The highs and lows of Museveni’s visit to South Africa

23 Jan

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, visited South Africa this week from Thursday 20th January to Saturday 22nd January.

From the official perspective, both on his side and that of his hosts, the visit went well. He signed important bilateral treaties with Zuma in Pretoria on Friday and attended a Zulu war commemoration in Kwazulu Natal on Saturday. The treaties included areas of trade, mining and Agriculture. It’s the press conference after the official meeting with Zuma that was quite interesting. Journalists asked him if he has not learnt lessons from Tunisia considering his long stay in power. He replied that Tunisia has a different set of circumstances and added that he has done a good job in leading his country. “We have been in power for a long time yes, but we were also in the struggle for a long time,” said Museveni. “In fact I don’t see myself as being in power, I see myself being in the struggle.” This is a remark I heard being laughed at on one of the top radios. The visit has gone largely unreported by the Sunday papers though it got mention in some newscasts during the week, mainly because of President Zuma’s pronunciation on Ivory Coast and the Zulu commemoration.

Things within the Ugandan camp, however, were not going so well throughout his visit. His visit has been largely kept secret by the Ugandan High Commission in Pretoria though this information is freely available to the South African media and his itinerary could easily be found by a google search. Most Ugandans were completely unbothered by the attempts by the Ugandan authorities to shroud the visit in secrecy and not invite any Ugandans to meet him so they just went about with their normal activities.

 As has been witnessed over the recent past, most power fights seen in Uganda are fiercer within the NRM than between the NRM and outside political forces. The Ugandan ambassador to SA, Mr. Kweronda Ruhemba, a bush war veteran and former minister in Museveni’s cabinet took one matter so lightly. He rejected pleas from the NRM organisation in South Africa to be included on the programme to see their president. I think he holds this group in contempt and doesn’t seem to respect its leadership. Through their contacts in Kampala, the group’s convenor and General Secretary, Mr David Rwamutemba, learnt of the president’s programme and organised his members to surprise the entourage. Dressed in NRM yellow t-shirts they out of nowhere appeared at Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, where Museveni was scheduled to stay, shortly before he arrived. Mr Rwamutemba then met Ministers Sam Kutesa, Kahinda Otafiire, John Nasasira, Hope Mwesigye and Saida Bumba and informed them that there was a group of Ugandans that had gathered outside and wanted to meet Museveni. This took Mr Kuteesa by surprise as these people didn’t appear on the programme he was given and expressed surprise that the embassy had rejected requests to include South African based Ugandans on the programme.

Mr Kweronda appeared a few minutes later and his boss, Mr Kutesa (Foreign Affairs minister), asked him to go and meet the Ugandans outside. When he got outside, he instead asked them what had brought them to Sheraton Hotel and told them to quickly get into their cars and leave. This incensed the group who insulted and manhandled him telling him that he had no authority to tell them where they needed to be. He summoned security but Mr Kuteesa quickly stepped in and calmed the situation, and more importantly to avoid negative publicity. The group was invited into the hotel and toasted to eats and drinks on the house by Finance Minister, Saida Bumba. She went on to explain to them the government programmes that her department is facilitating, and most importantly to the diaspora, a Uganda Shillings 60 billion youth fund that will be accessible to young skilled Ugandans in the diaspora if they have ideas that can add value to the country. Later, Mr Kuteesa promised the group that they would meet the president the following day at 4 pm.

The following day, they regrouped at Sheraton Hotel and when it became probable that they would not see the president due to his schedule, they camped outside the lift he was going to use. When he got out, he was surprised to see them, greeted them, apologised for not having time to speak to them and left for Durban. That marked the end of Museveni’s visit to South Africa as far as Ugandans were concerned. The NRM group is still reportedly planning pickets outside the embassy calling for the ambassador to be replaced. His position seems to be very shaky judging from reports reaching Twino Speaks about private comments that came from some of the ministers and NRM top wigs. He is suspected by NRM royalists to be sabotaging the party and more especially, the president.

Friday also included a business workshop at Sheraton Hotel between Ugandan business people and their South African counterparts. This visit went largely unnoticed by Ugandans here, it was poorly scheduled such that Museveni failed to address it as planned and the business delegation that came from Uganda did not interact with any Ugandan business person based in South Africa.

Meanwhile the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)’s supporters in South Africa had also been planning a demonstration to coincide with his arrival but seemingly his arrival time jeopardised their plans.

Wife of the president, Mrs Janet Museveni, toured a high-tech farm from which some skills and technology are expected to be transferred to the Karamoja region.

Many Ugandans in South Africa have expressed disappointment at the way their government is treating them. Museveni last met them almost 10 years ago though he has been here a couple of times since. As far as the visit is concerned, the embassy and its parent body, Foreign Affairs ministry, shoulder most of the blame for these kinds of shambles regarding the Ugandan community in South Africa. The ministers present feigned surprise at learning of Ugandans in South Africa yet they’ve been jetting in and out of this country. Though the president’s programme is arranged, he very well knows there are many of his country people in the country he is visiting and should have told his juniours that he wants to meet them.

It is rumoured that Ugandans in South Africa are suffering the sins of Museveni’s main political challenger, Dr Kiiza Besigye, having lived in South Africa while in exile. This time Museveni reportedly promised to come back and meet Ugandans in April. Considering that presidential elections are taking place in February, it is yet to be established whether he will visit as president or common Ugandan. If he comes as a common Ugandan, many of us will surely have a chance to speak to him.


Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


12 responses to “The highs and lows of Museveni’s visit to South Africa

  1. Muhozi

    January 23, 2011 at 15:46

    what a load of crap. Voices of dissent should have a foundation of truth and fact in order to succeed. A house built on a weak foundation can never stand. Good luck sir.

  2. Nick

    January 23, 2011 at 16:16

    Thanks a lot for this very interesting report, Stephen! Perhaps Mr. Kweronda Ruhemba has a few things he is hiding and feared that if the NRM group met the president, they could expose him and jeopardize his position.

    One of the things that most worry me about our country is the elevation of Museveni to something of deity status. Must people go physical over an opportunity to meet the man? Is he really worth it? And it’s possible that some of the people he met outside the lift smiled with satisfaction after they got to exchange a few words with him. Back in the day, at Ntare, we would ambush the presidential convoy to talk to him, but surely there is a difference between a secondary school student and an adult managing his affairs thousands of miles away from his ancestral home.

    To be fair, I don’t understand the situation of Diasporans and politics generally, so I may be missing something.

  3. SAM

    January 23, 2011 at 17:46

    Poorly publised visit.

  4. henry

    January 23, 2011 at 18:46

    He is just a crown if not a crap. Nobody should be dying seeing him

  5. Twino Speaks

    January 23, 2011 at 20:44

    Muhoozi, I sincerely-speaking don’t understand what your comment is about or what you are unhappy about.

  6. Ruhindayo

    January 25, 2011 at 08:05

    If he returned to SA in April.. he would still return as President no matter the result of the election. a new president will only be sworn in May.

  7. James

    January 25, 2011 at 09:24

    I think the guy is afraid of appearing in public in case he is fired questions related to his over staying in power. Can you imagine if he was to meet Ugandans of all walks that leave in SA, he wouldnt have been able to handle questions that would have arisen. I found it hillarious that the photo of M7, Zuman and their wives appeared at the commemoration of the Zulu war in one of the Sunday papers, but no mention was made of M7 or his wife. The caption instead talked about Zuma’s speech. The man has reached his sell by date and is not worth any attention.

  8. Rwa bataangaara

    January 25, 2011 at 23:14

    However much people would say but m7 still deserves a credit for his contribution to all ugandans!
    Please lets not forget easily where we came from & start criticize the current regime!! At least there are no pandagari’s, no more more mid nite house raids to ugandans & i promise you this son of Kaguta according to my personal analysis when i was in uganda recently he will win comfortably with a better margin! Watch this space! kandi Twino please report as it will happen!

  9. Twino Speaks

    January 26, 2011 at 08:27

    President Museveni arrived in S Africa with 8 ministers: Sam Kuteesa, Janet Museveni, Kahinda Otafiire, John Nasasira, Hope Mwesigye, Maria Mutagamba, Saida Bumba and JJ Odong.

    Of all these, only 3 are reported to have signed bilateral treaties while the rest looked on. Information from those in the know says apart from the approximately 30 minutes of accompanying thier president to meet President Zuma, they spent the rest of their time at Sheraton hotel in Pretoria, eating and drinking. With such a big entourage, this should have been a good opportunity to meet Ugandans, interact, explain government skills and get advice. I think this was a wasted opportunity, expensive as it was.

    Another thing that is unclear is what the benefit of the Uganda-SA business forum was. It was very poorly organised, it lacked exposure such that nothing is reported about it and not many people even know about it, leave alone what it achieved. The Ugandan business people that accompanied president Museveni had no contact with Ugandan business people in South Africa that could have given them useful insights. That again was a wasted opportunity.

    There is also the issue of the presidential protection unit and advance team. These people were known to be here weeks before and it’s through them that some of the president’s programme got to be known but their role in such visits doesn’t seem to be of much importance. They were basically tourists, walking around in amazement, apparently clueless and I doubt they added anything to the president’s security. With the people who waited for the president at his hotel, if anybody had wanted to do anything, they would have. The South African security was sufficient. I even remember years ago when Museveni came to SA and visited University of Pretoria, he was walking around freely, greeting anybody who bothered to walk to him. I also know a friend who managed to set an appointment with him at one of his previous visits by approaching and speaking to him as he was walking in a hotel. I generally think these advance teams are a waste of resources. Interestingly, it’s far easier to speak to Zuma, he is far more accessible and travels with far fewer cars than Museveni.

  10. Grace

    January 27, 2011 at 08:53

    Rwa bataangaara, the past is supposed to help us shape the future. Can you please tell us what the future is with M7? In the past people were dying in military custody and the same is still happening. the past govts were accused of corruption, currently it has surpassed all levels, the health and education systems are dead, the cooperatives were killed. Every other day we get screaming headlines about scandals after scandals…need I go on? Tell me what the future is, because I do not want to live in the past, I do not like the present, but I like a better future.


    January 27, 2011 at 15:04

    Rwabataangaara, are you insane or what? i titty you and your analysis of Uganda’s past and the past.

  12. Twino Speaks

    January 29, 2011 at 13:51

    Yesterday I was travelling with a friend who gave a lift to somebody working at the embassy. This guy asked to be dropped a distance from the embassy because he didn’t want to be seen with me. That’s where I have reached – it’s a liability for embassy personnel to be seen with me. How about when I go for service?


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