Mr David Obal, President Museveni’s senior aide in-charge of youth affairs, and Ms Daisry Mathias, Namibian President Hage Geingob’s advisor on youth matters and enterprise development. Photo / Courtesy


How Museveni birthed a pan-African romance

What you need to know:

  • Mr Obal and Ms Mathias were not only brought together by working on youth issues but also their leaders’ ideologies that sowed the seeds of an intimate connection. 

The combination of a Ugandan groom, a Namibian bride, a Ghanaian bestman and a Nigerian pastor will on January 21, 2023, grace Namibia’s capital and bustling metropolis of Windhoek with a pan-African wedding.
The particulars are straightforward enough: The groom is Mr David Obal, Ugandan President Museveni’s senior aide in-charge of youth affairs, the bride is Ms Daisry Mathias, Namibian President Hage Geingob’s advisor on youth matters and enterprise development, and the best man is Mr Jake Bediako, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo’s coordinator for youth engagement and strategy.

Just last year, Mr Obal, 25, was recovering from a bruising election defeat at hands of the current government Chief Whip, Hamson Obua in Alebtong’s Ajuri constituency when the President sat him down for a chat. The leader, always keen to tap post-election synergies, subsequently appointed Mr Obal his aide in-charge of youth affairs with a key mandate to devise strategies for engagement with such a key segment.

As soon as he had clarity of purpose, that February, Mr Obal was dispatched on a continental tour with a view of understanding youth policies in other African countries. This saw him go from east to west of the continent, central and to the south. By his admission, this benchmarking activity that included visits to Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Namibia, among others, disabused him of some long-held perceptions about youth structures that exist in his motherland. 

“As far as representation in Parliament is concerned, Uganda is the only country on the continent that has a Constitution that provides for at least five members of Parliament who represent only the interests of young people,” Mr Obal said in a December 17 telephone interview, adding: “Majority of countries on the continent don’t even have a national youth council and the few that have, members are just appointed. But in Uganda we have elections right from the village level.” 
Mr Obal also learnt something very perplexing for a freshly-minted disciple—his boss, long among poster-children of presidential longevity in Africa, was viewed quite negatively out there that the anti-Museveni sentiment he encountered became his main concern.  To this end, Mr Obal identified an opportunity and lobbied to host a youth symposium for African Peer Review Mechanism aiming to use the opportunity to have the President engage continental young delegates directly.

Match made in Munyonyo
For that July event at Kampala’s Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo, Mr Museveni, a regional geo-strategy kingpin, skipped a major security meeting in Angola. In his address, he crystallised the continent’s youth agenda as one that should aim for the prosperity of Africa through unity, a factor he asserted ought to be driven by ideology as opposed to biology. 
“One cannot simply go around hiding behind being a youth because of age without an ideological position. Some youth are confused. For example, confused youthful Pharisees killed Jesus—a fellow youth,” Mr Museveni said, also citing Idi Amin as having been a youth “when we were fighting him for his terrible ideas.”

While President Museveni was delivering the speech, Mr Obal was laying his own path to continental union. For at this same event, Ms Mathias—the bride-to-be—was introduced to her future mother-in-law, Ms Rebecca Amuge Otengo—Uganda’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union. Ms Amuge Otengo instinctively referred to Ms Mathias as “daughter.”
Mr Obal and Ms Mathias were not only brought together by the opportunity of working on youth issues at the highest level on the continent but also their leaders’ ideologies that sowed the seeds of an intimate connection. 
Namibia and Uganda boast of fraternal relations, drawing from the era of liberation struggles on the continent. Mr Geingob, much like Mr Museveni, is a staunch advocate of African integration and the two nations have been working to conclude bilateral cooperation agreements on tourism, education, agriculture and immigration. 

A soft spot
Thanks to the influence of their top leadership, Mr Obal and Ms Mathias found themselves inclined towards each other professionally. And then a soft spot emerged when the former caught Covid-19 in January. He found care and support in Ms Mathias even as she was thousands of miles away. And when Ms Mathias lost her younger brother in a tragic accident in March, Mr Obal was there to offer emotional support.

More things emerged to unite them. Mr Obal, a lawyer, interested Ms Mathias in legal theories so much so that the seasoned business and marketing guru enrolled for a law degree, something that must be a source of joy for her father—Hosea Angula, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Namibia. 
For her part, Ms Mathias, a granddaughter of Bishop Emeritus Kleopas Hafeni Dumeni of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Namibia, redeemed Mr Obal’s faith by introducing the man, who had skipped worship for three years, to her church. Also, their differences became their strength, according to Mr Bediako, the best man. 

“Daniel and Mathias are very different individuals yet their strengths complement each other so well and they have been such good friends to me in different capacities,” Mr Bediako told this publication in a WhatsApp audio message on December 19. 
He added: “Daniel is the strong go-getter, gives you good advice, gives you the energy you need to push through and push forward and Mathias is the level-headed, calm, calculated in terms of giving sound advice and leading with compassion and integrity and with authenticity.”

On bended knee
A few days after the Kampala symposium, Mr Obal bought an 18-carat gold ring and stashed it into his briefcase—waiting for his moment. It finally landed on November 9 in the South African port city of Durban where they got engaged. The two will walk down the aisle at Windhoek’s Life Changing Christian Church where Nigerian-born Pastor Isaac Onwordi preaches that “for every destiny, there is a character that must power it.”  
And such is the character of Ms Mathias that she has been worshiping at this same church for 11 years and now begins her journey of marriage with Mr Obal there—the latter having chosen the same to honour his fiancé’s commitment and service.

And while friends and colleagues, like Ms Iris Nzolantima, President Félix Tshisekedi’s (from the DR Congo) youth mentorship programme coordinator, have suggested the wedding is a must-attend for the Namibian, the Ugandan and the Congolese presidents if not for old time’s sake then to demonstrate support to the youth movement, Mr Obal and Mr Mathias—long accustomed to state protocols—know that it could take a miracle given the short window they have offered themselves to organise their wedding. 
Even then, to them, it’s the occasion above everything else. “Truth is we couldn’t wait. We wanted to enter this fully with God’s backing, so we had to get the earliest date,” revealed Mr Obal.

Important event
Yet the significance of this event to the youth camaraderie across the continent is underscored by social media commentary from all over Africa, but also the best man himself.
“The relationship I have been able to build with them individually makes me very honoured to stand at their side as they take this step and to support them because I know what it means,” said Mr Bediako, adding: “This is a pan-African marriage and we’ve been working in a pan-African context so much that it means so much for the future of this continent and the future of our generation and the generations to come.”

There is a strong belief, at least with Mr Bediako, that the relationship will give pan-Africanism a much-needed spring in its step.
“Powerful relationships like these are going to move the cause of the continent forward,” Mr Bediako concluded.