni addressed a press conference where he said he would not seek a second term.
However, in 2001 Museveni decided to seek the second term. Again, this time, he promised it would be his last.
But two years to the election, in 2003, Museveni kick started a campaign, this time, led by Amama Mbabazi, to amend the constitution and remove term limits.
Muntu attended the 2004 meeting of the National Council in Kyankwanzi, where Museveni again convinced over 400 members the need to lift the term limits.
Former Museveni cabinet insider, Miria Matembe, cited a similar trict Museveni used in 2000 when he asked his inner circle to support him against Kizza Besigye.
Matembe recalled that in 1999, Besigye had written a memo which pitted him against President Museveni.
So when Besigye declared his candidacy in 2000, Matembe and other Banyankole leaders under the chairmanship of the late former Prime Minster and Museveni confidante, Eriya Kategeya, called him and asked him to give Museveni five more years as his “last five year term”.
According to Matembe, Besigye swore to them that Museveni was going to amend the Constitution to remove term limits and not retire after five years.
In 2004 at Kyankwanzi, Matembe says, she got the shock of her life when Museveni called for the removal of term limits.
“I said, well, I have been moving with an impostor,” she said.
Another person who was caught up in misreading Museveni is former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. He was central in the machinations of 2005 but would get entangled in 2015, ahead of the 2016 elections.
At the February 2015 meeting in Kyankwanzi, Anite knelt on the floor to present a resolution to have Museveni as the party’s sole candidate for the 2016 polls.
In a master stroke, Anite’s camp got party members to sign a document in support of Museveni. Mbabazi, who always sat in the front row, was cornered. He signed the Anite document. Later, he ran as an independent.
Museveni thinks he is the best thing that ever happened to Uganda and Africa.