I’ve been wondering when The New York Times would do an analysis piece on the political protests in Uganda and what angle they would take. They have now. Reporter Josh Kron (is he new in the region?) writes that at the heart of the political crisis is a personal contest between Life President Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye over a woman. Besigye’s wife. Seriously. The piece is build around this:

[Museveni’s critics say] the feud is personal, tied to the president’s relationship with Mr. Besigye and his wife, Winnie Byanyima, whom Mr. Museveni has known since childhood and, many say, once wanted to marry.

Mr. Besigye said he also met Ms. Byanyima [in the early 1980s while serving in Mr Museveni’s rebel army]. She was a young rebel officer close to Mr. Museveni in the bush while his wife and children were living in Sweden. Years later, Mr. Besigye and Ms. Byanyima would marry.

Mr. Besigye said that at times Mr. Museveni and Ms. Byanyima were involved in a romantic relationship, and that as a doctor he treated both of them, gradually becoming a trusted counsel to the rebel leader. After Mr. Museveni triumphed and became president in 1986, Mr. Besigye was named minister of internal affairs. [They later fell out.]

Ms. Byanyima also fell out with the president, as did her father, Mzee Boniface Byanyima — an elder statesman and a one-time surrogate father to President Museveni. Mr. Byanyima said he rejected the president when he asked for his daughter’s hand, offering to seek an annulment of his marriage to make it possible.

“I didn’t like the man’s character,” Mr. Byanyima, 92, said in a recent interview. “I knew that that man, sooner or later, he will run this country into trouble. I told my daughter, ‘Don’t allow Museveni to make you his second wife.’ ”

Ms. Byanyima declined to comment, saying only that Uganda’s political row was about national issues.

Mr. Besigye acknowledges an element of romantic friction in the political dynamics between him and President Museveni, but he said it was not a critical factor.

“Even if there was no relationship,” Mr. Besigye said of his marriage to Ms. Byanyima, the antagonism between him and the president “would be the same as it is today.”

While many observers agree that Uganda’s political row is about larger political differences, they say the tight nucleus of personalities is a steering force in the events …

Another person close to the first family said that, for President Museveni, losing Ms. Byanyima was like “losing Helen of Troy.”

Tamale Mirundi, a spokesman for Mr. Museveni, declined to discuss any personal relationship between the president and Ms. Byanyima, and he referred to Mr. Besigye as a “reject” …


Further Reading

The death of cities

Cities will continue to exist and grow despite the coronavirus crisis because of the distinctly human need for social interaction, physical contact, and collaboration.

Drugs and police in Mathare

Drug use among young people in Nairobi’s slums is on the rise. Youth also face arbitrary arrests by the police, resulting in jail time which turns them into hardcore criminals in a vicious cycle.