WORKING FOR M7: HOW BIG GAL CATHERINE KUSASIRA SUCCEEDED WHERE CHAMELEON & CO FAILED
By Mulengera Reporters
Secrets have leaked detailing how bulky singer Catherine Kusasira exploited the difficult circumstances in which the NRM 2016 national campaign taskforce occasionally found itself in to endear herself to the President. A few weeks into the campaign, Museveni handlers started defaulting and reneging on their well-documented promise to pay musicians each time they appeared at a rally and climbed the stage to sing for the H.E.’s supporters.
It wasn’t an easy campaign as Museveni faced two contenders that were initially expected to be very formidable namely Amama Mbabazi and to an extent Kizza Besigye. Many went into the campaign knowing Besigye was clearly in a distant number 3 with JPAM and Museveni taking the first two slots. But things changed in the 3rd week when JPAM clearly descended into a distant number 3 leaving the two old foes to tussle it out. So, the campaign surely overstretched the Museveni camp not just in terms of personnel (not many could easily be trusted with JPAM claiming he had many silent supporters inside) but also logistically/financially.
As earlier reported, hiring musicians was never something Museveni had initially given serious thought. He had to be persuaded by his lawyer Kiwanuka Kiryowa and musician and old ally Bebe Cool. Because he was reluctant, getting the initial money for the Tubonga Nawe project from him wasn’t easy.
Mind you this is a president who had started spending big time as early 2014 as nervousness relating to the Mbabazi bid only kept escalating. Many of the poor youth movement members had been going to him announcing their defection and getting rewarded big cash. They would say “there are many others we had planted in the JPAM structures; we need money to go and uproot them.”
So, campaigns began at a time the big man, who faced multiple headache including that posed by Gen Sejusa, was financially cautious and not in mood to spend lavishly. He was cautious as he had three months to cover the whole country. That explains why the initial Shs150m with which the preliminary Tubonga Nawe work was done was raised by KK and Mr. Cool.
The lawyer, who has benefited a lot from Museveni’s long stay, put in Shs100m and Mr. Cool borrowed Shs50m. So, things materially were initially not easy for the musicians. In fact, that is how Juliana Kanyomozi became lukewarm and didn’t participate in the campaign rallies as was initially expected. She wanted advance payment at the rate of Shs4m per rally but KK offered only words. Perform and be paid later. KK assured the musicians Mr. Cool would bring to him at his Lugogo Bypass offices that “my president will win and once he is back in office you will all be paid no matter how long it takes.” The faint-hearted ones like Juliana weren’t comfortable with that arrangement and even the likes of Jose Chameleon (who badly needed money to salvage his Seguku house), Goodlife and Eddie Kenzo kept grumbling though they hang in there. So, mid-way into the campaign, KK reached a point and failed to get the money and the singing celebrities took weeks without pay.
This was a blessing in disguise for some like Kusasira because it enabled Museveni handlers to distinguish between fortune-hunters and musicians that had genuine love for the President. “They kept telling crowds we are here to pay back because we have made money and succeeded under the political stability and economic recovery Mzee championed but for many of them this wasn’t from their hearts,” says an influential assistant who closely worked with the Museveni campaign in 2016. “The temporary cash squeeze that hit us was a blessing in disguise because we got to see those who pretended to love Mzee and NRM yet in actual sense they didn’t and it was all just money-making.”
Kusasira was among those who used the cash squeeze to demonstrate genuine love for Mzee and NRM (at least that is how Janet & Yoweri Museveni perceived her in the end). The cash squeeze caused the likes of Jose Chameleon, Mulangira Ssuuna, Goodlife, Eddie Kenzo and others not to only grumble but to eventually disappear and stopped showing up arguing they weren’t prepared to risk being alienated by music lovers and show goers for nothing. They claimed singing for Museveni was risky as it would alienate them from the public that loved them spontaneously and argued there must be prompt payment each time they perform to atone the risk and public reprisals that would result from the Tubonga Nawe project.
At the instigation mostly of Goodlife, that State House believed was being a Chameleon proxy in doing this, many of the musicians dropped out. Only four remained; Kusasira, Phina Mugerwa, Bebe Cool and DJ Micheal. Kusasira kept counselling younger Phina Mugerwa whom she repeatedly told “we lose nothing my sister remaining in this even for free because we are assured of relationship-building and most importantly exposure to the large crowds coming to these rallies.”
She repeated the same to campaign officials that as long as she was assured of a large crowd before whom she would popularize herself, she would be the last one to quit. She also argued that as she hang in there, she was sure to meet many important people who in future would become useful business contacts. Sometimes things got so tough, the musicians would even struggle to raise money for accommodation in a good hotel as they waited to be paid. Kusasira remained graceful throughout and a key pillar in helping Mr. Cool and KK to convince the other two musicians not to quit.
JANET GETS TO KNOW
One-time Museveni arrived late for a rally (he had important meetings with diplomats in Entebbe State House whereafter he flew to the rally) and Kusasira was among those quietly seated in the VIP tents within spitting distance from the tent where First Lady Janet Museveni and other dignitaries were. She sat with Phina Mugerwa who she kept encouraging not to quit. She kept saying “That man [M7] doesn’t seem to be a bad man. Maybe he isn’t aware of what we are going through but all will be well in the end and in any case the money they are promising to pay us per rally is a lot compared to what we are paid on ordinary concerts.” Unknown to the two, one of the ladies sitting infront of them was a veteran politician closely associated to Janet. The woman eventually relocated and briefed went to the President’s tent where she confided everything in Janet stressing “those children must be suffering; life isn’t easy for them and we need to do something.”
Janet later confided into Museveni who after the rally signaled Mr. Cool to draw closer. The veteran musician corroborated everything; almost moving the President to tears. He directed his handlers to act and the four musicians, and others who had quit, were all paid a windfall. And at a later time, Museveni had audience with the four and this was the opportunity Kusasira used to emphasize her commitment to the NRM cause, something the H.E. had already heard about.
The rest returned but deep inside his heart, Museveni had already written them off as mere fortune-hunters in favor of the four who stayed put. That was the genesis of Kusasira’s closeness to the H.E. After campaigns, the bumlicious singer didn’t struggle to get audience of the first citizen. Her good friend, Dr. Hillary Musoke/PhD (aka Junior Kisanja) is deeply connected to Sevo because he shares the Naguru Center office with his son MK. Indeed, it’s through Hillary as a go-between that Kusasira cemented her political relationship, as a mobilizer, with the H.E. even after elections. And the advent of Bobi Wine gave her renewed relevancy as Hillary told Museveni her type is what he needed to mobilize efforts to counter the Ghetto President in the slums where the rural poor live-in their millions.
In contrast, the Chameleons & Co lost out totally as the big man remained very unwilling to give them any audience after elections saying after all lawyer KK (who hired them to sing) paid all their dues to zero. Yet failure to have continued audience with Museveni only hardened the rebel musician resulting into many of them embracing people power and the opposition cause in general. (For comments, call/text us on 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).