There are about thirty-six master’s degrees, two dozen PhD holders and over a dozen postdoctoral academics in Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s successive cabinets.
These scholars span the fields of sociology, medicine, political science, law, aeronautics, architecture and economics, to name a few. You cannot scale these heights of the ivory tower without years of rigorous endeavour in the form of extensive publishing, teaching, invention and/or innovation.
Yet, with a few exceptions like Samson Kisekka, Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere, James Batwala, Apollo Nsibambi and Kizza Besigye—all of whom disagreed with their erstwhile boss Museveni at some stage in their public service careers—many of Uganda’s distinguished sons and daughters have had their hard-earned names destroyed because of accepting appointments in the ruling junta.
Former Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya holds a First Class Honours Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University, a Master of Laws degree and is a Doctor of Juridical Science—having qualified for both from Yale Law School in the United States in the 70s.
Dr. Makubuya stunned the country when, as Attorney General, he rendered a legal opinion to the effect that Dr. Besigye could not be nominated while in (illegal) detention for the 2006 presidential race in part because he was half guilty and half innocent! It was a junior lawyer at the Electoral Commission whose fidelity to the law got Besigye onto the ballot.
Former Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s CV features Makerere University School of Medicine, the Royal Institute of Public Health in London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK and the University of Queensland in Australia. He is a Professor of Medicine and was Dean of the School of Medicine at Makerere between 1994 and 1996.
Prof. Bukenya infamously locked horns with Museveni’s in-law and foreign affairs minister, Sam Kutesa, over a contract to supply motor vehicles for the CHOGM hosted by Kampala in 2007. And that is the lesser of his rather colourful scandals.
In the 90s decade, there was (and remains) only one answer to the primary school examination question about who the first female Vice President of Uganda and in Africa was: Dr Specioza Wandira.
Like Bukenya, she studied human medicine at Makerere University. VP Specioza later specialized in General Surgery and in 2009, Harvard University’s School of Public Health awarded her an honourary degree of Doctor of Science.
The people’s bae, Wandira, got embroiled in a two and a half billion shillings heist in 2003 that decimated her reputation and has since lived in relative oblivion.
Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere is a sociologist with about the highest attainable achievements in that field. He has authored several books whose contents are a direct contradiction of his political affiliation, public arguments and conduct. Some titles include People’s Choice—People’s Power: Challenges and Prospects of Democracy in Uganda (published in 2000), Making Elected Leaders Accountable (published in 1998) and the popular Politics of State Formation and Destruction in Uganda (with two editions, 1974 and 1995). LOL!
Notwithstanding this pedigree, the septuagenarian routinely appears in public forums to debate with his grandchildren and defend the very things he lectured against. Someone should ask him whether he still wants his books on the reading lists of universities worldwide.
Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile holds a Doctor of Economics degree from the University of Dar es Salaam and an honourary Doctor of Philosophy from Nkumba University. He is an alumnus of Balliol College, Oxford, and has taught at several universities.
His career is indelibly tainted with the frustration and eventual closure of seven indigenous banks under questionable circumstances, at least going by recent revelations made by his colleague, Dr Ezra Suruma, with whom they unleashed the neoliberal dragon onto the Ugandan economy and destroyed agricultural cooperatives.
The last decade has seen the hitherto sparkling image of the Central Bank damaged by a succession of scams under Mutebile’s leadership (or lack thereof).
Current State Minister for Housing, Chris Baryomunsi, is a medical doctor and holds a Master of Arts in demography. Both qualifications are from Makerere. He also boasts a postgraduate diploma in HIV/AIDS Management from the University of Brighton. Baryomunsi is a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health from Atlantic International University in the US.
In 2012, he was thrust into the spotlight when he was arrested and harassed by law enforcement for his role in the inquest into the suspicious death of youthful legislator Cerinah Nebanda. His stance endeared him to an outraged public which did not believe the government narrative.
He came off as as an impartial and uncompromisable professional who would give Ugandans closure by getting to the bottom of the legislator’s death.
Among other decisions that have worked against the interests of Ugandans, Baryomunsi was at the frontline of mutilating the 1995 Constitution to remove the presidential age limit, thereby paving the way for Museveni to leave State House in a body bag whenever the gods decide for the inevitable to happen.
Several other distinguished intellectuals have had unenviable ends to their careers, but the foregoing examples, I hope, will help me answer the question I set in my title.
Health minister Dr. Ruth Jane Aceng holds two master’s degrees: one in Paediatrics, another in Public Health. Over the past quarter, the surgeon has led the country’s medical workforce in combat against the novel coronavirus. In the shark-infested and turbulent waters of public office, the Nabisunsa Old Girl kept the ship afloat, or so it seemed.
Suddenly, she steered away from the navigation route she set for the country and headed for the rocks and icebergs.
After quarantining hundreds, demonstrating the use of masks, washing hands and repeatedly advocating social distancing for weeks, Aceng forgot the Hippocratic Oath and went about canvassing for votes in Lira where she was photographed, surrounded by a crowd without a mask and with no pretensions about keeping a distance from others.
Like the great women and men before her, Aceng has abused the public trust, betrayed her education and pedigree…and earned herself a star in NRA’s Hall of Infamy.
It would appear that the Ssaabalwanyi has a poisoned cup from which these eminent citizens drink and cannot recover.
But with these “role models”, what now shall we say to children about the value of education?