MAJ. (RTD) RUBARAMIRA RURANGA, 57, worked
with President Museveni as a guerilla in the NRA between 1981-1986,
and later as District Internal Security Officer (DISO) between
1986-1989. He told EDRIS KIGGUNDU why he fell out
with the President:
When I first went to the bush in early 1981, I did not see Museveni
but I saw the then bush commander, the late [Sam] Magara, at Matugga
in Luwero. Then I was sent back to do some work in Kampala because
having already been trained in Cuba, Magara thought I would do better
coordinating between the bush and Kampala. Many times I kept coming
around and doing work in Kampala. But finally I started getting
problems as people I had trained with in Cuba started suspecting
that I was involved in subversive activities. Eventually I had to
go back to the bush towards the end of 1981and was taken to meet
Museveni who was the chairman of NRA. He then interviewed me. This
is the first time I sat with him for quite some time and I started
seeing which kind of person he was. I found him a very persuasive
He would talk calmly. He normally would not look at you directly
but at the end of the day he could make judgment about the kind
of personality he thought you were. We used to call him mzee because
he was more experienced than all of us. He had been at a level of
vice president in the commission, a minister of defence. He was
also clever that he recruited very young and inexperienced people;
the kind that would obey him. Many of them were either coming from
university or those who had not even been to school.
So there was a big gap between him and people he recruited to
work with. He could virtually decide your death because there were
no judges. For instance, if you committed a big crime and people
concluded that it was a crime, he would say that you die and that
would be it. There was good reason to fear this man (Museveni).
The way I saw Museveni, he was a complicated person and many times
he might not [have been] an honest person. And this always kept
in my mind. He was also fairly tribalistic. But because of the experience
he had over the people he led, people tended to respect him and
he appeared to be a wonderful person. But he was very persuasive.
Different people at my age were selected to be political leaders.
Like Moses Kigongo [NRM vice chairman] and Abdul Nadduli [Luwero
LC-V]. For me I had done military training and my preference was
to participate in the war, to be a combatant.
After the bush
When the NRA took power in 1986, I was at the rank of junior army
officer. I was not on the high command and many things that were
discussed, I would not know. I would only be given an order.
The takeover happened when I was in Kanungu. At that time I did
not have closer contact with Museveni because the army had expanded
and we were [taking] commands from different officers, according
to the command structure.
I moved into the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) until 1989
when I discovered I was HIV positive. I decided I wanted to do more
work around HIV/AIDS but in the army.
While still in ISO, there were a number of times I talked to Museveni.
There was a time when he came to Mbarara in 1986 where I was DISO
and we cracked jokes in Rukiga not Runyankore because he knew me
personally. I also met him a couple of times between 1987 and 1988
when I was working as DISO in Arua. So I had many occasions to talk
But the relationship between him and I was that of the boss-servant
kind. This tendency was created already within the army that people
looked at President Museveni as some kind of special human being
and you had to be very cautious about whatever you wanted to talk
to him about. He gained this status because he had a lot of experience
There was one time when I got into problems with him and his bodyguards
almost arrested me. This was in Mbarara in 1987 and we disagreed
with him on an issue of religion. I was in his house at Rwakitura.
You know he is a person who doesn’t want to be opposed. Even
when you come to see him in his office, he positions himself far
away from you and makes himself a kind of an unreachable, untouchable
individual. When you go there, it is as if you have to prostrate.
He has a kind of sadism; trying to create a situation that in any
case, he will do what he wants and he will create some kind of hard
condition so that you are eventually broken.
He is a great liar. Museveni tells a lot of fairly tales and he
knows how to narrate them very well such that people think they
are true. If you remember the things he said when he took over.
He said this was going to be a transitional government and that
he does not see why he should rule for more than 10 years. He broke
this promise. And when you look at what he is saying about term
limits, he is twisting the whole idea to make a fiction that he
is being asked by people. Even the large crowds he draws do not
mean he is popular, it simply means people are eager to see him.
If you brought a monster at the same place where Museveni is holding
a rally, people will leave Museveni and look at the monster. So
curiosity in human beings does not mean popularity.
Museveni is however a good mobiliser because of his capacity to
persuade people. Sometimes he can hoodwink people because he knows
the kind of class he wants to work with. You will realise that in
many cases he does not want to work with intellectuals because he
doesn’t want to know that there is someone who is better than
him. When he comes to work with people at the grassroots, he is
extremely down to earth. He comes to their level and makes them
happy, and that’s how he thrives. He chooses to use people
who are much lower in terms of knowledge and perception and is able
to put them together and get them to do things.
He is also intelligent because if you are not intelligent you cannot
do some of the things he has done.
I started having a lot of suspicion when he started demanding [more]
time. You know in 1989 Museveni had asked for an extension and it
was given, then in 1996 you could tell that he would manipulate
[things] and have another extension.
In 2001, I went out openly and supported Reform Agenda [led by
Col. Kizza Besigye]. But I also got a little bit unhappy when I
started listening to his presentations about HIV/AIDS. In 2001 he
said the person who was challenging him had AIDS and yet he was
someone who had won awards in the AIDS cause. But because I am HIV
positive, I knew that most of the things he was saying were not
from his heart.
When he was introducing the HIV problem, he told people to be careful
about the ‘anthill holes’, meaning women. How does a
man compare human beings to anthill holes?
In 2003, he was in Nairobi and they asked him why he was not caring
about buying drugs for people who are HIV positive and he said he
is not bothered because the population of Uganda will not stop growing
because of the HIV/AIDS problem. Why does a leader make such a statement?
That’s when I started having a low opinion of him as a leader
and from that time I did not think I would continue to support whatever
he came up with.
No development agenda
I think Museveni is very egoistic. When you hear him speak to the
international community, you will realise he is a man who is not
going to co-operate. There is no human being who has got absolute
knowledge about everything from culture to politics. Museveni portrays
himself as the alpha and omega of knowledge.
Industrialising a country cannot come from one man. I do not think
he has enough ideas to be able to do it alone.
I think a country needs a planning authority to plan for it, not
an individual. I have been questioning so many things, including
the war in the north. The international community has actually pleaded
to help us but Museveni has always said that the war is a small
matter that shall be handled. He is actually a stumbling block in
ending the war in the north. If we had involved the international
community, we would have finished this war a long time ago.
Museveni is a self-centred person who wants to [take credit] for
everything that happens. That is why he uses statements such as,
“I am the only one with a vision.”
The army does not belong to an individual. It belongs to a nation.
It is an institution that is supposed to be independent. The army
that we have goes into parliament and votes for or against certain
things or against certain people. Yet they do not know that some
of the people they vote against could be their leaders tomorrow.
When you put the army into parliament, you are creating a situation
were it is being subjugated to the whims of whoever is in power.
At the end of the day they cease to be independent.
The UNLA was very professional. Milton Obote did not have so much
power over the army because he was a civilian. I do not think he
even knew how to shoot a gun. Museveni has been so much involved.
He wants to always have the army on his side because he knows it
is an oppressive weapon he can use to keep himself in power. The
army under Obote had a specialised structure and there were notices
at the entrance of army establishments that said, “Politics
is out of bounds.”
I would like my epitaph to read thus: “I believed in things
I thought were right and I always spoke the truth no matter what