By Fregence Gumura
In our series focusing on the veterans of anti-Museveni struggle that have since gone into oblivion, today we reflect on Jackson Mukisa Kakeeto and Mike Kawuma Kayiwa, the young man who was among the vibrant change agents in 2001 Reform Agenda days. To all those that were politically active since 2001 will remember the young Turks in the Reform Agenda that included Maj. Okwir Rabwoni, Asaph Ntanda, Jethro Nuwagaba, Mike Kabaziguruka (later became Nakawa MP up to 2021), Sam Mugumya (now jailed in Ndoro Military barracks– Democratic Republic of Congo), Jackson Mukisa Kakeeto (fled the country after narrowly escaping arrest by security) and Mike Kawuma Kayiwa among so many others who started the drive for young people to fight for what they termed as sanity, constitutionalism and rule of law in Uganda.
KAKETO’S WOES: Jackson Mukisa Kakeeto, an FDC card-holding member, having been one of the ardent and relentless mobilizers for Dr. Kizza Besigye, became an endangered species when his name repeatedly appeared on the list of those the regime was hunting for haranguing as part of the broader efforts to break activism and once again pacify the politics of Kampala.
One of the security operatives, who the then IGP Kale Kayihura-led security apparatus had tasked with trailing his movements, says their profiling of the targeted activist back then indicated that (despite being clandestine in most of his mobilization activities) the introverted Kakeeto was thickly involved in popularizing the Power 10 (P10) underground movement through Col Kizza Besigye, the FDC Presidential Candidate for 2016, attempted to organize a popular uprising protesting the rigging of his 2016 election victory. The same Kakeeto was to subsequently be apprehended (though he narrowly escaped from security confinement) for the mobilization role he had played in the Togikwatako protests of 2017 around Kiseka Market among other rioting hotspot areas within and around Kampala. These Togikwatako protests were aimed at preventing Gen Museveni from changing the Constitution to scrap the 75 year age limit which would prohibit him from seeking reelection as President of Uganda in 2021.
Following the Togikwatako violence, which peaked in December 2017, security forces increased their crackdown and brutality against those who had spearheaded protests against the government. The resultant political witch-hunt and persecution prompted many activists to go underground. This continued into 2018 and that is when even Jackson Mukisa Kakeeto went off the political scene and became incommunicado leaving his friends and relatives worried about his whereabouts.
This culture of protesting against bad governance of the country by the opposition supporters had started years earlier and peaked with Besigye’s Walk to Work movement of 2011. Walk to Work was a very game-changing protest movement which nearly culminated into the toppling of the Museveni regime by rioters who still were led and instigated by Dr. Kizza Besigye. Many were arrested and even charged with participating in unlawful protests since the same remains prohibited in Museveni’s Uganda. Kayunga riots, which protested the confinement of the Kabaka of Buganda Kingdom whose 2009 tour of Kayunga/Bugerere County was brutally blocked resulting into multiple deaths, was another bloody anti-regime protest movement that set the stage for what would grow into the Togikwatako movement of nearly 8 years later (via the Togikwatako protests of 2017).
BACK TO KAWUMA KAYIWA: Mike as one of the chief change agents in Kampala in the areas of Rubaga South was in those early years of the Besigye struggle a brand name in the corridors of power and since the early 2000s worked with Forum for Democratic Change top leadership to recruit and train people into the struggle for regime change. When the FDC made an alliance with Conservative Party (CP) in 2006, Mike helped John Kenny Lukyamuzi “the man” win the position of Member of Parliament Rubaga South as one of his chief strategists. He indeed went through a lot with Ken including confronting police.
Mike Kawuma was also a frontline activist in the defense of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in 2006, 2011 and 2016 general elections. He equally participated in bloody riots including the 2011’s ‘Walk to Work,’ the 2015’s demand for electoral reforms and others like “My land My life.” All these were championed by KB the renowned king of defiance politics in Uganda.
Kawuma subsequently worked a bit with the Uganda Law Society-Legal Aid Project as their Anti-Corruption Programs Officer. It was in that capacity that he later opted to participate in Black Monday and the “name and shame” campaign that focused on publishing corrupt officials for a possible blockage from contesting for political office. Of course, they most times hit a dead end given the dangerous levels that corruption has reached with politicians being the main perpetuators while the same vice has eaten most of the government agencies and institutions including the Uganda electoral commission that was expected the enforce the reforms Mike Kawuma and other activists were agitating for.
Immediately after 2016 General elections that saw President Museveni swear in for another term that will mark 35 years of his stay in power, Mike Kawuma seemingly worn out disappeared from the political lime light after the arrests that became rampant following the raid on the FDC headquarters by police and the military. The much-publicized brutal crackdown on Besigye’s allies attracted plenty of publicity locally and globally.
Colleagues in the struggle suspect Kawuma, who has been incommunicado for much of the time since 2016, could be hiding somewhere in the US where he has been living in extreme fear for close to 3 years now. Efforts to establish contact with him by media reporters didn’t yield as the man seemed too fearful claiming it wasn’t safe for him to blow his cover fearing external agents of the regime in Kampala. Mike Kawuma Kayiwa joins multitudes of Ugandan political activists who have continued to run to Middle East, Europe, America, Asia and many other parts of the world for fear of their lives due to the increasing threats on opposition leaders and members.
Mike Kawuma Kayiwa is definitely missed by many youth including those he recruited into Besigye’s defiance politics whose proponents say it’s about stamping out bad governance, corruption and inefficiency.