18th August 2005
Museveni charismatic but his time has come

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:-


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).
Political career

Minister of State for Internal Affairs (1999-2003) MP Rakai District (1996-present)

Professional career
Co-worker Mission Board of the Netherlands Reform Church, Holland (1990-1994).

President Museveni

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.

Cabinet meetings

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 the message...

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 passionately.

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 [1999]. 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 matter.


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 [2001] we went and campaigned for Museveni and told people he was coming for the last term. We told them he wants to professionalise the army.

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 let down.

My sacking

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 in me.

Past leaders

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.

Best moments

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.