The Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, has written to his boss, President Museveni, seeking to be allowed to retire later this year.
“I am retiring from politics next year (2010) because I have reached my retirement age. I have already tendered in my retirement letter to the relevant people,” Prof. Bukenya, who is also NRM vice chairman for Buganda, told our source in a phone interview last week.
Bukenya is turning 61 this May, five years younger than President Museveni. He says he will not stand for Parliament or any other elective office in his party. It is not clear whether Bukenya is running before being pushed in a rumoured Cabinet reshuffle, or he has simply lost a long-running internal fight to a more powerful NRM camp headed by Security Minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
The timing of this announcement is suspect because the Vice President, who has seen off a number of controversies in his political career, is currently facing yet another test in the CHOGM inquiry.
Bukenya who was Cabinet sub-committee chairman for CHOGM, and Sam Kutesa his deputy, are blamed for the irregular purchase and hire of BMW limousines at the cost of Shs 9.4 billion.
This purchase and several other expenditures are a subject of inquiry by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and Bukenya is lined up to appear before this committee.
But Bukenya has survived greater upheavals in the past, proclaiming himself Mahogany (tough wood that is hard to cut) in 2005. This was after a public confrontation with a group in the Cabinet he described as “mafia”. He told the press that this particular group of powerful ministers wanted to finish him off politically.
Mbabazi, Kutesa and Hope Mwesigye were understood to be the ministers referred to.
Asked what he was going to do in his retirement, Bukenya said: “I am going back to my farm to grow cabbages.”
Bukenya has a farm at Kakiri in his constituency, and also has a newly built hotel, Katomi Kingdom, next to his new residence in Garuga, off Entebbe Road. If he keeps his word, he will retire a fairly wealthy man.
But he would retire a sad man, after the death of his treasured son, Brian Bukenya, in a car crash late last year. His son was about to complete a military cadet course.
Bukenya is so far the longest serving Vice President under Museveni. Notwithstanding the said battles he has had to fight inside the NRM, Bukenya has made a name for himself as a development-oriented politician, who will certainly be remembered for his contribution towards eradication of poverty in Uganda by promoting upland rice growing.
This achievement already won him a US Congressional Gold Medal Award in 2007. Bukenya joined active politics in July 1996 when he won the Busiro North parliamentary seat.
Upon joining the 6th Parliament, he was elected Chairman of the Movement Caucus. His leadership caught the attention of President Museveni who appointed him Minister of State for Trade and later Minister of State for the Presidency. On May 23, 2003, Museveni appointed Bukenya Vice President, replacing Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.
This was a time Museveni was pushing for the changing of the Constitution for him to get a third term.
Bukenya became instrumental in pushing for the third term, pleading with voters in an interview with The Observer to give Museveni one more term (See: Museveni Should Stay Until 2011; May 13, 2004).
Bukenya was born on May 8, 1949, in Lwantama village, Kakiri Sub-county, Busiro County, in present-day Wakiso District. He was educated by the brothers of Christian instruction order in Uganda.
He had his early education at St. Savio Primary School, Kisubi, St. Mary’s College, Kisubi, St. Edward’s Secondary School, Bukuumi, and St. Henry’s College, Kitovu.
Later he attended Makerere University School of Medicine in the 1970s where he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB). He worked briefly as a Medical Officer at Mbale Hospital up to 1982 when he left Uganda for Papua New Guinea.
While outside Uganda, he obtained a Master’s degree in Science (MSc), Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), specialising in Public Health. Dr. Gilbert Bukenya returned to Uganda as a Professor of Medicine and was appointed dean of Makerere University School of Medicine, a position he held from 1994 until 1996. He is married to Dr. Margaret Bukenya, a classmate at Makerere Medical School.