WHAT NEXT? Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi with his wife Suzan at their country home in Rujumbura, Rukungiri district. Mr Muhwezi was addressing the press and said he was willing to serve in any capacity the appointing authority would assign him.
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Rujumbura County of Rukungiri District, a region with a thought-provoking ethnic and religious mix, has produced several prominent persons who have served in Yoweri Museveni’s regime since 1986 among them (RIP) .General  Robert Aronda Nyakairima, Lt. Gen. (rtd) Henry Tumukunde, Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye, Mathew Rukikaire, Athanius Rutaro, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, Dr. Alex Kamugisha, Maj. Gen. (rtd) Jim Muhwezi Katugugu, Priscilla Seezi Mbaguta, Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina, the Commissioner General of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija, MP Paula Turyahikayo and political activist Charles Rwomushana.

Between them all the above persons have played an important role to ensure that Rukungiri, one of the most politically endowed regions of Uganda (only shrouded by Bugweri County), maintains the status quo. But some names stand out and one of those is that of Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi Katugugu, a man who has been the Member of Parliament for Rujumbura for 20 years.

With an impressive career that began with graduation as a lawyer from Makerere University, Gen. Muhwezi joined the Uganda Police Force as a Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police (D/ASP), stationed at Mbale Police Station.

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At the time Milton Obote had just returned to power through a controversial election in December 1980, the precursor to Yoweri Museveni’s declaration of war against the regime. So, given his tribal background and perceived political inclination then, Mr Muhwezi and other future comrades including David Munungu Sejusa, then also ASP, were the subject of suspicion by the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) government, prompting them conjure survival instincts, that led them to stage a dramatic escape from the cells at Jinja Road Police Station that was partly facilitated by Engineer Winnie Byanyima, to join Museveni in the jungles af Luwero in mid 1981, this time round as rebels, wanted and hunted by the government.

Given his background as a detective, while in the bush Mr Muhwezi was assigned spying roles, a trait that followed him even after the war ended in 1986 when he was named the first Director General of the Internal Security Organisation (DGIS), where he served for 10 years.

But his dramatic life in government and politics was just beginning; during that time, precisely 1994, he contested for the Rujumbura Constituent Assembly Delegate (CAD) and lost to then youthful political activist and former Makerere University Guild President Charles Rwomushana.

MUHWEZI NEMESIS? Political activist Charles Rwomushana
MUHWEZI NEMESIS? Political activist Charles Rwomushana

With the Constitution-making process done in 1995, Mr Muhwezi was again to stand for political office in 1996, this time trouncing Rwomushana to represent Rujumbura County in the Sixth Parliament and also joining cabinet as the State Minister for Education in charge of Primary Education. Interestingly, at the time Mr Muhwezi held the rank of Brigadier in the National Resistance Army, while his boss Education and Sports Minister Nuwe Amanya Mushega, was a Major.  Both men have since been retired by the army, with Muhwezi retiring at the rank of Major General while Mushega was promoted to Colonel and also retired.

BOSS? Former Education minister minister Nuwe Amanya Mushega, who was Mr Muhwezi's boss
BOSS? Former Education minister minister Nuwe Amanya Mushega, who was Mr Muhwezi’s boss

However, while serving as Rujumbura MP Muhwezi was censured by Parliament after it emerged he had acquired immense wealth, allegedly not commensurate with his earnings at the time.

After sometime in political oblivion, Mr Muhwezi was to bounce back in style, this time as minister of Health, where he worked with a cabinet colleague from Rukungiri, Dr Alex Kamugisha. The two were to be dropped for allegedly misappropriating the Global and Gavi funds that were purposely for fighting HIV/Aids and for immunization, respectively.

It was at this point in time that the President instituted a probe chaired by then High Court Judge James Ogoola Munange, that Mr Muhwezi made his most unforgettable quote, asking the judge where he (Ogoola) was when they (Muhwezis) went to the bush. But Mr Museveni would hear none of Mr Muhwezi’s threats and swear words; the President cracked the whip and dropped all the three ministers serving the health ministry then. Once again Mr Muhwezi found himself in political oblivion, going low and remaining MP.

'Where were you'? Mr Muhwezi asked Justice James Ogoola. (pictured).
‘Where were you’? Mr Muhwezi asked Justice James Ogoola. (pictured).

Then something happened internally in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM); in February 2014 then female Youth MP Northern Evelyn Anite went for the party retreat at the National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi and, on bended knees, ‘begged’ Chairman Yoweri Museveni to offer himself for party flag bearer in the 2016 elections.

Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi was not very impressed with the youthful legislator from Koboko and initially resisted signing the ‘Anite petition’ till he finally relented, signing in at No.202. Obviously there was a crack in the party that has been running affairs of state for 30 years. And this disturbing dent in the cohesion of the NRM had to be plugged, most probably by ‘old hands’ who had withered storms.

Jim Muhwezi was one of those chosen to put to a halt the Mbabazi engine that seemed to have gained traction that was capable of destabilizing the party. Subsequently, in late 2015 Mr Muhwezi was appointed Minister of Information and National Guidance, a docket that was critical in mobilizing for the 2016 elections. The General was expeditious in executing the task, appearing on TV talkshows to explain the position of the party.

ANOTHER INSTRUMENTAL SON OF RUKUNGIRI: New Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde
ANOTHER INSTRUMENTAL SON OF RUKUNGIRI: New Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde

Indeed, the plot to engage the services of the likes of Mr Muhwezi and others like Lt Gen (rtd) Tumukunde seemed to work and, despite holding on to a spirited campaign trail, Mbabazi was deflated. He got one per cent of the vote, sinking further into political obscurity. The ‘Muhwezi magic’ had worked; he thus relaxed, awaiting the fruits of his expertise in neutralising Mr Mbabazi. But this was never to come; he lost the Rujumbura County seat to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Fred Turyamyhweza and again, on June 15, 2016, slightly more than a month after swearing in Mr Museveni announced a new cabinet with Mr Muhwezi’s name missing! He was reportedly not happy about missing on the cabinet list but however, managed to maintain his deafening silence till his wife Suzan Kabonero Muhwezi let out an outburst: her husband, the doyen of politics in Rujumbura in particular and Rukingiri in general, had been ‘sidelined’ yet he had immensely contributed to the re-election of Mr Museveni.

Since then Mr Muhwezi has maintained his loud silence, and possibly made his point by not attending the hand over of office to his successor Frank Tumwebaze, the former ‘Super Minister Jr’ who held the portfolios of the ministries of the Presidency and Kampala, concurrently.

And with that kind of suspense emanating from a spy of long-standing, what remains to be seen is whether Mr Muhwezi’s ‘thought-provoking silence’ will bear fruit and pave the way for his political return.