ERIYA TUKAHIRWA KATEGAYA, President Museveni’s closest
childhood friend and most enduring political ally, has known
the President since they were little boys in Kyamate Primary
School. They studied together through primary, secondary schools
and university, before working in the same government until
they fell out in 2003. He told BENON HERBERT OLUKA
how the President evolved from a petulant young man to the
strong willed leader he is today:-
ERIYA TUKAHIRWA KATEGAYA
I think there are two phases: One is when I met him as a
person, when we were not politicians at that time.
My first time was in primary school, around 1957 at a school
called Kyamate. I studied with him in the same class –
P.5 to P.6 – then we went to Junior One.
BORN: July 4, 1945.
HOME AREA: Kyamate, Ntungamo
EDUCATION: Kyamate Primary School,
Mbarara High School, Ntare High School, (University
of East Africa (Dar) LLB (Hons) (1967-1970).
1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal
Affairs (2001-May 2003); 1st Deputy Prime Minister
and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996-2001); National
Political Commissar and 1st Deputy Prime Minister
(1990-1996); Minister of State Office of the Prime
Minister (1986-1989); Member of NRC (1986-1996);
Member of the Constituent Assembly (1994-1996);
Member of Parliament (1996-2001); Minister of
Commerce (May 1979 - 1980); Member of NCC (Provisional
Lawyer with Legal Aid Department, Lusaka Zambia
(1978-March 1979); State Attorney – Attorney
General’s Chambers (1975-1977) - Lusaka
Zambia- 1979; Advocate with Ibingira & Mulenga
Advocates (1972- Jan. 1973);
State Attorney, Attorney General’s Chambers
Civil Section 1971, Uganda; assistant lecturer
in law at Institute of Public Administration (now
UMI -April 1970-Dec. 1970), Uganda; Advocate with
J.B. Byamugisha Advocates (June 2003 to date).
In primary school, Museveni was stubborn; stubborn in the
sense that he was not obeying orders and all that. He used
to defy orders on disciplinary matters.
He was not very active in class. He was best in challenging
authority, having problems with teachers. Then we moved to
Mbarara High School for Junior One.
Then we went to Ntare School for Senior One up to Senior
Six from  to . We were in different classes. I
think he was in A and I was in B. In Ntare School, he was
in the Scripture Union most of the time. He claimed to have
been a mulokole [but] I don’t know whether he was saved
He was also in the debating society and the history club.
He used to engage in debate but he was not a prefect like
some of us.
But one time, when we were in Senior Five, he headed students
to go and drink our tea. You know the prefects used to have
a privilege – to have tea at break time – but
I think one time he thought everybody should have tea. So
he led some students to go and drink our tea. The teachers
took exception and punished him. In Ntare School we never
used to have a lot of punishment. You would be given a bit
of work, either to clear the compound or something like that
on Saturdays, or they detain you from going to town. But there
weren’t severe punishments.
From Ntare School, we went to Dar es Salaam [university].
By then it was part of the (University of East Africa) –
it was actually Dar es Salaam University College. There were
three colleges at that time – Makerere, Nairobi and
Dar es Salaam. He was doing Economics and Political Science
and I was doing Law.
Politically, we came together in 1965 when we were at Ntare
because at that time there was this problem between [Milton]
Obote and the Kabaka on the constitution, and the arrest of
these five ministers.
After university, I joined what is now called the [Uganda]
Management Institute (UMI), which was known as the Institute
of Public Administration (IPA). I was teaching there. And
for him, he went to President’s Office. But it didn’t
last long because we left university in March 1970 and in
1971 [Idi] Amin took over, and we joined hands again to fight
We had a group, we knew each other from university –
people like [Prof. Dani] Nabudere, Late Martin Musika, Mwesigwa
‘Black’, [and] Valeriano Baheru.
We had formed our group when we were in Ntare School in 1965,
which was away from the old parties. For example, the president
was mainly DP inclined and I was UPC inclined, so we had been
active. So when Amin took over, it was very easy for us to
come again and meet and discuss what needs to be done.
When I was in IPA, there was one principal who came to tell
us why Amin took over and I was not amused by the reasons
he advanced, so when Museveni came back from Dar es Salaam
– for him after the coup he immediately went to Tanzania
– we sat down to say, what do we do.
So we joined hands to oppose Amin and since then we have been
struggling up to the time we are talking about - 1979 - when
the Tanzanians came to overthrow Amin – we participated
As a group, there were two military axes: there was Kyotera-Masaka-Kampala.
Then there was Mbarara-Fort Portal up to Masindi (what they
used to call western). By then we were operating under FRONASA;
so FRONASA was given the western axis whereas KIKOSI MAALUM
[Special Force] as it was called then, under Tito Okello [and
Oyite Ojok], came through Kyotera-Masaka to Kampala.
In March 1973, when the President got married, we were not
in [Uganda]. By then we were with the FRELIMO group in Nachingwea
The genesis of UPM
After 1979, we came under UNLF (Uganda National Liberation
Front) which was I think kind of a Movement, a front of different
groups. And we thought that was the best political arrangement
at that time. But we were in the National Consultative Council,
which was the parliament at the time. And UPC and DP just
unilaterally decided to start parties, although the majority
in the NEC were for the continuation of UNLF.
So we were definitely in a dilemma whether we should join
the old parties UPC and DP, or form a third force. I think
there were attempts to persuade DP so that we should come
together but DP was not persuaded. They thought they had the
majority and they were going to win.
So that is how we formed the Uganda Patriotic Movement, UPM,
hence our participation in the elections in 1980 under UPM
– just because we didn’t want to join other political
We campaigned but it was obvious we were not going to win.
Nobody was convinced about our winning because we were a new
party, young people, we didn’t have the resources. So
there was no time to form a party and garner enough support,
but I think it was a new lease of life. I think the young
people embraced UPM because they thought [it was] not like
And it also gave us an opportunity to more or less introduce
ourselves to the Ugandan population. I mean nobody knew us.
Few people had read or heard about us. But it gave us the
opportunity to introduce some ideas we had.
We selected [Museveni] because we didn’t have time [to
campaign] so we wanted someone who could capture the young
people. He himself had been known especially in the fight
in 1979 under FRONASA so that is how we came to zero on him.
By then he was the vice chairman of the Military Commission
and he had been minister of defence. He was the second in
command in the Military Commission under [Paulo] Muwanga and
at that time Muwanga was in fact the de facto president.
During the campaigns, we had a few candidates. But UPC feared
us because they knew that we could also stand our ground.
But I think the elections were marred at the voting time.
The campaigns were generally okay. Our major problems were
that we were a young party with no resources – you know
working with volunteers… And I remember people used
to say you people have good ideas but you are young.
And, also, they were raising a question… that we don’t
have an armed group. Because I think Obote was parading the
[Tito] Okellos who were backing UPC. In fact I remember the
quotation was: “Where are your generals? Show me your
generals?” So they were saying you are young, you wait
After the elections, the decision to go to the bush was not
decided by the party. As a party, we never discussed it. It
was decided by a small group because there was fear that it
would leak out.
During the NRC (1986-1996), the President did not have as
much influence in parliament as he now has. Even the level
of debate was much better. Today, the level of debate is so
During the CA, we decided that we were not going to have a
cabinet position on any issue because we thought that it would
have been divisive. We did not even have a cabinet or Movement
caucus in the house.
But after [Prof.] Nabudere formed the first caucus, we had
to form our own to counter him.
He usually has a single-minded commitment to whatever he
wants to do. Once he wants to do something, he will really
put all his energies into it. In terms of politics, one should
know the kind of influence he had in Dar es Salaam.
There was first of all Tanzanian politics at that time. The
then president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was trying to shift
African development from dependence on Europe to what they
call self-reliance. And that that time there was also liberation
in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Guinea Bissau –
so there was also that phase. And, of course, the events in
Vietnam, and the fresh achievement by the Cubans.
So this was really part of the political environment in which
we were operating, so in a sense one could say the politics
of the President was left wing.
I think in the old days he used to have very collective positions,
discussing to agree on what to do. At that time it was difficult
to use authority within the organisation [NRA] to impose discipline.
It was self discipline and mainly conviction. You know during
the early times, it was really conviction – believing
in what we were doing, so there was self discipline and self
discipline can only come about if people are convinced about
what they are doing. And it means even the leader must be
able to convince people that they are doing the right thing.
I think when you become the president of a country; it is
not the same as when you are in the bush. Here you have the
state machinery, which gives him more authority. In my view,
one needs perhaps to know that you have state machinery but
how do you use it to maintain the same principles that drove
you to start what you started?
And then also there are more pressures – when you are
the president of a country, you have the international pressures,
constituency pressures, people coming to demand for this and
that. And, also, given the situation of having politicians
who have not been in industry, are not in production, it is
a problem because these politicians look at politics as a
career, which is very dangerous. So the state has a lot of
influence. If you want to do business, you have to be friendly
with the state, or if you want some loan…That’s
The other one is lack of strong institutions. You know, people
here don’t say I am the Inspector General of Police
and the law says this, so I am going to stick to it. Sometimes
you say if the big man rings, you choose between your profession
and your job.
So there are two problems: Politicians finding they don’t
have their own economic base makes them very very vulnerable.
I mean, if somebody does not have Shs 5 million, it means
he is a poor person. What is 5 million in our situation now?
It is pocket money in a sense. But for some people, Wow!
I think in the future we will have to work on this: should
politicians just come from school and become politicians or
should they have some income of their own so that they can
have independent views and they can have an overall picture
They should have a career on the side so that politics is
not the main thing, so that you don’t feel that once
you lose your political position that is the end of the world.
I think we need to work on that.
The first time I saw him go against a collective position
was on the issue of DR Congo in 1997. I was the Minister of
Foreign Affairs when we had a meeting [to make a decision
on whether to send troops to DR Congo]; I told him that it
was not the right thing to do. I have always believed that
sending troops to another country would be a catastrophe,
especially in a vast country like DR Congo.
I told him that instead, we should train some Congolese instead
of sending our soldiers. In fact, we even trained about 200
Congolese to go and fight instead of our soldiers.
Then one day I heard that he had sent our soldiers. The Congolese
had even finished training and we were getting ready to send
I did not push it because he had overlooked my advice.
The second time was this kisanja thing. In 2002, I was just
hearing about it through rumours. But I think [before that]
there was a committee that had already been set up to lay
the foundation for this thing. One day [while talking to one
of the committee members], it was mentioned accidentally to
me. I said; ‘what?’
They thought either I knew about it or they thought I was
going to embrace the idea. But I was not going to be party
to that. I spoke out against it.
What has changed
I think nowadays I find him impatient. He wants to push things
to the extent that sometimes he says: “Oh those who
do not agree with me, I am no longer going to work with them”.
I find that one very strange. If you are working with a large
group of people, I think if you are going to work with only
those who agree with you, you will narrow your base. And sometimes
the question is; ‘you disagree on what? Is it fundamental
I think he has to be able to say yes, we have a disagreement
but it is not fundamental. It is not dangerous to what we
all want to achieve.
So I find him a bit impatient. Even when you talk to him
and you find he does not agree with you, he looks a bit frustrated.
His strong points
Overall, he used to be concerned with improving the conditions
of the poor. He used to be concerned about that and also,
he used not to be very much obsessed about acquiring property.
He used not to really have that problem.
Now you find that he has a lot of property, he has very high
tastes. You remember when we used to use mugs from TUMPECO
and he was talking of furniture from Kawempe and the rest.
We are no longer following those lines.
I remember we used to say that weddings for soldiers should
[have] soft drinks, no beers… I think that was good
on his part to live by your means; live as much as possible
to the same level as the people you are leading.
I think he should listen more. He should go back to listening,
and I hope he will have the courage not to see an enemy around
every bush, because it is dangerous. The moment you think
everybody who doesn’t agree with you is an enemy, it
will lead you to making mistakes.
In other words, he should listen to people who may criticise
him but with a view to correcting him; not because they want
to run him down.
My biggest weakness with those who want him to continue is
the argument they advance. For me, arguing that Museveni has
done very well is not an argument I will buy. We were supposed
to do very well. That is why we fought. Why did we fight?
In order to bring better governance in this country.
So if we have achieved what we fought for, it is not something
to think about. Or to say oooh Museveni has done very well.
Yes, he has done very well. That is okay. But there are other
things to consider in the future, there is a future. Because
for me, the moment you start changing goals and goalposts,
then you are creating problems.
The worst moment of my working with him is when he decided
to reshuffle me from government. I think he should have had
the courtesy to inform me in person. I did not have to find
out the way I did [on radio].
The best part was our modest contribution to build this Movement.
My payer for the President is that whatever he does, it should
be in the interest of the country. I think it would be irresponsible
to drag this country back to where we came from.
A lot has been done and it should not be thrown away.