President Museveni loves his gun-AK47 so much that he christened it – Rwitabagomi: the weapon that tames unruly people. It is this gun that he used to launch the guerrilla struggle.
It is said, the AK47 is oiled every day by his convoy commanders and placed within arm’s reach when moves out.
In 2014, President Museveni told members of the ruling NRM’s parliamentary caucus that he is a “war general, not a classroom general who can’t be dislodged with ease. Those who think they can dislodge me like that are mistaken -Daily Monitor reported on February 13th 2014.
During the Bududa landslides in 2010, Museveni shocked mourners when he appeared in army uniform with a rifle slung on his back. It was an unusual sight for the president of a democratic nation to be seen armed in public. The event drew wide attention, with international news agencies and TV news anchors noting the president’s “odd” decision to turn out at the scene with an “automatic rifle.”
Origin of Museveni’s love for the gun
While at University of Dar es Salaam, he came under the influence of radical left wing scholars of the time including Walter Rodney, author of the influential book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
In September 1968, during his second year at the university, Mr Museveni and other students visited the military camps of the Mozambican Frelimo fighters, a trip that would have a lasting impression on him as a student, future rebel leader, politician and statesman.
According to Uganda Radio Network, One particular lesson Mr Museveni picked from the Frelimo areas, in Nagade District of Cabo Delgado Province in North-Eastern Mozambique was the use of the gun to address political questions.
In 1969, while speaking at Makerere University at a seminar on African liberation, Mr Museveni argued that war was the highest form of political struggle for liberation and could only be fought by fighters who understood politics, not by politically neutral soldiers.
He argued that Franz Fanon in his book – The Wretched of the Earth – advocated violence in order to bring about total and authentic decolonisation of Africa. War would soon define his path as he sought to apply his political ideas, especially between 1971 and 1986.
Mr Museveni graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in March 1970 and briefly secured a job as a researcher in the office of President Milton Obote.
Soon, however, he mobilised for war, first as leader of Front for National Salvation (Fronasa) between 1971 and 1979 against President Idi Amin Dada who had overthrown Obote and then as leader of the National Resistance Army that captured power in January 1986 after five years of war. Thirty one years later, Mr Museveni has since supported armed struggles [ to bring about peace] in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Somalia.
Why Museveni and gun are inseparable
During early years of guerrilla activities, Mr Museveni escaped numerous assassination attempts.
One of the most dramatic efforts to kill the rebel leader occurred in Mbale village in eastern
The late Idi Amin’s soldiers nearly killed Mr. Museveni in early days of rebellion.. The incident is described in vivid detail in Mr Museveni’s autobiography, Sowing the Mustard Seed.
“I and my fellow guerrillas, Martin Mwesiga and Wukwu ‘Kazimoto’ Mpima travelled to Mbale to join (a group of guerrillas) without knowing that (our) presence had been detected.
We drove up to the house in Busiu and found it had been deserted. As we were driving away, we saw a suspicious-looking Peugeot 404 coming out of a nearby road but we continued on our way to Mbale. When we got near Mbale town, the same Peugeot pulled up alongside our car for a few seconds and then drove on.
Our host Maumbe Mukhwana was not at home but his wife was. She said he would arrive soon and that we should wait for him. We weighed up whether we should go straight back to Kampala and decided we should wait for Maumbe.
At around 5.00pm, we saw a contingent of about 15 military policemen coming through the estate. We sent someone outside to find out what they were after. Our messenger came back saying that they were looking for a thief.
“I wanted to open fire on them because I was not convinced that they would use 15 military policemen just to look for a thief. Mwesiga, however, dissuaded me, arguing that, firstly, we had student identity cards and secondly, we had been told they were looking for a thief, and thirdly, we were in a house with women and children whom we should not endanger.
We had left all our SMGs (submachine guns) locked up in the car outside. If the assumption that they were not looking for us was incorrect, then we were in a very vulnerable position indeed. Our consultation lasted barely two minutes before Amin’s people were upon us.
“They surrounded the house in a very unprofessional manner, without cocking their guns. They only asked one question, regarding our identity. We said we were students and, straightaway, they told us to get into our vehicle and drive with them to the barracks. That convinced me, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the time to act was then.
I had the car keys and one of the soldiers, poking a rifle into my side, told me to open and enter the car. Taking them by surprise, I jumped over the hedge, hoping that my colleagues would follow my example and scatter in different directions. At that time I did not realise that they had not done so.
“I ran towards a eucalyptus forest below the housing estate. The people in the housing estate, seeing me running pursued by soldiers, thought I was a thief and tried to intercept me, but I brandished my pistol and scared them away as I ran.
Meanwhile, the soldiers following me started firing, but it is not easy to hit a moving target, especially for the incapable, badly trained soldiers of Amin’s army. (They) kept on firing at me and missing. I reached a big tree, took cover and fired on my pursuers with my pistol and scared them away as I ran.
These were soldiers accustomed to shooting at unarmed members of the public. They were not used to answering fire with fire. (Later I learnt) Martin Mwesiga and Wukwu ‘Kazimoto’ had been killed.
Since then the gun is always to close to Mr. Museveni.
To this day, Mr Museveni often returns to his roots as a soldier when he is confronted with a challenge to his authority. He has been known to dress in military fatigues to meetings with people he perceives as challenging his authority.