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VP Bukenya pens autobiography

Book: Intricate Corridors to Power
Author: Prof. Gilbert Bukenya
Publisher: Fountain Publishing House
Volume: 156 pages
Price: 15,000
Reviewer: Martyn Drakard
Available at all major bookshops

Professor Gilbert Bukenya’s autobiography ‘Intricate Corridors to Power’ is likely to raise some interest, if only to satisfy curiosity. Time was when autobiographies were mainly a pat on one’s own back. More recently they have returned to the style of one of the earliest of all, Augustine’s Confessions, in which everything comes out, warts and all. This is the kind the Vice-President has chosen.

Born in 1949, of a very humble background – his mother, Francisca Nabulo, would go into the forest at night to brew waragi, to help pay his school fees. The last-born child and only boy, he recalls the earthen floor of their bedroom, and the bites of fleas and bed-bugs as they slept. His father, Benedicto Mutawonga, was a jack of all trades.

The butt of jokes as a child, he remembers his dad bringing home a transistor radio and gramophone, real status symbols at the time, and the dumbfounded looks on the faces of the other children in the village, especially when they heard the radio “talk”.

He started school when he was eight, and went to St Savio’s and St Mary’s in Kisubi. These were important steps for a boy of those days, and his mother’s encouragement buoyed him up when he came across the difficulties of adapting to a more sophisticated environment. He was sent away from St Mary’s for organizing a strike, and went to Bukuumi to complete his O levels.

Western Uganda was banishment to him, and he worked hard to get back to the city. He did A levels in Old Kampala, where he first met non-African students. He was admitted to Makerere Medical School, where, among the girls he met, was Margie, who he was to marry. As was usual at the time, his admission to the “hill” made him the pride of his village. This was 1971.

The 1970s and 1980s were years of mobility. First to Kenya, where he fled in 1976, with Margie and their first-born, Richard, and worked in Consolata Mission Hospital, near Nyeri. He returned for the 1980 elections, which he was confident the DP, which he backed, would win. When they didn’t he went in exile to the United Kingdom, for further studies, returning in 1983, determined, with others, to mobilize for civil disobedience and overthrow the government through non-violent means.

His medical career took him to Papua New Guinea, an unusual destination, but all grist for his mill. By the time he came back conflict was over, and the country needed rebuilding.
The rest of the book is about his political life: the challenges and misunderstandings of the “corridors of power”, the smear campaigns, and his relations with President Museveni.

The narrative is lively, peppered with interesting flash-backs and reminiscences, lessons from life, digressions on Buganda culture, and some frank political and social comments.
Bukenya writes from the heart, and is sparing neither of praise nor of censure. His style is fresh and spontaneous, and the book an enjoyable read.

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