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September 25, 2017

Book Review: Ugandan love story through dark struggle to dawn

My Life's Journey book cover
My Life's Journey book cover

Book: My Life’s Journey

Author: Janet Kataaha Museveni

Publisher: Fountain Publishers- Kampala (Paperback)

The best biographies, which offer the most impact and vivid insight of great people lives, should be written when the biographer is present.

That way, accounts are given from firsthand perspective, showing how great people in society dealt with similar situations you may be facing. Apart from offering templates of life, they share the best anecdotes in written history.

Such is the autobiography by Janet Museveni, the First Lady of Uganda since 1986, when they came into power.

Although her life as a wife of a former guerilla fighter and rebel who became a head of state looms with a larger than life personality, the book starts off through a changing period of Ugandan history.

The history starts from an innocent childhood born out of the lineage of Ankore chiefs in picturesque Ntungamo area during a peaceful era, before political turbulence rocked the area completely after the country’s independence.

Janet said she took a nursing course at Mulago Hospital before going to Harlech College in North Wales for a course in political science, philosophy and English literature. This started off her journey across the globe in exile, including in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1972, where she met her husband during exile.

Museveni was by then using Nairobi as a transit point for his clandestine rebellion against Tanzania, while he was working in Tanzania with links to Cuba and North Korea.

This followed the 1971 coup by Idi Amin after he replaced Milton Obote, which triggered violence that Janet said affected her homeland, where several people close to her died, forcing her to flee.

The two met in Nairobi as fate brought them together, although they lived in the same village back in Uganda, with Janet describing the President as “different from other children. Small for his age, but seemed very sharp, quick-witted and intelligent”.

The couple was married on August 24, 1973, in England, a wedding that was almost off, as immigration officials at first refused to allow a Marxist guerilla in the country until a pastor intervened.

In August 30, 1978, when Amin attacked Kagera, Tanzania, leading to his overthrow, the Musevenis were in Tanzania as a small family and returned to Uganda briefly with Yoweri as Minister of Defence in Prof Yusuf Lule’s government.

A sham election that declared a second Obote regime led the family back into exile in Kenya, with Yoweri waging a bush war. His family went into permanent exile in Sweden, before the final win in 1986.

Above all, the book touches on the Museveni family’s grip on Ugandan politics, when Janet, after being born again, claimed it was God who instructed her to run as a legislator in her parent’s constituency of Ruhaama and become a minister in her husband’s Cabinet.

The book offers a look at Africa’s attempt to change leadership and the hope for the future and perspective of a power couple ascending to power through a feminine angle. The pain politician families go through to sacrifice for the patriarch ambitions.

Museveni wrote the book’s foreword, recommending it to readers, showing how intertwined Uganda’s first family is.

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