THE HENRY MUSASIZI LIFE STORY & WHAT MAKES HIM TICK FOR FINANCE DOCKET
By John V Sserwaniko
Henry Musasizi (aged 40) has been MP for Rubanda West (Kigezi) since 2011. A man of many firsts, the very unassuming Musasizi took over after Perez Ahabwe who he decisively defeated in that year’s elections during which then powerful Minister Hope Mwesigye, who was Ahabwe’s protector in the politics of Greater Kabale, also fell. The politics of camps in that part of the country saw members of the Shem Bageine camp triumph at the expense of those who were loyal to Hope Mwesigye who then key power broker Amama Mbabazi had been preparing to become Speaker of Parliament ahead of Rebecca Kadaga.
On his party, Musasizi, who had graduated from the Makerere/Mubs BCOM class only 3 years earlier, was an integral part of the anti-Hope Mwesigye squad. He had previously served as s key youth campaigner for Shem Bageine who mentored him and reciprocated by throwing his full weight behind him during the 2011 race. We call him man of many firsts because Musasizi was the first to win Rubanda East MP Seat at his first attempt and January this year made history being the first to get reelected for a 3rd consecutive time.
As of 2011 Rubanda East, as a constituency, had such a rich history voters wouldn’t withstand the mediocrity Ahabwe epitomized. Great leaders had served there before as MPs including Prof GW Kanyeihamba (up to dissolution of NRC in 1996) and Dr. Abel Rwandeire who in 2003 landed a UN job and was replaced by Ahabwe in the subsequent by-election. As of 2011, Ahabwe had served for 8 years (since 2003) and had subsequently become a State Minister for Local Government.
Overlooking bread and butter issues, Ahabwe (leveraging on his position in Local Govt Ministry) had spearheaded the creation of Hamurwa Town Council and Nyamweru Sub County which he considered good enough to merit reelection yet voters wanted tangible service delivery. “As Minister he was very proud and would tell voters that is not my work. His message didn’t connect with the voters who wanted tangible things beyond just creating a Sub County and elevating a Town Council. Musasizi, a Catholic who had been vocal in previous campaigns for the likes of Shem Bageine, capitalized on such poor messaging and told voters he would be an MP who roofs churches, buys cement to build churches, contributes hardware materials and fuels graders for road construction. He also told people he would contribute towards buying beds and solar panels to service the health centers which had been put in place by the government in Kampala,” says a former Ahabwe campaigner adding that their opponent Musasizi’s revolutionary messaging found willing ears among voters and opinion leaders in the community.
Having grown through the 1990s when Kigezi sub region had very inspiring legislators like Steven Bamwanga of Ndorwa West and Manzi Tumubweine of Rukiga County, Musasizi had also been very active in the student movement and vastly networked throughout Kigezi. The two shone as excellent legislators at a time Musasizi was completing his A’levels at Kigezi College Butobere in Kabale.
“He had no powerful political family to leverage on. He was merely a self-made young man who had networked well and keenly sought inspiration from the great leaders of his day. He was just 27 years when he collected a group of us saying we must begin popularizing his bid for the MP position for the elections that was coming in three years’ time ,” recalls one of his long time mobilizers.
Though he didn’t have much money, the Musasizi message of coming to liberate Rubanda from Perez Ahabwe, who initially despised him for a social climber, easily spread like bush fire largely through the Catholic Church network he had built while serving as a project accountant for Caritas under the Kabale Catholic Diocese.
One time (in 2016) Shem Bageine, his mentor, had dispatched Musasizi to go escort Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba on a campaign errand. It was during that journey that Musasizi came across a church newsletter in Nuwagaba’s car which contained an advert for the Church soliciting for an accountant.
Having completed his BCOM course at Makerere months earlier, Musasizi realized he had the required qualifications for the job and applied. He got the job and worked under the direct supervision of one of the priests. It was such a blessing because the Caritas assignment took him everywhere in Rubanda East and other places. The Caritas projects, all of them community-based, related to agriculture, reproductive health, HIV Aids, water & sanitation, vulnerable children, orphans and youth empowerment programs. As an accountant participating in the designing, funding and implementation of all these interventions, Musasizi was able to deepen his appreciation of the community concerns and to also closely work with people who subsequently formed part of his campaign structure.
When his clandestine campaigning began in earnest, some of the community members who benefited from his charity works under Caritas reciprocated by contributing funds for him because, the truth is, having newly come from school Musasizi (then aged only 27 as of 2007) lacked financial muscle to match the much-loathed Perez Ahabwe for whom money wasn’t a problem at that time (having been both Minister and MP deeply falling under the Mbabazi camp whose members were the undisputed king makers of Kigezi at that time).
In 2016, five years later, Ahabwe sought to recapture the MP Seat as if it was his personal inheritance. His message was “my people you made a mistake by replacing me with someone too junior to the extent that the President doesn’t even know him and that is why he couldn’t be made a Minister like I was.” Ahabwe overlooked the fact that, despite being a mere back bench MP, Musasizi had done so much voters weren’t regretting voting him in 2011.
“We clearly don’t need a Minister if being one means poor service delivery like we endured during your 8 years,” voters would openly tell Ahabwe who in the end polled 4,000 against Musasizi’s more than 18,500 votes. “Our problem was electricity, beds for our health centers, electricity for our health center, impassable roads, incomplete churches etc and you responded to them by creating a town council and Sub County unlike Musasizi who has addressed them in just 5 years without even being a Minister.”
That is how Ahabwe, one of the 7 candidates Musasizi floored, died in his political movie in 2016. He was so decisively humiliated, he didn’t even bother standing again in 2021 because, in any case, by that time Musasizi had grown into a political colossus making it politically and financially risky for the not-so gainfully employed Ahabwe to dare face him directly.
Instead Ahabwe became part of the grand coalition that haters formed to try one more time to stand in Musasizi’s way. LC5 Chairman for Rubanda district, whose creation Musasizi had lobbied through Parliament along with Rubanda West MP Henry Banyenzaki, Kenneth Jogo became the joint candidate (NRM-leaning independent) around whom all the anti-incumbent forces coalesced. The number of Rubanda East voters for purposes of 2021 had grown to 48,000 and some of the key members of the anti-Musasizi coalition included Kampala hardware dealer Bernard Bwebare, Jogo’s relative Fred Kamunyu (who owns Akamwesi hostels), Gen Jim Owesigyire (who never wanted anyone to overtake him in terms of being the biggest man in Rubanda East), Master Wood proprietor Willy Byandusa (brother to Akamwesi) and MTN mobile money dealer Norman Batuma who operates under Chims Ltd.
They each had an axe to grind with Musasizi; in Batuma’s case the claim was Musasizi’s Finance Committee of Parliament processed the law providing for mobile money tax which shrunk his business. Owesigyire had been un-deployed and kept on Katebe for many years following the controversial loss of UPDF aircrafts in Somalia at a time he was commanding the UPDF Air Force and yet Musasizi never used the platform at his disposal in Parliament to exhibit any solidarity with the great son of Rubanda.
Even when UDB, which Musasizi supervises, had generously funded his construction of a mega super market and ShopRite-like shopping center in Kanyanya along Gayaza road, veteran timber dealer Fred Kamunyu aka Akamwesi remained disgruntled that Musasizi looked the other way as he choked on huge bank loans resulting into some of his vast properties in Kampala being sold off cheaply to discharge his debt payment obligations. Akamwesi also sold his Ben Kiwanuka Street Building near Equatorial Hotel/Arua Park where Katumwa Sports Center used to be headquartered.
Perez Ahabwe, claiming to be the veteran with the required mobilization skills, abandoned whatever was keeping him busy in Kampala and drove to Rubanda East where he openly campaigned for Jogo while imploring voters to shun Musasizi who he repeatedly described as a bad man whom would never become a Minister. At the end of the day, by the time the last vote was counted, Henry Musasizi had narrowly won (polling 17,502 votes or 49.96%) against Jogo’s 16,892. The difference was around 600 votes.
The haters’ camp, which jointly fundraised billions as they waited to dance on Musasizi’s political grave, subsequently became so much demoralized by the unanticipated defeat that their candidate for LC5 Chair was easily floored by Steven Kasyaba, the long term PA, who Musasizi fronted to succeed Jogo at Rubanda district headquarters. They considered challenging Musasizi’s win in Court but multiple lawyers advised against it on grounds there was simply no evidence because, in any case, it’s them who committed more glaring electoral offences such as voter bribery. They licked their political wounds and gave up opting to go into oblivion as they lie low like the proverbial envelope Tamale Mirundi always talks about.
As they reflected on the bitter reality that Musasizi was back and would be Rubanda East MP for another five years (simply because the voters are solidly behind him), the hateful coalition members suffered another debacle last week (on Tuesday 8th June) when Gen Museveni elevated him to Ministerial position. He actually deployed him in the Finance Ministry (way juicier than Local Govt where Ahabwe was) where he will be serving as State Minister in charge of General Duties. This position was previously held by Gabriel Ajedra and current UNRA Chairman Fred Omach before him. And for Musasizi this was being sent home because Finance-related work is all he had been doing as Chairman of the relevant committee of Parliament.
WHY FINANCE DOCKET
Musasizi’s ministerial posting must have been made inevitable because of the very promising political career and profile he has cumulatively been consolidating in the 11 years since he first became MP. Through participation in community activities and travelling to Rubanda to be with his people every weekend, Musasizi has distinguished himself as a darling of the grass root voters; the very reason he was able to prevail against a strong conspiracy the moneyed sons of Rubanda East had put in place ahead of Thursday 14th January elections.
He is always available on weekends to attend burials, weddings to dance with his people, meet fellow leaders and generously contribute money during fundraising ceremonies besides actively attending LC1 and LC3 meetings in all the four huge Sub Counties making up his constituency.
He also remains very popular and well networked among churches especially the Catholic Church to which he belongs. All these are great credentials Gen Museveni characteristically considers when making cabinet deployment-related decisions.
It’s also true that Musasizi, who is also the NRM Chairman for newly created Rubanda district, is currently the most senior MP from there. Even Kigezi-wise, Musasizi is currently one of the most senior and longest serving MPs. His seniors are only Ndorwa West’s David Bahabi, Ndorwa East’s Wilfred Niwagaba and Kinkizi East’s Chris Baryomunsi. The trio have been MPs without break since 2006. The other is resurgent Rujumbura County’s Jim Muhwezi whose has been an MP for an eternity.
The other Rubanda district MPs are Prossy Akampulira who has been Woman MP for less than 5 years and businessman Moses Kamuntu (22,238 votes) who in January was elected MP for Rubanda West where he defeated Eng Denis Sabiiti (20,671). Whereas Sabiiti was the NRM flag bearer, his tormentor Kamuntu was an NRM-leaning independent.
As NRM district chairman, Musasizi has prioritized open methods of work, cohesion and zero tolerance to intrigue even when the veteran business and political leaders like Ahabwe have preferred to be his enemies in perpetuity. By and large, the NRM party elected leaders at the different levels and those they defeated in Rubanda district remain more cohesive than in other Kigezi districts.
AS BACK BENCH MP
But also as a back bencher, Musasizi has epitomized more qualitative representation than Ahabwe ever did. In the 9th Parliament when still in his 1st term, Musasizi was vocal and outspoken as a member of both PAC and Finance Committee which were respectively chaired by FDC’s Kassiano Wadri and Frank Tumwebaze. In PAC he was the most outspoken NRM MP and the technical person for the Tumwebaze committee.
This combined to give him visibility and positive publicity making his people proud and very excited each time they saw him speak on TV unlike Ahabwe who was never visible anywhere at the national media landscape. This stellar performance explains why the GCW, in consultation with Gen Museveni and CEC, elevated him to deputizing Robert Kasule Sebunya who took over after Tumwebaze became Minister for Presidency.
At the commencement of the 10th Parliament, in 2016, Musasizi was made Chair of the Finance Committee, a role under which he excelled still as a back bencher for the next five years. He was the man, closely working with the Finance Ministry where the President has finally deployed him, who processed the Public Finance Management Act which ushered in great reforms regarding management of public finances.
His efforts led to the Certificate of Compliance as a budgeting tool and the petroleum management fund being introduced besides the elimination of vote on account practices. It’s for this reason that the passing of budget for the subsequent financial year by Parliament was moved from 30th September to April which is now the case. It was on his insistence as committee chairperson that the internal audit function was strengthened with the Internal Auditor General at the Finance Ministry being elevated to report directly to PSST as opposed to going through a Director.
The enactment of this law had started earlier but Musasizi (whose training is in finance, accounting and strategic planning) fast tracked the same. The same Act also strengthened the mandate of internal audit committees in every government MDA.
As the chairman Finance Committee (which oversees the revenue generation side of the budget as Amos Lugoloobi’s budget committee oversees the expenditure and Syda Bbumba’s national economy committee oversees loans), Musasizi has for the last five years (2016-2021) managed complex tasks, eliminated backlog in the committee business and processed a number of bills into law such as the Insurance Act and the tax laws paving way for imposition of the mobile money charges, OTT and other very sensitive things.
His committee also fast tracked the enactment of the Investment Code Act amendments. They also tackled PPDA Act effecting the necessary amendments. “To deliver the complex stuff he has accomplished in the last five years, you must be a team leader with whom colleagues, the Speaker, the GCW and the development partners will be comfortable. The President will naturally call very frequently and indeed he has been speaking to Musasizi certainly as often as he speaks to the Finance Minister himself. Those two must work together and the President, being the substantive Minister of Finance, fully appreciates the role of the Finance Committee,” says a veteran MP adding that sometimes the H.E. rings Musasizi to deepen his understanding of some of the sensitive bills the committee could be processing.
Indeed the composition of the Finance Committee Musasizi has been chairing shows the sensitivity of the tasks he has been tackling. Members include Muwanga Kivumbi, Patrick Isiagi Opolot, Syda Bbumba, Amos Lugoloobi, Chairman PAC and Chairman Local Government PAC. Majority chairpersons of accountability committees are also members of the same committee whose membership totals to 26 MPs.
And save for the controversial OTT and Mobile Money bills, there have rarely been minority reports, something which speaks to Musasizi’s excellent team-building, decision-making and technical competence skills. “It’s such a sensitive committee supervising entities like URA, UDC and many others meaning you can only chair it for as long as Musasizi has chaired if the party chairman YK Museveni has total trust in you,” says one of the Parliamentary clerks Mulengera News spoke to for this Musasizi profile article.
With Musasizi serving at the Finance Ministry, there is optimism that Rubanda East’s economic potential imbedded in the Muko iron ore deposits, tourism-rich Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Lake Bunyonyi; Tin & wolfram will be amplified and harnessed faster. He is also expected to use his new Ministerial position to more meaningfully mobilize Irish potato farmers in Rubanda to leverage on the roads that have resulted from the new district creation to expand their production to benefit from enhanced access to markets. There is also optimism that Musasizi will use his new position to drive around and popularize vocational education with the establishment of a Vocational Technical College for the district. He is also expected to lobby and expedite the granting of district hospital status for Rubanda district.
The business community members, including Bernard Bwebare who he defeated for the position of Rubanda NRM chairman, are optimistic that Musasizi will use the presidential proximity coming with his new position to effectively remind the President about the need to expedite the establishment of the iron ore factory in Rubanda as the same was well prioritized in his 2021 reelection manifesto. The factory will enable value addition and manufacturing of iron bars so that the children of Rubanda benefit from the resultant job creation.
The opinion leaders will also be expecting Musasizi to prepare his fellow youths into economically more productive citizens so that they benefit from the nearby Kabale City whose operationalization will become effective in 2023. Gratefully, he was among those who engaged in intensive lobbying to have the Kigezi City granted through both Cabinet and Parliament.
Born and raised in a rural setting, Musasizi did his elementary education at Nyamasizi Primary School whereafter he joined St. Paul Seminary where he unsuccessfully attempted to become a Catholic Priest. Next was Kigezi College Butobere in Kabale where did his O & A’levels.
In 2001, he joined Makerere University or Mubs where he read BCOM, a course he chose because he desired to be like those smartly-dressed young men and women he saw behind the counter each time he escorted his father to transact in the Centenary Bank branch.
He graduated with an upper 2nd class degree and his contemporaries included E&Y’s head of tax audit Sarah Kateregga, MPs Martin Muzaale and Lutamaguzi Semakula of DP. His Mubs lecturers included Prof JC Munene, James Akampulira and Principal Judge Flavian Zeija. Immediately after graduation, Musasizi worked with Caritas in Kabale Catholic Diocese before joining AMREF for greener pastures. For AMREF, he worked in Pader, Kitgum, Luwero, Kiboga and Kampala as regional Deputy Finance Manager.
The highly qualified Musasizi, who now boasts of an MBA besides CPA qualifications, desires to see total economic transformation of his people in Rubanda where 92% of the ordinary folks are in subsistence economy meaning they live hand to mouth without any participation in the money economy.
Total economic transformation is what he promised voters as he sought reelection in 2021 and by making him State Minister at the Finance Ministry, Gen Museveni has already given him a great start into the next five years leading into the 2026 poll.
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