When David Bahati fronted the Anti Gay Bill in Parliament last year, he caused uproar both at home and abroad that has seen him propelled into the limelight. Behind the vocal legislator however, is a dedicated family man with humble beginnings, writes Mike Ssegawa
When the name David Bahati is mentioned, most people think of the legislator who wants homosexuals dead. To them, Bahati is a “blood-thirsty gay hater” who would stop at nothing to see his ambition realised!
This is a picture the western media has painted of the Ndorwa West MP because the Homosexuality Bill he fronted calls for a death penalty for gays who lure the underage into the vice or infect one with HIV/Aids.
It is because of Bahati that President Yoweri Museveni is under fire from western powers – most pronounced being US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whom the president confesses called him in person asking him to do something about stopping the bill.
Before this gay thing, Bahati was an ordinary MP, overlooked by most because he was not the flamboyant type of politician who turns heads wherever they go. When he tabled the Bill, he shot to international prominence overnight – winning admirers and haters in equal numbers.
Bahati has lived the best and worst of what life could offer. Orphaned at three, the story of the legislator, now baptised the most homophobic person on the planet by the western media, is what Barack Obama would call a true example of the audacity of hope.
Young Bahati lived off selling banana leaves, cigarettes and ferrying food stuffs at the market in Kabale to raise his school fees. When he lost his grandmother, the only person who looked after him, his world crashed – but because he says he is resilient and determined, he confesses to living with the hope that tomorrow would be better.
At the time his grandmother died, he was in P.6 at Kakomo Primary School and knew that staying in school would be his key to a better world. Doing manual jobs and petty trade around Kabale, Bahati made it to Kigezi High School, one of the best schools in the western region and later, joined Makerere University on government sponsorship, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
Now Ndorwa West MP, Hon Bahati holds an MBA from Cardiff University in the UK and has a home in Konge, a posh residential area in Kampala. He is a businessman and chartered accountant; no mean feats for a man who says he grew up without a career aspiration in mind.
“I have a humble background and owe everything I am today to the community that brought me up – I am a testimony to what one can become when they focus on being useful in life,” said the unassuming legislator when I caught up with him at Sheraton Hotel’s Kidepo Health Centre, where he does his fitness exercises.
It is not difficult to see humility and people-centredness in Bahati. When I met him for the first time, we sat down and joked about his political life and how he would be trounced by gays if he did not watch his back. He told me he got into politics in 2006 as a way of giving back to the community, which gave so much to him. He had never seen himself as a politician and describes himself as a community worker. Without airs of self importance, Bahati impresses at first sight.
During the interview, my photographer had other commitments and wanted an extra shot of the honourable jogging in the Kidepo Health Centre, and he obliged. Minutes later, he returned in shorts and told me he had been into athletics when younger but exercises in health clubs to keep him in shape because he now has less time on his hands.
Reunited with his siblings
Though deprived of a coherent family in his early years, the 36-year-old legislator says he has a family that is much together. With three children, the youngest of whom is only five months old, Bahati does not want them to experience what he went through as a child. He keeps in touch with his four siblings and opens up to tell me that it was not until he was in secondary school that he saw them for the first time since their parents passed on. The siblings were separated after their parents’ death – Bahati was three years old – and taken on by different relatives each.
After many years, one day during the holidays, he went to the market to ferry food stuffs as usual to raise his school fees and a lady asked him to carry her items.
“As we walked out of Kabale Market, she asked me whether I knew the late David Kasisiri. That was my late father’s name. I regarded her question as an intrusion in my private life and was not interested in listening to her.
But she insisted. ‘You resemble Kasisiri’s family. Are you his son?’ I nodded in the affirmative. ‘Do you know his daughter called Grace?’ she insisted. I nodded yes. ‘I am Grace,’ she said. Bahati could not believe his ears. It was a chance meeting under mysterious circumstances. Grace told him she was a maid for a prosperous man, Munubi – who lived in Kanungu but had another home in Kabale and had brought his family over for the holidays.