President Museveni may have ignored the row between his son-in-law Odrek Rwabwogo and his war general Matayo Kyaligonza, but his name continues to be dragged into it.
Maj Gen Kyaligonza, the NRM vice chairman for Western Uganda, is fighting to protect his position, coveted by Rwabwogo, the husband to Museveni’s daughter Patience.
In a telephone interview on CBS radio’s feature programme “Nze nga bwendaba,” loosely translated as “the way I see it,” Kyaligonza suggested he was so angry that he could not restrain himself any more.
“If you meet him [Rwabwogo] tell him that Kyaligonza is not happy with him. If I meet him somewhere and he says that I know nothing I will give him a hot slap,” he said.
Kyaligonza has been vice chairman for western Uganda since NRM was formally registered as a political party. The position gives him a seat on the Central Executive Committee, the ruling party’s second top most organ.
In an earlier interview with The Observer published on August 17, 2015, a bold-talking Rwabwogo, 45, said time has come for the younger generation to take up more leadership roles in NRM. Kyaligonza disagrees.
“Are they [youths] the ones who brought us here? If you want to succeed your father do you kill him in order to get the inheritance?” he asked his interviewer.
Next year, President Museveni will make 30 years since his rebel movement – in which Kyaligonza fought – captured power. And although he has won four successive elections, it is almost a taboo for ruling party leaders to discuss Museveni’s successor. But the present argument by Rwabwogo, that veteran politicians like Kyaligonza need to give way to younger blood, has brought Museveni’s long tenure into focus.
Last week, Luweero LC-V chairman Abdul Nadduli, a former NRM vice-chairman, criticised Museveni over the Kyaligonza saga, taking the party chairman’s silence for endorsement of Rwabwogo’s intentions. Captain Francis Babu, another CEC member, has subsequently suggested that Museveni had long wanted to rid CEC of strong characters such as Kyaligonza.
During Friday’s CBS interview, Kyaligonza suggested that if Rwabwogo wants the historicals to go, he should have that conversation with Museveni.
“Who is that one? Odrek? I don’t know him, I have never even seen him,” he said. “Is he the one who gave me work? He should tell such things [about retiring] to his father in–law [Museveni]. We are the ones that brought his father-in-law in power. Don’t make me talk too much.”
In the earlier Observer interview, Rwabwogo heaped some praise on Kyaligonza. He said he respects the general so much since he was one of the best NRA fighters during the Luweero bush war.
“As a matter of fact, he was the commander who took down Makindye barracks, attacking Ndeeba from Masaka road. I know that very well,” Rwabwogo said. “I give him the due respect and the honour that you give an elder. However, I stand on the shoulders of the elders in order to do something better because there is always an evening of something and a dawn of another.”
On Friday, Kyaligonza was in no mood for niceties.
“Youths shouldn’t think that they will start with wanting to be president. Let them start at the LC-I then we see how they behave. But when you say that the old guard are “bazeeyi” [old] and they don’t know what they are saying then we shall have problems. I think he [Rwabwogo] should start at least with LC-II and then LC-III then we shall see his potential,” he said.
He warned that even if Rwabwogo is supported by the first family as the “rumour mill” suggests, he will defeat him resoundingly.
“I hear he is being supported by the first family, I will shame the first family by defeating him. He is saying that he is coming from the first family? Is mine the second family? Even mine is a first family. We shall shame him and abuse him,” Kyaligonza said.
According to Kyaligonza, what annoys him most is that all historicals are bitter with the way things are going on in the country. He said those who are not showing any anger are “opportunists.”
“When I get annoyed, I really get annoyed and I say the truth. I never sugar-coat in order to make people happy. We [historicals] don’t want familiarity because when we came [into power] we didn’t disrespect people,” he said.
“Look at all those people who are attending [Col Kizza] Besigye’s rallies. They want to support a cause because they are tired.”
Asked by his host whether he had lost faith in the NRM regime, Kyaligonza said: “Many other people will come out and say the truth because things are not going on well. It’s just a matter of time.”
It was not immediately clear how the NRM is dealing with the growing discontent among historical members over the Rwabwogo saga. Party spokesman Mary Karooro Okurut and her deputy Ofwono Opondo had not returned our phone calls by press time.