Profile: Amama to breathe new life into Uganda


Amama meeting Muslim community

Former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi this morning formally announced he would be contesting for the Presidency.

Amama, who fell out with Yoweri Museveni last year, has been silent despite reports that he was nursing Presidential Ambitions.

Mbabazi made the announcement on You Tube, saying he wanted to breathe “new life into our system of government”.

The announcement formally pits him against his longtime confidante, Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking a fourth term in next year’s poll.


But who is Amama Mbabazi?

He was born John Patrick Mbabazi to Kezekiah Bagowabo, a livestock farmer and Peres Nyinakabaka,  the daughter of Rusi, a Royal from Kooki.

Amama Mbabazi (alias: Ahmed Mbayo, Dr. Karyaburo), served as the NRM Secretary General from 2005, when the National Delegates Conference of the NRM party elected him with a 70% majority.  His second and final term, which began in 2011 prematurely ended when the NRM announced that he would be taking leave from office.

He has served in government since 1986 in various capacities beginning as Director General of ESO (1986-1992). He held three major ministerial posts as Minister of Security (2006-2011), Minister of Defence (2001-2006) and Attorney General (2004-2005), holding the latter two positions at the same time. This earned him the epithet “Super Minister”. He currently serves as the Member of Parliament for Kinkizi West, a position he has occupied since 1996.

Mbabazi is a graduate of Makerere University and lawyer by profession. He was secretary of the Uganda Law Council (1977-1978) and later a partner in the law firm, Kategaya, Mbabazi and Tumwesigye, Advocates (1981). He was among those that assisted in the drawing up of the fourth constitution of the Republic of Uganda, adopted in 1995.

Birth and Parentage

Amama was born on January 16th, 1949 in Cocezo, Kabale. His father Kezekiah Bagowabo was a livestock farmer who would later go on to become a trader, ferrying his goods from Southwestern Uganda into Kampala. His mother Peres Nyinakabaka was a farmer. They both lived considerably long lives, dying, the ages of approximately 97 and 105 respectively.

After spending much of his childhood as a herd’s boy, Amama began his first formal education experience in 1957 at a church school in Kabale town called Murwere.  He attended this school with Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, the Central Bank Governor and Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, his successor as the Prime Minister of Uganda.

In 1958 he moved on to Kihanga Primary School and thereafter, in 1959, Kigezi High School Lower (Kigugwe) where he spent 6 years not only as a student but an avid singer and member of the school choir.  Amama’s love of athletics began here, too, with a focus on hurdles and later on rugby.

Despite being a strong athlete and having competed at regional levels, he was not permitted to participate in the Commonwealth Games of 1962 in Perth, Australia on account of his young age. Later on whilst at Kigezi High School Upper, he would compete against John Akii-Bua on a national level, coming second place in a race that went on to determine the Ugandan Olympic hurdles representative.

His A-levels were completed at Ntare School (Mbarara), an institution renowned both for its high standard of education and lack of school rules under its Scottish headmaster Mr. Crichton.

Makerere University

Amama joined Makerere University in 1972 where he undertook a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). He joined campus politics almost immediately and supported Olara Otunnu for Guild Presidency during his first year as a student.

During his second year, Amama decided to give the Guild Presidency a go but the Guild was shut down, by consensus of its members, in protest of the brutality of Amin and his government.  After attaining a Bachelor of Laws, he went on to undertake a Bar course at the Law Development Centre (LDC) which he successfully completed in 1976.

Personal Life

Amama married Jacqueline Susan Ruhindi, a first year student in 1974 and moved off campus to live in Kitante courts. They two met whilst Suzan attended Bweranyangi Senior Secondary School in 1969. Amama, together with other students, had gone to Bweranyangi to participate in a play.

In 1972, whilst Jacqueline was doing her A-Levels at Trinity College Nabbingo, Amama formally recruited her into the Liberation Struggle. They would meet again at Makerere University in 1973 when Jacqueline was a first year student (biochemistry) and Amama in his second year of LLB.

They have 6 children and 11 grandchildren.

FRONASA, the National Resistance Movement and Exile

Amama had begun to recruit and coordinate activities for FRONASA (Front for National Salvation) whilst still at Makerere. From 1974 to 1979 he was the Head of the Internal Operations in Front for National Salvation (FRONASA). Throughout the aforementioned period, he linked up with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni whom he would regularly sneak out of the country to meet under the name and identity of Ahmed Mbayo.

In 1979, after the Amin regime was overthrown, Amama worked as the Director of Legal Services in the Uganda National Liberation Army. During this time, he carried out various security duties and operations with fellow UNLA members including the recruitment and military training of NRA combatants in friendly countries. He also established and ran various clandestine study groups.

The emergence of Milton Obote as successor to Idi Amin following a military coup did not bring about the democracy FRONASA had hoped for. On February 5, 1981 Amama led a reconnaissance mission consisting of the late Sam Magara, the late Akanka Byaruhanga and Gen. Jeje Odong, to prepare for the raid of Kabamba Barracks that would give NRA the first 27 guns used to begin a second liberation.

The National Resistance Movement was formed in June 1981 alongside the National Resistance Army (its military wing). The group was an amalgamation of PRA (Popular Resistance Army) led by Yoweri Museveni, Amama and others, and UFF (Uganda Freedom Fighters) led by Professor Yusuf Lule.

Later that year, Amama fled to Nairobi with his wife and four children in an effort to escape the clutches of the Obote regime, where he continued to do the work of coordinating activities for FRONASA under what became known as the External Wing. In 1984 the family moved on to Sweden, returning in 1987 after NRMs ascendance to power.

Fall out with Museveni

Mbabazi and his longtime confidante, Yoweri Museveni  fell out over his perceived presidential ambitions and was eventually sacked as prime minister in September 2014 and removed as NRM secretary general in December. His sacking was interpreted within the Political circles as a move, by President Yoweri Museveni to get rid of a potential rival.

The sacking followed developments at the NRM Caucus in Kyankwanzi in which Party members endorsed Yoweri Museveni as the Party’s Sole Candidate for the Presidency. This decision, which was approved by the NRM National Executive Committee-NEC, needs to be approved by the NRM Delegates Conference.

Mbabazi has been accused by NRM members of privately using the position of Party Secretary General to mobilise support for his own presidential ambitions.

Although Amama Mbabazi himself publicly maintained his support for the president – saying he would not challenge President Museveni as long as he was party leader,  his wife Suzan Mbabazi publicly criticized what later came to be referred to as the ‘Sole Candidature Project’

Other Responsibilities

He has served the NRM as Secretary General and Chairperson of the Historical High Command. He has also served in Government as Prime Minister (2011-2014), Minister of Security (2006-2011), Minister of Defence (2001-2006) and Attorney General (2004-2005).

He has also served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Charge of Regional Cooperation (1997-2001) and Minister of State in the Office of the President in Charge of Political Affairs (1996-1997).

Prior to this, Amama served as Minister of State for Defence (1992-1996), Director General External Security Organization (1986-1992), Director Legal Affairs, Uganda National Liberation Army (1979-1980), State Attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers (1977-1978) and Head of Internal Operations for FRONASA (1974-1979).

He was a Constituent Assembly (CA) Delegate (1994-1995), Chairperson Movement Caucus in the CA (1994-1995), Chairperson Movement Parliamentary Caucus (1996-1997), Chairman of the NRM Manifesto Committee (2005) and Chairman of the NRM Constitutional Committee that drafted the NRM Constitution.

He has been a member of the Uganda Law Society since 1977.

Amama Mbabazi has been awarded the Nalubale Medal and the Kagera Medal for distinguished service in the struggle against Dictatorship in Uganda.


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