KOLOLO – The dictum of “no permanent enemy, no permanent friend, but permanent interests’ once again permeated through the country on Saturday when President Museveni and his longtime friend-turned political foe Amama Mbabazi met at the giveaway of the latter’s daughter, Bridget Birungi, to Andile Ramaphosa, the son of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
It was difficult to distinguish the function, which took place at Mbabazi’s residence in the plush Kololo suburb, from a state event given the number of politicians, government officials and businessmen present.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, business mogul Sudhir Ruparelia, US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac, former FDC president Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, NRM vice chairman Al-Hajji Moses Kigongo, UCC chief Godfrey Mutabazi, former Ethics minister Miria Matembe and businessman Mayur Madhvani, were among top dignitaries present at the function.
Security was tight with a combined force of presidential guards, police and army officers scrutinizing every person who came to the function, from the chefs, cooks to ministers.
When President Museveni arrived at around midday, everyone kept glancing how his host, Mr Mbabazi, would receive him and whether they would share jokes.
However, the President and his wife Janet were in a visibly jovial mood as they shook hands with Mbabazi and wife Jacqueline.
They were then led to their tent where they sat alongside Mbabazi and Jacqueline. Janet was seated next to Mbabazi and they kept sharing a few words.
The Ramaphosa family arrived at around 1 pm. Mr Mbabazi walked to Mr Museveni’s tent and requested the President to welcome the South African President and his entourage. The duo then walked alongside Mr Mbabazi to welcome the South African group.
Andile’s entry was a joyous one as he took minutes to exchange courtesies with friends and family. He was dressed in a white African shirt, black coat and trousers. The South Africa entourage made a musical entry with songs and rhythmic dances that brought all activity to a standstill.
The sound of drums was recurrently sounded by Crane Performers whose traditional dance choreography marvelled many.
The introduction then started, with Birungi being coming out of the house to appear before the Ramaphosa family and guests. She was clad in traditional wear of Ekishato (skirt and top), Akaku (a sash with beaded embellishments, Emiringa (Traditional anklets) and Obutamasindo (forehead band) in cream and gold colours.
The Ramaphosa family gave Emihingiro (gifts) to the Mbabazi family which included Enkagara (suitcase), Engunda Ibiri (calabashes), Ekitebe kye’nkiga (traditional stool) and more.
When the time for speeches came, President Ramaphosa thanked Mr Museveni for gracing the ceremony. “Musibye Mutya Bassebo ne banyabo (how are you, ladies and gentlemen). Twashemelerwa (we are happy). Thank you, as Ugandans, for welcoming us here today. We are very much aware that we are in a country you have dubbed as the most beautiful country. We now realise that we have competition. By taking the most beautiful person in Uganda, we have it for both countries,” he said.
Mr Mbabazi thanked President Museveni for “accepting our invitation” to attend the ceremony.
“We may disagree politically…you may champion a completely different political line,” said Mbabazi, who was sacked as prime minister before starting Go Forward and contesting for president in 2016.
“But for me, the associations that I have had; like long associations I have had, will not be broken by politics,” he stated, attracting a standing ovation from the audience.
The former premier cracked ribs when he said he would “get time and ask President Museveni if he voted for me
In his speech, President Museveni congratulated Andile and Birungi for finding each other. “I am very happy for Andile and Bridget for my wife and family and country but above all the Great Lakes and Africa. I want to congratulate right honourable Amama Mbabazi and his wife Jacqueline for bringing up Bridget. You heard that Bridget is an orphan. His father died at the age of 30 because of our struggle,” the President said.
He also recalled meeting Mr Mbabazi in the early 1970s.
“We were engaged in our wars. In 1974, we had a big set back after we launched a badly planned attack on Idi Amin and many people were killed. Our internal network was disorganized. Eriya Kategaya and Ruhakana Rugunda fled to exile. We had to look for a new layer of a network to replace the one which was compromised. Eventually, I got in touch with Mbabazi and Kahinda Otafiire who were student activists,” he added.
Mr Museveni said Mbabazi “was able to rebuild the network among intellectuals” as FRONASA kept other unexposed networks.
Museveni repeatedly referred to Mbabazi as “my young brother” and Jacqueline as “my in-law”.
“I thank my young brother and Jacqueline for inviting me and Janet on the Kuhingira of this child of our freedom fighter whom I didn’t know,” said Museveni.
“You don’t go to a wedding swinging arms to contribute to the number of eaters. You must be carrying something on your head. Now that Bridget is going away, I am giving the bride gifts to escort her. I’ve brought a few cows in an envelope to escort the bride,” he said before handing an envelope to Birungi.