Kampala- President Museveni, 71, a former rebel commander, whose nascent National Resistance Army (NRA) toppled the military government of Gen Tito Okello 30 years ago, was sworn in on January 29, 1986, as the 9th president of Uganda.
The inaugural ceremony, witnessed by thousands of jubilant citizens, was held on the steps of the Parliament building, where “Mzee Museveni” as he was christened in the bush, made the now famous statement. “This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental change.”
While it is a tradition to have prayers at national functions, on the day Mr Museveni was sworn in, Daily Monitor reported last year that no prayers were conducted in spite of the presence of clerics from different faiths. It’s not clear why Mr Museveni held the Bible at his inaugural ceremony without prayers.
The installation of the 40-year- rebel commander who wore jungle-green military fatigues was presided over by then Chief Justice Peter Allen assisted by a judicial officer.
Justice Allen served until 1988 when Mr Museveni’s government refused to renew his contract. He was born in Leicester, England, in 1929 and was knighted in 1987. He retired to Cayman where he serves as a member of the Cayman Islands anti-corruption commission.
Who is in the photo?
In the famous photograph by William Campbell, a former Time Magazine photojournalist, Mr Museveni is flanked by current Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire to his right and Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, now the Minister for Information to his left.
In the same photo, Maj Robert Kabuura (RIP) and Maj Tumusiime Koozi (RIP) were standing between Gen Otafiire and President Museveni. The two were part of the original Presidential Protection Unit. On the extreme right was Capt Katuuku (RIP) who completed part of the Museveni guards inner circle.
Gen Otafiire is not just any Cabinet minister. The general was part of Mr Museveni’s FRONASA movement that started in the 1970s. Gen Otafiire was a key political commissar in the NRA Bush War while Gen Muhwezi was an intelligence officer.
President Museveni’s brother, Salim Saleh (born Caleb Akandwanaho, the commander of NRA Mobile Battalion, aka, Rufu (which means death in Runyankore, as was popularly called by his peers in the bush) is not in the picture because he did not go where other dignitaries were seated for security reasons.
He instead opted to stand aside near the crowd about 15 metres on the left side from the main gate of Parliament.
Gen Saleh served as minister of state for Microfinance from 2006 to 2008. Currently, he is a presidential advisor on Defence and heads the Operation Wealth Creation project.
Former Democratic Party leader Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, who had been minister for Internal Affairs during the Tito Okello regime, also attended Mr Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony.
Former president Godfrey Binaisa and Abraham Waliggo – a prime minister during Tito Okello’s regime and many other officials, who had served in the Obote and Tito regimes, also attended.
Dr Ssemogerere first served as Internal Affairs minister before moving on to the Foreign Affairs docket in the NRM government. After eight years, he resigned and contested for the presidency in 1996.
Mr Museveni said democracy was “the right of the people of Africa’’ and that government must not be ‘’the masters but the servers of the population.’’
To the cheering crowd, he promised that democracy would be built from the ground up, and cautioned against misuse of authority:
“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular, is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power,” he said.
However, in the last 30 years of his rule, Mr Museveni has been sworn in as president five times. And if he wins next month’s election, it will be his sixth time, making him one of the longest- serving leaders in the world.