Wednesday January 8 2014

Tim Lwanga: I am one of the few clean politicians

Tim Lwanga

Tim Lwanga 

Tim Lwanga needs no introduction. He is a seasoned politician but unlike your conventional politician, he says he is one of the very few clean and incorruptible ones.

Lwanga dares anyone to list 10 politicians with untainted profiles and images, saying he comes up among the top.
That is the confidence with which he shreds fellow legislators for what he describes as perpetual commercialisation of politics, calling them mediocre and cheap.

He explains, “I think sometimes MPs today lack seriousness and think politics is a commercial venture. Politics is not a commercial venture. Today, we are talking about fighting corruption but MPs themselves are corrupt.”
Away from the politics, Lwanga is an amiable person, always seemingly full of life.

Lwanga loves music and is not your usual A-class reveller who will only nod to a good song; he will express his excitement with a wide smile, a hi-five with friends or even try out some dance strokes.

“I like dancing like mad,” he confirms. He is a happy 65-year-old, who lives his life to the fullest. The legislator says many people have thought him a liar when he opens up about his age but he says he has always been fit and he takes good care of himself.

Keeping fit
While his contemporaries recline in a chair after a day’s work, he will be at Kampala Sheraton Hotel’s health club, sweating as he works out.
“I am one of the oldest members of Sheraton’s health club. I have been working out there since 1989,” he states in a matter-of-fact tone.
A sunny Saturday afternoon is when he agrees to my request for an interview. He is at Magic Parking, just next to Christ the King Church, along Colville Street.
In khaki trousers, T-Shirt, sneakers and a cap, he is dressed appropriately for a Saturday when all he does is sit around to chat with friends.

Later on he enjoys lunch, steamed matooke, sweet potatoes, yams and fresh fish. He is in no hurry or under no pressure so he enjoys the meal at leisure. Later, he takes some tea. This is how perfectly slow the day is for him.
When your writer compliments him about keeping a well-cared for car, he offers him a ride to one of his houses in Kololo, a lavish home he rents out. This is something he is not comfortable talking about for fear of being called a braggart. He has more of the same in the same neighbourhood and other Kampala suburbs. Real estate, he says, is something he describes as a “good investment”. He has a home in Bugolobi that sits on a few acres, complete with a fully-equipped gym.
“I do not stay there anymore. I have since bought another house which my wife says is more homely. I agree because it is quiet,” he says. This particular home is in the neighbourhood of high profile people.

This he says as he tests the speed-merchant in him on the Northern By-pass. “I love speed. My cars are stable and firm on the road,” he says, smiling after realising I am fastening my seatbelt. Lwanga loves German cars and he is devoted to Benzes and Jaguars.
He says, “I like good things.” Indeed he does because the interior of his Benz despite being a UAK series smells and looks new. He drives with the air conditioning on to keep out the dust. It is spotlessly clean and in sound condition. His other car, a jaguar, receives the same care.
Lwanga says he is a God-fearing person. In the three hours or so we spend together interjections of “God willing,” come naturally. He is a Christian who says he prays at almost every church.

He brings the reality to the statement “age is just but a number” with his signature teenage, hearty laughter.
“I would think I am a kind person, sometimes too generous,” he adds about his character traits. I prod him on this. The legislator reveals that he has looked after people who he even doesn’t know. “I used to pay school fees for about 60 children even before I joined politics,” he adds.

He has also taken on the responsibility of looking after children of friends, like the children of the late Maj Patrick Kiggundu, who died in a plane crash with John Garang.
“I looked after them, I steered them, made sure they had a house, made sure that their money was not squandered, made sure that they go to school and stay at school. Now the youngest daughter is a university student. She is basically my daughter,” he explains.

This attests to the family man that Lwanga is. “Biologically I have four children but between my wife and I, we have five. I love my kids very much,” he adds. He has raised the children with his wife Florence. His children are all daughters and so I ask him whether he feels bad about not having a son.
“Not yet, maybe in the future. I like my children very much and of course the children give you a reason to live and work,” he notes.

Royal lineage
Lwanga is pretty much an open book. Among the many things he shares about is his family lineage. Mutekanga is his other name and he hails from the royal lineage.
His father Wilton Lwanga was a great grandson of Ssekabaka (former king of Buganda) Nakibinge Kagali.
“We are the sons of the grandchildren of Kayizi Kaganda, the first born of Nakibinge. And that is our relationship with the royal family.”

Being a royal comes with many things. Admittedly, Lwanga says he was a very spoilt child. “I was the last son of my dad and I was very spoilt by my aunts and father. If you touched me he would kill you,” he recounts.

He also adds, “Well, one of my jajjas (grannies) was a Katikiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda. He was called Paul Kavuma.”
I am curious to learn about how a chartered accountant (he studied Accounting at Makerere University) ended up as a politician, an occupation he took on at 19, in 1971.
He was a student at Makerere University where, he says, Ruhakana Rugunda recruited him into politics. Rugunda went on to campaign for him to become a member of the university guild which became his political office.

“That was Rugunda for you. He initiated me into it and I have stayed in it ever since. I was part of the young people of Makerere. We were trying, in a stupid way, to overthrow Amin because we were very naïve,” he says with a smile.
This was a daring project to undertake but Lwanga says they tried nonetheless.

“We pointed out Amin’s mistakes. It had people like Rugunda, who had been the chairman of National Union of Students of Uganda (Nusu) Olara Otunnu who was the guild president, Tumusime-Mutebile, Justice Jotham Tumwesigye, Jack Sabiiti, Elly Karuhanga, Sam Kuteesa, Amama Mbabazi and Gen Kahinda Otafiire. We were focused people. Later on I got to know Yoweri Museveni again,” he explains.
Lwanga says he had initially met Museveni in 1969. “I was in Senior Five (S5) at Nyakasura School. That is when I first heard about Museveni but the man we knew then was Rugunda. As a president of Nusu, he was important. He has kept his cool till today,” he adds.

Lwanga describes Rugunda as a very reliable person, a man of his word. He adds, “If he won’t tell you, he won’t tell you. If he tells you, he means his word.”
But what inspired a young man like Lwanga, barely out of his teens, to join politics at a time when Idi Amin was not the most tolerant leader?

Fighting Idi Amin
“It was fashionable. We were young and we wanted to be recognised and also to focus. We had to resist the Amin regime in one way or another,” the seasoned politician explains.
Soon he realised Uganda was not very accommodative given the political climate at the time. In 1976 he left and only returned in 1988 but says he always kept abreast with what was happening.

“You see, after 1979, people came in and thought that was it but things didn’t work out and they had to leave again and those that had been fighting needed things in Kenya. I was at the border and I was very helpful to them. I was part of the struggle,” he narrates.

I ask him what his role was. “I was part of the external wing because I did not go to the bush. Initially, I was in Nairobi then eventually I went to England where I linked up with people like Wasswa Lule. People like Prof George Kanyeihamba were key in convincing the British government that we had a cause,” he explains.

He adds, “But I was in contact with those in bush because my young brother Andrew Lutaaya was in the bush with Museveni. In Nairobi I was in touch with people like Matthew Rukikaire, Tarsis Kabwegyere and Eriya Kategaya.”
These contributed in, among other ways, financially and in terms of publicity. Lwanga says that people did not understand what was going on in Uganda so it had to be explained.

“And of course eventually people realised that there was a real problem in Uganda. For a long time, people thought what was going on in Uganda was a small civil war which could be handled by Milton Obote. Eventually, they realised that there was a fascist here who did not want to be removed. The idea was for people to take the movement serious,” the politician stresses.
Our time is up and I have to take leave. I am thankful that he spared time for the interview but believe he has more stories to tell, stories which I hope he will share sooner than later.