SARAH KIYINGI NAMUSOKE, 45, was the Minister of State
for Internal Affairs from 1999 to 2003 when President Museveni
sacked her, apparently for opposing the controversial proposal
to lift presidential term limits. Presently an MP for Rakai
district, she tells EDRIS KIGGUNDU about
her impressions of President Museveni:-
SARAH KIYINGI NAMUSOKE
First meeting with Museveni
I first met Museveni before the 1996 elections in Rwakitura
(his country home). I went there with people from Rakai district.
He was seated there wearing all these things on his head.
We just talked… We were a group of people. These people
were my constituents to be.
Because the President knew my father [David Livingstone Kiyingi,
he said, ‘Well, I want you to stand [for MP in Rakai
district]’. My father died during the war, we did not
know the kind of relationship he had with Museveni. We just
got to know bits and pieces later. That he was a supporter
of the liberation struggle and was killed because of that.
Sarah Kiyingi Musoke
|Born: April 16, 1960
Home area: Rakai District
Education: Bwanda Primary School, Kalagala
Primary School, St Catherine Girls School (currently Dr.
Obote College), Kyebambe Girls, Makerere University, BA
(Sociology & Religious Studies), University of Nairobi,
MA (Religious Studies).
Minister of State for Internal Affairs (1999-2003)
MP Rakai District (1996-present)
Co-worker Mission Board of the Netherlands Reform Church,
When I came to Parliament in 1996, first I became a vice
chairperson on the committee on Foreign Affairs, and by the
time Museveni appointed me minister [of state for Internal
Affairs in 1999], I was the chairperson of the Parliamentary
Committee on Foreign Affairs.
At that time I was an NRM supporter. I really believed it
was a system that was working and serving the needs of the
country… yeah, in that sense I was NRM.
The President is very widely informed and very convincing;
very articulate in his ideas. Whether that is good or not
is another thing. He is somebody who has the ability to articulate
something very well and convincingly.
Museveni chaired some [Cabinet meetings] and especially the
special meetings but it was usually the vice president [then
Dr. Speciosa Kazibwe] and Prime Minister [Prof. Apollo Nsibambi].
Museveni would speak in proverbs… A few jokes here
and there, but usually it would be the proverbs to convey
He is one of those charismatic leaders, leaders who pursue
something with a passion. They are very convincing and they
are good for a specific time. They would have an idea; that
idea is something they want to pursue, and they want to do
This kind of personality is ideal in times of carrying a
community through hard times. What the community needs at
that time is someone who is going to give it all. The problem
is when the community is through that hard time. Then, there
is need for collective decision making and putting in place
structures… Then the charismatic leader becomes a problem
rather than a solution.
Other people don’t have to take decisions because they
know somebody else will take them. And because they don’t
take decisions, they don’t carry the burden of learning
to take decisions. That is why the boda boda (cyclists) go
the President; the tomato vendors go the President. Everybody
wants to go to the President because it is the President who
has been making decisions.
This kind of character becomes a liability; because if it
is in leadership [yet it] does not realise that there is need
for collective decision making and stepping back to allow
the structures to operate.
If you have a minister, that minister should be able to take
a decision without necessarily referring to you. [But] Museveni…
is not asking whether government should take this decision.
He is going to tell you that this is the decision we should
take, and this is the way I see it...
Ever opposed him?
I do not think it was a matter of opposing Museveni. I think
it was a matter of giving a different opinion. It is not fierce
opposition; it is a matter of saying, well this is what you
[President] are proposing but I think it might not be a good
idea. I don’t remember [opposing him] on anything in
particular but I think it must have been there.
There were problems like the national identity cards project.
The whole idea started around that time when I became minister
. I did not have to go to the President because I was
minister of state and the full minister then [Edward Rugumayo]
handled all matters with the President.
But there were instances when met him. For example over security
matters like Karamoja and those kinds of things. An appointment
had to be made. Sometimes the President calls the minister
to Rwakitura, Kisozi, Nakasero to meet over this and that
I think he is a workaholic and a workaholic is good for a
season. He believes he can solve every problem. Therefore,
he has less time to think through matters and analyse them.
Again because of his character, he does not give time to these
structures to work. Therefore everything comes back to him
and he has less time to look at these issues.
I try to think about Museveni the person. I just got this
analogy of a builder. When we were building our house, we
got this builder and he worked on the foundation, built the
walls up to the ring beam. He told us to find someone to roof
the house. We said no, you are the builder. He said, ‘yes
I can build from the foundation but I cannot roof’.
We had to find someone else. This is the analogy that came
to mind sometime back when I had to think about the President.
Museveni, the man has done well in laying the foundation but
the roofing, I don think he has the capacity.
In principle, he has set up democratic structures but I don’t
think Museveni has the patience to allow these structures
to operate the way they should operate. He wants everything
to go his way. ‘This is what I want; I can not allow
this to happen.’ You hear this language: ‘Nobody
should joke with my army. If you joke with it you will go
six feet under and so on.’ I don’t think Museveni
is the best to carry us through at this cruising level because
of his character.
During the campaigns for the presidential elections 
we went and campaigned for Museveni and told people he was
coming for the last term. We told them he wants to professionalise
Why we fell out
I really believed that this was worthwhile. And I think many
people believed that this was the right thing to do. I doubt
if anybody thought that the President would go back on his
word and say: “I want to stay around.”
But I realised it at the Conference Centre [during the Movement
delegates conference in 2003] people saying: “You see
Your Excellency, when the district of such and such sat down,
we discussed the following and this is what we decided: we
should remove term limits.” I knew that Museveni had
gone back on his word.
This is an issue that is said to have begun at Kyankwanzi,
because I did not attend the NEC meeting. But these people
from the districts as they were reporting, they said: “When
our people sat”. But this was supposed to have been
discussed at Kyankwanzi not at the Conference Centre. I know
that even in my district people were told that they should
sit before going to Kyankwanzi. These issues were sent to
the people before the Kyankwanzi meeting.
I really felt let down... The day that issue of term limits
was introduced, I knew that this is really something so different
from what I expected. I looked at the President seated there
from nine in the morning to nine in the evening and I knew
that this President wants this third term.
I observed him from the way he was reacting to these people.
So when I hear these people saying: “But the President
has not asked [for another term].” Who said he has not
asked? He does not have to talk. Babies do not talk but when
they ask, you know they have asked. This was the time I felt
I did not expect to be reshuffled but I was becoming uneasy
over certain things. I have an elder I always go to in times
of need and we pray together. I remember going to this person
with other people and telling them that “look, I really
need your prayers because I think I am becoming uncomfortable”.
This was two months before we were sacked.
When this sacking came, I called them and said “my prayers
have been answered”. It was a relief. When you are serving
anybody, a boss, you are at his calling. You are supposed
to do anything that the boss wants you to do. You are supposed
to obey that boss.
When you begin to feel that you are not in agreement with
the line your boss is pursuing, then that is a problem. Of
course, for me that conflict was already in my heart and I
was thinking, “what does one do because I am not supposed
to disagree with my boss?” It wasn’t so much a
government situation; I was beginning to feel that certain
things did not make much sense to me.
That was the time when we had started discussing Cabinet
proposals to the Ssempebwa Commission. Some of the proposals
were really outrageous... I would give my views in Cabinet
over these proposals. But if you are given a document and
you read; that this is what government is proposing to the
Commission then you think: “Oh my God, how could we
think for instance of reducing the powers of Parliament when
we should be thinking of the independence of Parliament?”
I never lobbied for any post.
I never desired to be minister even when I was appointed.
I did not think it was a good deal; nevertheless I believed
God had put me there for a purpose. I’m not so sure
whether I fulfilled that purpose. I wrote to the President
after we were sacked and I thanked him for having put trust
I do not think Museveni is going to do anything much more
than he has done if re-elected [in 2006]. I don’t think
he is going to do anything spectacular. His character is not
suitable for the times, and this is the tragedy for most African
leaders: They never realise that their time has come...
Museveni came in at a time and did very many good things
for this country. I really think it is time for him to pass
on the baton and if he doesn’t, only God knows what
will follow. But he has been a good leader.
After the 1996 elections, things were moving well. We were
now putting in place the structures. I remember when we were
in the Sixth Parliament; it was the time of putting in practice
things we had now agreed as a nation to do as they appeared
in the 1995 Constitution. This was a period of hope. Things
started going wrong when we began to say “let’s
implement what we have agreed”. Then we begun saying
“let’s change some things in the constitution”.
All the things I have said and done in my life, I have done
my best to do them in good faith. Where I have gone wrong,
I ask for forgiveness.