AKBAR ADOKO NEKYON was the Minister of Health and later
of Rehabilitation and Social Services between 1988 and 1990.
He spoke to EDRIS KIGGUNDU about his perception
of President Yoweri Museveni.
AKBAR ADOKO NEKYON
How I met Museveni
I first met Museveni in my office at Udyam House in 1969.
Ateker Ejalu introduced him to me. Both were working as intelligence
officers under the intelligence office headed by Akena Adoko
in the Obote 1 government. I was then engaged in private business
after leaving government.
The second time I met Museveni was in Tanzania in the early
1970s where I had fled. He came with someone called Ofwoyuru
who I think now lives in Karamoja. They introduced themselves
as communists who had come to convert me into communism. They
kept on coming every weekend to teach me communism until I
told them one day that I knew more about communism than any
The third time was in 1979. He was living in Arusha while
I was living in Dar es salaam. He came to my place and we
travelled with him by car to Nairobi to meet some people who
I do not remember. Between 1980 and 1985 I did not see him
because I was in exile in Denmark.
I came back in 1986 and shortly after my arrival, he sent
Balaki Kirya (RIP) to tell me that he wanted to see me urgently
at State House.
I went the following day and he told me he wanted me to take
over at Uganda Airlines as general manager. At that time,
the airline was experiencing a major decline. I told him that
I needed to reorganise myself since I had just been in exile.
But soon after, I took the job offer.
After one year, the airline was back on its feet. In fact
in late 1987 it bought treasury bills from Bank of Uganda
worth Shs 3bn.
I tried to order a DC-10 plane but there was so much noise
from some people.
Problems at Uganda Airlines
Because I was strict, some people were not impressed. They
began telling the President that I was mismanaging the airline;
individuals like Capt. [Jack] Calnan. But the problem arose
mainly because at that time, the Prime Minister then, Dr.
[Samson] Kisekka (RIP) and some people in the airlines used
to import second-hand items like clothes from Europe under
the pretext that they were taking them to Luwero to benefit
those affected by war.
I got information that the goods were not reaching Luwero
and I intervened. I told them they had to pay taxes but this
did not please them. The President, after he had heard of
the grumbling, instituted a commission of inquiry whose findings
I have never known. Later, in 1987, he called me to Jinja.
I do not remember whether we met in the State Lodge or a hotel
but I remember putting forward my case. The President just
He appoints me minister
Early in 1988, I called Kirya and told him I wanted to leave
the airlines because of the problems. I wanted to go back
into my private business. But towards the end of 1988, Museveni
sent Kirya to tell me that he wanted to make me a minister
of Health. I told Kirya to tell the President that I first
had to consult my wife. But that very day in the evening,
when I went back home to consult my wife, before I uttered
a word, she told me that she had heard over the radio that
I had been made minister of Health.
This appointment was done without my consultation but nonetheless
I did not turn it down because I thought this would be rude.
I took over from [Ruhakana] Rugunda.
Basically we were charged with re-organisation of the health
sector, which had been ravaged by war. There were no staff,
no equipment. Also, another project I implemented was the
setting up of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology
In the Ministry of Health, I did not relate well with my
deputy, Dr. [Ronald] Bata (RIP). He knew nothing about administration
yet he wanted to make every decision. But because he felt
he was more NRM, he did not want any advice. The President
did not care about this despite my complaints. Even my replacement
Zak Kaheru (RIP) also encountered similar problems with Bata.
In fact, I was later told that one time, they drew guns at
each other at the ministry over a small dispute.
The fall out
In 1990, I was transferred to the Ministry of Rehabilitation
and Social Services.
One of the first issues I had to encounter was the starvation
of people in camps in Teso region due to famine. The camps
had been created as a result of the Alice Lakwena rebellion.
There was a day I was supposed to travel to one of the camps,
Nyero, in Kumi district with Amama Mbabazi [who was then Minister
of State for Political Affairs]. So I set off in the morning.
We were supposed to depart by helicopter from Kololo Airstrip
but on reaching there, I was told there was no space for me.
I went back very angry.
But after some time, I decided to go there with my staff
and assess the situation. When we reached Nyero, the condition
was horrible. The number of children dying was high. People
told us the army was harassing them. I also toured another
camp, Ajiluk in Kumi and there the conditions were also horrible.
I organised relief supplies immediately. But because government
seemed not to care about the plight of the people in the camps,
I lost interest in my job. Nonetheless I held on. One day
when Museveni was touring Lira, Teso and Mbale regions towards
the end of 1990, I decided to go there to meet him to express
my concerns. When Museveni reached Mbale, he called me to
go and meet him.
But surprisingly, the issue of the people in the camps was
not his interest. He just wanted my view on whether the country
should go multiparty or remain in the Movement system. I told
him that the multiparty system was better. I drove back to
Kampala disappointed. I called Kirya again and told him to
go and tell Museveni that I wanted to leave government, this
time for good. Kirya delivered my message but the President
did not react immediately. At the beginning of 1991, Museveni
announced a cabinet reshuffle and luckily for me, I was booted.
I sighed with relief.
I was disappointed with the way he handled the situation
of the people in the camps. He seemed not to care and this
made me lose confidence in him and his government.
I was convinced to work with Museveni because I wanted to
be part of the rebuilding of the nation. Otherwise there is
nothing about his personality that persuaded me to work with
him. It was a nationalist cause.
Obote Vs Museveni
[Milton] Obote was better at administration. Unlike Museveni
who wanted to control you, once Obote gave you a ministry,
he would only consult but not direct you. I served in Obote’s
first government as minister of Planning, Minister of Information
and Broadcasting and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and
Co-operatives between 1962 and 1967. Under Obote you were
in control of the ministry but Museveni would interfere.
Secondly, Obote runs government according to the budget but
Museveni spends more money outside the budget.
It is difficult to point out his good qualities because I
met him on very few occasions. Kisekka chaired most of the
cabinet meetings. But one good thing I saw about him is that
he loved touring the country very often. At least much more
than Obote did. Museveni does not deliver on his promises.
I remember during his tour of Masindi in 1988, he promised
to tarmac the road from Masindi through Apac up to Kitgum.
In fact he insulted the people when he said: “Let me
tarmac this road so that you learn to walk on tarmac with
jiggers.” The people nonetheless clapped.
He is not an orator, yet he never sticks to written speeches
like Obote did. That is why he resorts to insulting leaders,
calling them swine, poisonous mushrooms… because he
wants to speak off the cuff.
He also does not accept criticism, otherwise he would have
put many things right.
There was a time he called a meeting in 1989. There were ministers
and other various leaders. During the meeting, he said that
UPC had messed up the country in the past. I stood up and
told him that he was an intelligence officer in the first
UPC government so he should share part of the blame. He kept
We are going backwards because there is too much corruption.
At the beginning, he was making progress. Look at the expenditure
for Defence, State House?
Uganda is more divided than before. We are so polarised now
along ethnic and ideological lines.
Look at cabinet; there are over 12 cabinet ministers from
Western Uganda while Lango region only has a minister of state.
About army MPs
They have to go, especially that we are moving to partisan
politics. Currently the Army Council elects MPs yet they are
deemed to represent the entire army. You also have to know
that soldiers vote for civilian MPs so there is double representation.
If the army speaks with one voice, why not have one army MP?
I have played my role and I am satisfied with my
performance and legacy in the public service.
Adoko Nekyon fact file
Born in 1931, Adoko Nekyon is a cousin of former president
Dr. Apollo Milton Obote. His grandfather Ezekiel Akaki was
a brother to Obote's grandfather, Ibrahim Akaki.
Home area: Akokoro sub-county, Apac district
Education: Ibuye primary school, Ngora High School,
Kings College Budo, University of Kerala (India) BA (Political
Science), MA (Economics)
Minister of Planning and Community Development (1962-64),
Minister of Information and Broadcasting (1964-66), Minister
of Agriculture, Forestry and Cooperatives (1966-1967), Minister
of Health (1988-90), Minister of Rehabilitation and Social
General Manager Uganda Airlines, 1986-1988.
Currently a retired civil servant and member of UPC.