Kazoora’s Memoirs: Rugunda, M7 Wrestle Obote In The 1980 Elections


thumb sans-serif; font-size: small;”>The Military commission had now taken over after two failed Presidencies of Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa. In the same year Uganda got ready for General Elections after more than ten years of non party rule. These would be the first elections since April 1962 and it would be the first time that I would be voting. The old political parties of the 1960s i.e. UPC and DP were back in full swing preaching their anti-people politics.

information pills sans-serif; font-size: small;”>In June 1980 Paulo Muwanga who was heading the Military Commission announced that the elections would be held on 30th September 1980 but later the Electoral Commission Secretary Vincent Ssekono announced that they had been postponed to 10th December 1980. Registration of voters began on 6th October and lasted ten days and I rushed home to register as a voter in Mbarara central.

On 25th June 1980 an Electoral Commission was appointed chaired by Kosea Kikira, a supposed UPC die-hard and the other members of the Commission were Sira Egweu-Egaru, Hajji Yasin Biraali, A.K.Akena, and Anthony Tamale

Mbarara district where I came from had 102.073 registered voters and its constituencies were divided as follows; Mbarara North West (Bisheshe, Ishongororo, Kanoni, Nyabuhiskye, and Rukiri); Mbarara North (Burunga, Buremba, Kashongi, Kenshunga and Kazo); Mbarara Central (Nyakashashara, Bubaare, Rubaya, Rubindi, and Rwanyamahembe); Mbarara South Central (Kakiika, Mbarara Municipality, Rugando, Nyakayojo, and Bireere) Mbarara South West (Ndeija, Bugamba, Ntungamo, and Rwekiniro): Mbarara South East (Rugaaga, Kasumba, Ngarama, and Kabingo) and Mbarara South (Kikagati, Rukoni, and Ruhama)

On 4th June 1980, a new party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) was formed following successful negotiations between various political forces which had agreed to combine forces into a single united Movement. These groups included Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), Uganda Labour Party (ULP), and the Makerere-based Uganda Nationalist Movement (UNM).

The party attracted several prominent people who believed that the old parties could not solve Uganda’s problems since they were hinged and based on the narrow issues of religion and tribe.

UPM emphasised unification, reconciliation and clean leadership, reconstruction and rehabilitation.

It had an interim administration comprising of Yoweri Museveni as Chair deputised by Jeremiah Lucas Opira, Israel Mayengo and David Wogute and with Bidandi Ssali as Secretary General. I immediately knew that this was the party for me. My parents who were staunch UPC told me that we in the UPM were daydreaming.

Prior to the formation of UPM, there had been a political lecture and one lecturer Joshua Baitwa Mugenyi talked of the need for “a third force”. He said the political parties of Uganda at that time were sectarian, formed around either religion or ethnicity. There was therefore a need for a “third force” that united people rather than divided them. Later when UPM was formed Mugyenyi was made the Secretary for Youth. He too inspired us to join UPM. Mugyenyi had earlier in February 1980 appeared on a UTV discussion called “the Electoral Prospects of Uganda” and he made an impressive appearance.

Mugenyi who was my Lecturer in Political Science was very popular because after lectures he would go and drink alcohol with students in the Wandegeya suburbs of Katanga and Bermuda.

Sometimes they would fight and the next day he would be back lecturing as if nothing had happened. He married Mary Rutamwebwa while we were still students. At the wedding reception at Buganda Road Primary School, many students gate-crashed the reception since Buganda Road Primary School was within walking distance from MUK.

Thanks to his popularity, Mr. Museveni attended the wedding reception and said Mugenyi was hardworking but at times cantankerous.

Mr Museveni addressed supporters at City Hall and appealed to us to support the launching rally for UPM at City Square on 13th June 1980 which was being organised by among others Fred Kagonyera of the UPM Secretariat. I together with other students took part in a UPM procession which began at the UPM offices on Kampala Road opposite the Post Office and ended with the rally at City Square now Constitution Square.(We were neither beaten nor tear-gassed for assembling there as is the norm today.

I shudder if any group wanted to launch their political party at the Square. They would be met with blacm mambas and pink liquid).


At his first public rally at City Square on 13th June 1980, Museveni talked of the restoration of the rule of law and advocated for the 10 house cell system (Nyumba Kumi) saying that it was a good method for identifying and exposing criminals.

Later a three-day delegates conference was also held. The UPM party leadership seemed full of energy. It comprised of officials like Bakulu Mpagi, Rhoda Kalema, Robinson Kasozi, George Magezi, Matia Kashaija, Rev Fr Christopher Okoth, Lawrence Ginyera, Tom Rubare, Patrick Kaboyo, and Chango Machyo among others.

Campaigns began in high gear and to most of us this was the first we had been at campaign events.

I closely monitored them on radio, newspapers and television, and where possible physically attended. I had a diary where I recorded all that was happening. UPC’s Apollo Obote at his first rally at Kololo airstrip said he would tackle “Magendo” (black market) and corruption.

DP’s Semogerere’s rally held in Jinja promised to work on social progress and reconciliation. He advocated for a one ballot box approach to avoid the rigging that had happened at the 1962 elections. At the same rally Prof Yoweri Kyesimira said Uganda was tired of UPC’s high sounding words hence Ugandans should only vote DP.

At a DP rally in Bushenyi there was misunderstanding when UPM’s Prof Tibamanya Mushanga said UPM wanted to work with DP. However Yoweri Museveni and Bidandi Ssali said that would never happen as UPM wanted to provide a fresh political start.

At a UPC rally in Iganga, Obote blasted Yoweri Kyesimira and Mathias Ngobi for having dilly dallied with Amin. He also accused Ngobi of being a high priest of hatred for trying to drive out non-Basoga from Busoga.

There was another political party called “God Commands Uganda” (GCU) led by a Vicks Kingo type of character called Selasi Muhwezi Nowaruhanga. Iwould not be surprised if he is the same Vicks Kingo of today.

At MUK, rallies were also held. Paul Ssemogerere’s rally was held at Freedom Square on 8th July 1980 and he was just rapping another rap “DP Egumire” i.e. DP is strong. Apollo Obote held his on 26th July 1980. He too was just rapping another rap “UPC Everywhere, Everybody UPC”. Nothing really of substance.(Today it’s the Movement that is rapping another rap – no substance indeed).

The only two candidates who impressed me were Mayangi Nkangi of the Conservative Party (CP) who was accompanied by CP’s Publicity Secretary Katenta Apuuli. He complained about the abrogation of the constitution in 1966 and advocated for the revival of the 1962 constitution which was based on federal principles. Unfortunately he was perceived by the students to be a Federo diehard and Kabaka Yekka type of politician especially since he was former Katikiro (Prime Minister of Buganda). Worse still his voice was too infinitesimal and lacked oratorio.

UPM’s Yoweri Museveni’s rallies at campus were held on 12th June and on 17th August 1980. At the last one, he was accompanied by Ruhakana Rugunda, Jeremiah Opira, Bidandi Ssali and Matia Kashaija. He was charismatic and was liked by the girls as from his posters you could see that he was youthful.

He encouraged us by saying that even if UPM was new, it would reach into the hearts of the people. He took us into the political history of Uganda and Africa’s problems of backwardness.

He threatened to sue Apollo Obote who had earlier referred to him as a Rwandese refugee. Museveni said UPC was full of idiots; and that he didn’t believe in boxing in order to satisfy his anger.

(He seems to like this word as more than 30 years later while addressing an NRM caucus at State House on the 11th of July 2011 he referred to Dr Besigye as an idiot. He also used the same term to a refer to a diplomat who had said something about him and was later revealed in the wikileaks episode).

Museveni promised to give MUK the autonomy it so deserved and restore all its privileges; to rehabilitate the country; and to tackle unemployment; concentrate on agriculture; and build a viable mixed economy.

He read condolence messages for students who had perished during the Amin Junta.

He concluded his campaign on campus by saying “Although we are an undeveloped country, it’s sad to see graduates have no jobs”.

“No single government in Uganda has been able to solve this problem. This is a luxury Uganda cannot afford”, he said. (Today the unemployment rate is the worst it has ever been)

At the same rally, another UPM official Ruhakana Rugundu accused the government-owned daily newspaper Uganda Times of being a UPC Mouthpiece. Rugunda also attacked Adonia Tiberondwa saying he wasn’t worthy of his Phd because Tiberondwa had been telling all and sundry that he had paid Rugunda and Tumusime Mutebile’s fees and provided them with accommodation while in exile and they had now abandoned UPC.

To the amusement of students, Rugunda said “Do you think they gave us accommodation to be political slaves because we slept in their houses? This is a high degree of political bankruptcy”.

Bidandi Ssali who was the UPM Secretary General though seemed to be introverted also gave a resounding speech on what the UPM hoped to achieve. Armed with our slogan of “Clean Leadership, Unity and Peace” (Little did we know that it was all kiwaani) we campaigned so vigorously for UPM that I was even elected the Nkrumah UPM Chairman. To me UPM was the most progressive party on the political scene. (Bidandi Ssali has since left the Movement because of its contradictions)

Those of us who were politically vigilant then thought Museveni was the best candidate. He seemed to espouse the ideas I believed in. (I only wish I had known that it was all spurious). He also threatened to go to the bush if the elections were rigged (the kind of politics students enjoy). I therefore admired his bravado.

Meanwhile the campaigns continued.

At one rally in Masaka, in July, UPC’s Edward Rurangaranga said that UPM was a party of Rwandese refugees. He also said UPM’s symbol advocated unity of one man – Yoweri Museveni. At the DP rally in Gulu, the DP officials were stoned by UPC supporters. At many rallies people purporting to be from various parties would say they had crossed to UPC.( It also happens today when voters are bought to cross to NRM).

I decided to concentrate on following the UPM campaigns as the others seemed nonsense to me.

On 21st June 1980, UPM held its campaign rally in Kabale and was addressed by Yoweri Museveni, Eriya Kategaya, Kintu Musoke, Bidandi Ssali, Kirunda Kivejinja, Ignatius Musazi, Ralpahel Bitamazire and Rhoda Kalema. They all talked of the dawn of a new era. They were welcomed in Kabale by UPM district leaders led by Richard Barigayomwe and Dr.John Babigumira (Barigayomwe has since been abandoned and is now a pauper somewhere in Kashari due to intrigue)

Scrupulous UPC officials led by one Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) Manager from Rukungiri booked all the hotels in the area so that UPM officials had nowhere to stay. Museveni and Matthew Rukikaire had to stay at Bishop Kivengere’s house at Rugarama Hill while others stayed at the District Commissioner David Mugumya’s residence at Makanga hill.


At Busoga Square in Jinja on 28th June, Ruhakana Rugunda, Prof Mushanga, Jeremiah Opira, Israel Mayengo, Kirunda Kivejinja and Yoweri Museveni addressed a large rally. It was also attended by UPM big wigs like George Kagonyera and Ernest Kakwano.

They talked of UPC’s dictatorial polices and how they had failed to join the old parties because they were too narrow. He said that intimidation would be faced by intimidation and violence by violence if anyone tried to encroach on people’s democratic rights. He further said that he had a wealth of experience dealing with trouble makers.

He said he was not a professional soldier but an armed politician. He said the gun should be an instrument of politics but it should not command politics. He promised to create a Ministry for Youth and Sports. He surprised me further when he said “If you look into my history you will be able to predict my future”

On 29th June while in Mbale, Museveni said he wouldn’t waste his time insulting other party leaders and said it was political bankruptcy for some political leaders to go campaigning on lies.

He also said that he didn’t want to canvas support through church priests but directly with the people. He said that it was a shame that people were going to the moon while Africans were eating worms. He summarised by saying that the type of leadership where people just amass wealth without explaining how they got it was a tragedy and promised to get rid of it. (Today he is a guru at amassing wealth)

On July 7th in Bushenyi where he was accompanied by Kategaya, Rugunda and Jeremiah Opira, he blasted the DP leadership for having shown no concern during Amin’s reign of terror.

He discouraged the people from listening to the politics of hoes saying they had been bought by the government and not political parties. (Similar to the NAADs politics today)

He also challenged Edward Rurangaranga to tell the people of Bushenyi which parts in Ankole he had fought in during the liberation struggle and said that he was crippled both physically and mentally.


In Rukungiri where he addressed rallies at Kanungu, Kihiihi, and Rukungiri town Museveni who was accompanied by Kategaya, Rugunda, Bakulu Mpagi, Rev Fr Okoth, Prof Samwiri Karugire and Elly Rwakakooko said no one had more strength than the people (no wonder when people walk to work today he gets petrified) and cautioned against dividing people on religious lines (that’s his greatest talent today). He heaped praise on liberation fighters from the area including John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, Joseph Bitwari, David Kangire and Karambuzi. At the same rally, Prof Karugire said Uganda’s biggest problem was corruption and bad leadership (if he was alive today, he would be in great shock)

In Mukono, Museveni said he was not interested in entering State House but consolidating people’s strength. He wondered why people were obsessed with going to State House: “how many have been there and where are they now” he said. (I wish he could answer that question today)

At Mpigi, Museveni promised total security for all, and to create employment and blasted Godfrey Binaisa for having misbehaved and for bringing confusion. He also accused UPC of practicing cannibalism.

Contnues tomorrow


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