On Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni was photographed in Parliament receiving a phone call using a Nokia 1100 locally known as “Ka-torch”.
The 1100 features a built-in flashlight, activated by pressing and holding the C key once, or by pressing it twice to lock it on when the keypad is unlocked or via a menu item.
Perhaps that is how one of the very first and most famous “ka-torches” got its name in Uganda.
Launched in late 2003, the Nokia 1100 became the world’s best-selling phone handset and the best-selling consumer electronics device in the world at the time.
It was designed at Nokia Design Center in California, and patented for the US by the Bulgarian-American designer Dimitre Mehandjiysky.
Museveni who spent Shs1bn to buy Members of Parliament the latest iPads, carries a phone that costs $23.90 on eBay [about Shs80,560].
Why the cheap phone
Call him old-fashioned, but we are told it is a security tactic.
“Security…,” a senior intelligence official told us when contacted on why Museveni carries a cheap phone.
“One can be located easily by following smart phones…but not that one [ka-torch].”
The ka-torch was specifically designed for developing countries: its keypad and front face have been designed to be as dustproof as possible and its sides are non-slip for humid weather [no harmful emissions].
It provides the best option for those who would wish to tap phone calls or hack into one’s social media.
“It is the only phone the president has,” the official said.
Nicknamed Great Lakes Region Security guru, Gen Museveni along with the Nokia phone also carries a Kalashnikov selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle aka AK-47.
Mikhail Kalashnikov developed the AK-47 in the Soviet Union during the last year of World War II (1945).
The AK has excellent penetration when shooting through heavy foliage, walls or a common vehicle’s metal body and into an opponent attempting to use these things as cover.
The AK-47’s accuracy has always been considered to be “good enough” to hit an adult male torso out to about 300 m (328 yards).
All current model AKM rifles can mount under-barrel 40mm grenade launchers such as the GP-25 and its variants, which can fire up to 20 rounds per minute and have an effective range of up to 400 metres.
Its standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds and allows focusing adjustments while in the field.
Museveni, a self-taught General has been carrying his AK-47 [famously known as Rwitabagomi-the one that kills or tames pig-headed troublemakers] for 50 years now.
Speaking in parliament, the president said he has been involved in liberation struggles for the same number of years .
“He has an AK-47 rifle that he carries whenever he is going for walks in the bushy Rwakitura [his country home] or Kisozi [where he has a farm]”
“He loves the vastness of bushes not cities,” the official said.
The AK-47 is the same gun Museveni used to launch the Luweero Triangle guerrilla struggle that helped him capture power.
He carries this gun everywhere
While addressing security personnel at Kololo this month, Museveni said he carries his gun all the time because he is security conscious and alert.
“If you cause trouble, I am ready for you,” he said.
Indeed in March 2010, when everyone was either holding a spade or a wreath [symbolic of mourning], Museveni showed up in landslide-stricken areas of Bududa in army fatigues and carrying an AK-47 rifle.
Then Daily Monitor editor, Daniel Kalinaki, commented: “The real reason is probably pragmatic; that the Presidential Guard Brigade didn’t have the time to deploy fully in the area before the visit and that the President chose not to leave anything to chance and carried his rifle on him. Nevertheless, the symbolism of the President’s rifle packs a potent political message.”
Critics even made jokes wondering whether the president intended to shoot “dead” landslides.
In February 2014, Museveni in full army uniform and carrying a gun led NRM legislators on a five-kilometre walk through the Presidential farm in Ngoma, Nakaseke District.
In March 2016, Museveni exhibited his expertise, tactics and skill at a shooting range exercise in Kyankwanzi while explain to MPs the importance of being “steady and calm as you aim and perfectly hit the target”.
In April 2016, Museveni entered the volatile Rwenzori region carrying his AK-47 to assess security in the area that has been traumatized by tribal clashes.
“We can’t entertain banditry and we can’t negotiate with bandits. They either come out or we shall get them out of their hide outs,” Museveni said.