The first day of April is usually associated with Fools’ day so news of leaked tapes on that day might have been dismissed as a hoax. However, the tape recordings featuring the Inspector General of Police with various political actors turned out to be a serious issue when more were released beyond Fools’ day.
Most controversial of the recordings was the one featuring, one Alex Kasirivu, an NRM youth mobiliser from Kayunga District, who claimed he had been contacted by Amama Mbabazi’s team to sell his presidential candidature in his area.
After the tapes were leaked many people wondered who Kasirivu is to attract the attention of the IGP, and of all things, to discuss issues relating to the ambitions of the Prime Minister of Uganda.
Kasirivu is a short, light-skinned and small-bodied man. He is more known in Kayunga political circles as a ferocious and outspoken mobiliser for NRM. He is also the district NRM youth league chairperson.
Born in 1979 in Bulanda Village in Masaka District, Kasirivu is by Kayunga standards, an enviable “rich man”. He has a nice car and a decent house. His parents Christopher Salongo and Nalongo Musoke separated when he was young and he was brought up by his peasant mother who lives in Nsotoka village, Kayunga sub-county, Kayunga District.
His mother says her son was a good student and was the only candidate who got a first grade in his primary school in the final exams.
“He was very bright, disciplined and innovative. This made him loved by his teachers and other people,” Musoke says.
After primary, Kasirivu joined Ndeeba SSS in Kayunga District, where he was always among the best five students in his class, his mother says. However, family financial constraints forced him to drop out of school. He was in Senior Three.
The shrewd Kasirivu began trading in coffee beans around his village and at the same time started farming.
It was during this time that he became friends with the former Kayunga District Woman MP Victoria Kakooko Ssebagereka, who introduced Kasirivu to politics.
Ssebagereka hired him to look after her home and cattle in Natteta village, Nazigo sub-county. In 1996, when Ssebagereka was vying for the Woman MP seat, the youthful Kasirivu joined her campaign team.
“Because of his rare good mobilisation skills, I included him on my campaign team and I put him in charge of the youth desk,”
Ssebagereka says, adding, “he did the work excellently and he managed to woo many youths to my side.” Ssebagereka won the election.
It is during those campaigns that Kasirivu established himself as a leader among the youth. This catapulted him to be elected chairperson Kayunga District NRM Youth League in 2005. This position made many friends for Kasirivu within the NRM Party, including Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is now the subject of the leaked tapes.
What others say about him
“Kasirivu is a person who makes friends with big people and also knows how to use the contacts very well for his benefit,” says Joseph Ouma, Kayunga LC 5 vice chairman and the NRM party general secretary. He recalls an incident during the 2011 general elections.
“Kayunga had not yet received funds to facilitate LCs in mobilising voters. We were all stuck in Kampala. Kasirivu made a phone call to Mr Mbabazi who was in Kabale and informed him about the matter. Mr Mbabazi ordered the officials that were charged with giving out the money to immediately give it to us. And we got it that day.”
However, Ouma adds, “The biggest problem he has is that he has greed for money and would do anything to get it.”
Kizza Mutwalibi, the district NRM spokesperson, says that Kasirivu and the premier first met in 2010 when Mbabazi was campaigning for the NRM party secretary general post.
During this meeting, Kasirivu interacted with Mbabazi and also rallied supporters to vote him.
“From that time, Mr Kasirivu started frequenting the Premier’s office. Later, he started telling us that Mbabazi was fit to succeed Museveni as president of Uganda. He would tell us to support him (Mbabazi),” Kizza says.
However, politicking is not all Kasirivu does. He is a property broker. Given the nature of his business, he is always on the go looking for clients to either sell or buy land or houses.
Kasirivu’s neighbours describe him as a friendly young man who is always ready to help.
“He is a generous man. He is a person who can give you money when you have a problem,” Samuel Busuulwa said, adding, “One day he bailed me out when my child had been sent home because of school fees.”
Where he is not popular
While Kasirivu’s work has gained him prominence, some people have not warmed up to him.
Edward Mukasa, a district councillor and a longtime friend of Kasirivu describes him as undependable and untrustworthy. “He cannot keep friends for long,” Mukasa says, explaining that he only involves himself in your matters if he knows that he will benefit from it.
Mutwalibi Kizza, the district NRM spokesperson echoes similar sentiments when he describes Kasirivu as “a person with double standards”. “I was not surprised when I heard Mr Kasirivu say what he was saying about Mbabazi in the police leaked tapes. He was saying all this to get money,” Kizza says.
Kasirivu’s mother however cannot hear any of that. She says, those are false accusations aimed at tarnishing her son’s “good” reputation. “If he was not trustworthy, he would have been arrested and taken to court but I have never heard that my son was involved in any scandal,” Musoke says.
Since the tapes were released
Kasirivu is married to Harriet Namutebi, and they have three children. His home is guarded by plain-cloth security men.
Since the tapes were leaked, Kasirivu’s presence in Bukolooto trading centre, a Kayunga Town suburb where he lives, has been rare.
His wife and mother say they have spent weeks without seeing him.
“I have spent two months without seeing him. This gives me sleepless nights. I have hypertension and diabetes and he is the only person that used to give me money to buy medicine,” Musoke says, “He regularly came to visit me. He would bring me sugar and bread.”
“I last saw my husband three months ago, since then he has never come back home. But I am not worried at all,” Kasirivu’s wife says.
She is, however, reluctant to discuss her husband’s troubles.
“I don’t know why he is not coming back home as he used to,” she says adding that since her husband was heard talking to Gen Kayihura in the leaked tape recordings, many strangers have visited their home.
“Some people come here and just look around our home and drive away while others say they are journalists and when they find me outside the house, they start asking questions about my husband. I am fed up with visitors,” she says furiously as she breastfeeds her baby.
Since the police tapes leaked, Kasirivu’s profile has grown. Many residents in Kayunga who know him spend time discussing how this saga will leave him. Whether it will ruin his career or catapult him to success, only time will tell.