President Museveni has heaped praises on what he described as the “patriotism” of Mathew Rukikaire’s family, a move that underscores the head of state’s commitment to reunite with his old friends.
“This family has made a commendable and good contribution to the government towards the struggle for the re-birth of political stability of a new Uganda,” said Museveni.
The President, who was accompanied by First Lady, Hon Janet Museveni, commended the family of Rukikaire
“My coming here, therefore, is to acknowledge the crucial contributions at a crucial time of the Rukikaires’ to this country in which I, personally, have been involved for the last fifty years struggling for political unity,” the President said.
Museveni made the remarks at a Thanksgiving ceremony to mark the golden jubilee in marriage of Rukikaire and his wife Sheeba which took place on Sunday at the couple’s residential home in Kizungu, Makindye Division in Kampala District.
ChimpReports understands the occasion also marked Matthew Rukikaire’s 80th birthday anniversary.
Museven’s appearance at Rukikaire’s residence is very significant considering it’s where a group of NRA rebels held a meeting on February 3, 1981 to plan the first attack.
Essentially it’s at Rukikaire’s home that NRA guerrillas launched the war that brought President Museveni to power in 1986.
Museveni says in his autobiography Sowing the Mustard Seed: “The day chosen for the attack which would launch our campaign was Friday 6 February, 1981. Our plan was to obtain a vehicle, drive quickly and secretly from Kampala, arrive near our target in the early hours of the morning and take the barracks by surprise shortly after dawn. The day before our planned attack, about 30 volunteers assembled in Mathew Rukikaire’s house in Makindye, a suburb of Kampala and stayed in hiding there all day. Eventually the number grew to 34 but only 27 of us were armed.”
Rukikaire was an inspiration for many young people from his hometown of Rukungiri who joined Museveni in the NRA war.
Dr Kizza Besigye, Gen Aronda Nyakairima (RIP), Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, Mr Amama Mbabazi and Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde were some of the young people from Rukungiri that followed Mr Museveni to the bush.
Rukikaire served as Minister for Privatisation in Museveni’s government only to be forced out by Parliament over his management of the privatisation process.
In 2002, Museveni took time off the frontline in Gulu and returned briefly to Kampala to attend the wedding of Philip Rukikaire and Lenina Kemigisha Mbabazi – the daughter of then Defence Minister, Amama Mbabazi.
Towards the 2006 elections, Rukikaire, together with other senior NRM leaders from western region such as Richard Kaijuka, Mugisha Muntu, Amanya Mushega and John Kazoora opposed Mr Museveni’s move to amend the Constitution to remove term limits.
Museveni and Rukikaire fell out, following in the footsteps of Dr Besigye.
Since then the two elders’ relationship has not been the best.
But Museveni recently attended the traditional marriage ceremony of Bridget Birungi to Andile Ramaphosa at Mbabazi’s residence in Kampala.
Mbabazi and Museveni are said to be going along well.
Museveni told the gathering at Rukikaire’s home that one of the causes of the bush war was the problem of deliberate recruitment in the Army on sectarian lines and extra-judicial killings of innocent Ugandans.
“Unlike during the past regimes, as I speak today, we do not have citizens in exile,” said Museveni.
“Anybody in opposition or against the government is here in the country, which was not the case during the past regimes. We have a score of many achievements and many are yet to be realised,” he added.
“The country has conducted several successful regular, free and fair national elections at an interval of five years.”
Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda commended Rukikaire for his accommodative spirit that led to a coherent political group.
He saluted the couple for inviting comrades for a reunion at their residence where the 27 historical men of the National Resistance Army (NRA) started their journey of the bush war.
The First Lady Janet Museveni reminded the gathering to thank God for the achievements the country has realized.
She also asked the Rukikaire family to thank God for the gift of their lives and faithfulness both in happy and difficult times during the 50 years in marriage.
Rukikaire speaks out
On his part Rukikaire thanked President Museveni for honouring the family invitation.
He said he was happy with the contributions that he made towards Uganda’s national development.
“For national development, we fought against sectarianism of the past governments to plan for the future of this country. I am happy to be part and parcel of this system to bring sanity in the country,” he reiterated.
He said apart from having a relationship with the creator and family members, the greatest relationship is with people in society.
Sheeba Rukikaire thanked God for the gift of life and described the journey of 50 years in marriage as a commitment, responsibility, endurance and investment with patience.
The function was graced by Bank of Uganda Governor Tumusiime Mutebile, Gen Elly Tumwiine, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi and several other high profile guests.