By Vision Reporter
Health minister Ruhakana Rugunda has been appointed Prime Minister of Uganda. He will replace Amama Mbabazi who has been the premier since after the 2011 general election.
President Yoweri Museven has forwarded Rugunda's name to the Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga, for parliamentary approval.
"I thank His Excellency for giving me this responsibility. I also thank Ndugu Amama Mbabazi for very good work as Prime Minister," Rugunda said.
"I have served and I am ready to serve. My priority is to consolidate the achievements of government & focus on implementation of the manifesto and all Government, plus party programmes, that will lead to transformation of Uganda."
There was no immediate response from Amama Mbabazi, but later, he released a press statement.
Who is Ruhakana Rugunda?
Here, Rugunda appears in a talk show at Vision Group's Vision Voice (now Xfm) in January 2009. PHOTO/Ronnie Kijjambu
Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, is one of the longest serving ministers in the NRM government and was chief negotiator in the botched LRA peace talks.
There are men, and there are extraordinary men. Ruhakana Rugunda fits both bills, embodying all virtues of humanity; humility, simplicity, honesty and tranquillity. Those close to him nick-named him ‘Nduggu’, Swahili for brother.
Aggrey Awori, a former cabinet minister and long-time friend, describes Rugunda as a peaceful, forth-right person and a thinker.
“He is not up to intrigue and tolerates virtually everybody. Ideologically, I have never differed with Rugunda,” he said in 2012.
“But, when you are off-track, he politely tells you off!” Rugunda has also heeded national calls, variously serving Uganda and Africa as a parent, students’ leader, physician, messenger of peace, minister and Uganda’s envoy to the UN, amongst others.
“He is sincere, honest and a man devoted to the right cause,” says Sam Njuba, a former cabinet colleague with the opposition Forum for Democratic Change said in 2012.
Then-Internal Affairs minister Ruhakana Rugunda with the Commissioner General of Prisons Dr Johnson Byabashaija after commissioning the Nakasongola Prison on October 7th, 2007
Alongside Francis Omaswa (Professor), Sam Kuteesa and Okello Oculi, among others, Rugunda was significant in the formation of the National Union of Students of Uganda, a politically vibrant youth movement which he also led (1970-71).
Rugunda created a platform where students got closer with the Obote I regime.
“Rugunda was one of the young people Obote liked so much and with whom he often discussed national issues. I am happy he succeeded me as minister of ICT,” Awori adds.
Together with his Makerere University comrades, Omwony Ojwok, Tumusiime Mutebile, Amama Mbabazi and Tim Lwanga, Rugunda also played a key role in the formation of Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), alongside Yoweri Museveni (current president), Nuwe Amanya Mushega and Eriya Kategaya.
FRONASA, a rebel outfit, fought alongside Kikosi Maalum and Tanzanian forces to liberate Uganda from the brutal Idi Amin regime; overthrowing it in 1979.
Because of his calm nature he was a natural choice to lead the government delegation to the LRA peace negotiations. While critics say the Kony talks failed others think otherwise.
“We reached an agreement on all issues, but when time came for Kony to sign the agreement, he chickened out. President Museveni had also travelled to sign it!” Rugunda says.
“The talks didn’t fail totally, because an agreement was reached, although not signed,” says Dr. Aaron Mukwaya, a political scientist and pundit.
“The issue is both parties didn’t want to reach an agreement of any sort. Both wanted, and still want, to have victory militarily. I doubt there is any enthusiasm to have Kony killed due to weaponry and logistics benefit by the army,” Mukwaya says.
Left to right, US Ambassador to Uganda Scott Delisi, Health Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and First Lady and Minister for Karamoja affairs at the EMTCT Launch in Moroto.
Rugunda, nevertheless, defends the military offensives, which, he argues, were paramount. “There were some aspects of the peace talks that could be depicted as ‘peace jokes’,” he says.
“But it was right that we use both military and peaceful means to end the LRA’s banditry and heinous crimes against humanity meted on Ugandans and Sudanese. LRA wanted to take over power using the most brutal ways but met a resilient UPDF”.
After the Kony assignment, Rugunda was appointed Uganda’s representative to the UN and a member of the Security Council, charged with overseeing international peace and security in July 2009 and October 2010.
The council has five permanent members of the UN, including Russia, USA, UK, France and China as well as 10 elected members. “I was responsible not just for championing Uganda’s cause, but also Africa’s, coordinating with Nigeria and Libya,” says Rugunda.
“Since then, Uganda was, is and continues to play a critical role in regional and international security and peace, helping Africa and the world to better understand Sudan, Congo and Somalia problems.”
Here, Rugunda, Uganda’s Permanent representative to the UN Dr. Rukahana Rugunda and the NRM candidate for woman MP for Serere, Hellen Adoa Abeku waving to supporters as they arrive for a rally in Omagoro, Serere district in Feb 2011. PHOTO/Salume Among
As a young boy, Rugunda would often sit and read newspapers to his father Surumani Rugunda. He believes these experiences at a tender age sparked his later interest in politics.
“It surprises me he didn’t study economics or political science, but medicine,” says Awori.
Political career His political career started in 1968 when, as the Busoga College, Mwiri, Head Prefect, he first interacted with the oratory Obote, himself a former student.
Soon, he again met Obote as president at a brain-storming ceremony with student leaders at the State Lodge, Entebbe.
“I had a discussion with Obote and established relationships,” Rugunda says.
“I valued my interactions with Obote, in spite of the fact that we had differences in some issues. We didn’t think he did enough to fight corruption and solve Uganda’s problems. We wanted to see a government moving like ‘fire’ to address these issues, but this wasn’t the case.”
The year is 1997. New Vision Editor-in-Chief William Pike talks to the Minister of Information Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda during a luncheon at Fang Fang restaurant Kampala. Right is the paper's Corporation Secretary Conrad Nkutu
When Idi Amin overthrew Obote’s government in 1971, Rugunda opposed the new leader. “He tried to persuade us to support him, but we remained adamant,” says Rugunda.
“Our position remained resolute until Amin and the Military Council banned NUSU.”
This forced NUSU leaders into exile with Rugunda escaping to Dar-es-Salaam, but maintaining his association with Obote and other exiles. However, on return from exile in 1979, Rugunda and other radical youths left UPC, starting Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) which would later contest the 1980 elections with Museveni as its leader.
“We wanted to start a new force that would not follow religion political lines, as DP and UPC did,” he points out.
Obote had identified Rugunda as a vibrant young man primed for future leadership of UPC party and Uganda.
October 2005: Internal affairs minister Rugunda (left) listens to Somalia's Minister of Foriegn Affairs, Sheikh Abdul Ismael during the end of the Training of trainers course for the Somalian Police at Jokker Pub Bweyogerere in Kampala. PHOTO/Ronnie Kijjambu.
A professional physician, Rugunda carries with him a wealth of medical experience spanning 10 years (1975-86) within which he published six papers.
He has worked as a medical officer in Zambia (1975-76), UN Institute for Namibia, Lusaka, Zambia (1976- 77), resident physician in paediatrics, USA (1978-79), deputy health minister (1979-1980) and Lecturer, Medical Training Centre, Nairobi, Kenya (1981-82).
Others are; department of paediatrics, Kenyatta National Hospital (1982-84), department of tropical paediatrics university teaching hospital, Sweden (1984-85) and animal industry, game and fisheries commissioner (1986) Rugunda has also served as President of the African ministerial conference on environment (AMCEN- 2002/3), and president, governing council of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP- 2003/4).
Others are; chairperson, Global ministerial environment forum (2003), security council working group on conflict prevention and resolution in Africa and assembly of promoters for Kabale University.
Since 1986, he has served as minister of health (1986-88), works, transport and communication (1988-94), foreign affairs (1994-96), information (1996-98), Presidency (1998-2001), water, lands and environment (2001-3), internal affairs (2003-9), Information and Communications Technology (2011-13) then Health Minister.
Born to Nora and Solomon Rugunda in Bugongi, Kabale in November, 1947.
He went to Rwere Primary School, Kigezi High School and Busoga College Mwiri, Makerere University, University of Zambia and the University of California and Berkeley graduating with a master’s in public health. He is married to Jocelyn, have four boys and three grand children.
Ruhakana Rugunda new Prime Minister