SHE is by all accounts her fatherâ€™s daughter, the father a number of us did not get to see but have come to know about in movies, hisÂ¬tory books and pictures.
Like her father, she is dark-skinned and tall, with striking features you will not flush out of your memory so easily after meeting her.
In fact, meeting her gives you the feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu â€“ that silent voice that suggests you have met her beÂ¬fore. That is how vividly she exudes traits of her father.
She smiles like him, speaks like him and sits cross-legged with a slouch, pulling off that posture we have known to belong to her father.
Her handshake is firm and she looks you right in the eye as you take it. She is really her father reincarnatÂ¬ed, and her name is Anita SalamusÂ¬hita Baby Amin â€“ now you know who her father is!
Now back home in Uganda from a 32-year exile, Salamushita is one of the many children of the late former Ugandan president, Idi Amin Dada, he that is known across the board as the most hard-boiled dictator Uganda has ever seen, a man said to have killed whoever didnâ€™t share his viewpoint.
That, however, is not the christenÂ¬ing Salamushita, who was Aminâ€™s favourite child, will confer upon the man who liked to believe he was the conqueror of the British Empire.
To her, this man was her father, a man who, according to her, bore a very loving, caring and jolly personÂ¬ality only the people close to him got to know about while interacting with him behind the high-walled, gated and fortressed presidential safe zone, the State House. And she loves it that she resembles the man.
Baby is this 46-year-oldâ€™s real name. Amin named her that as a little girl, out of lots of love for her since she resembled him the most of all his several kids from different women.
Born on November 25, 1965 in Mulago hospital, Salamushita, who grew up at the Entebbe State House, went to Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe, Namagunga Boarding Primary and Gayaza High School.
Growing up, Salamushita knew the Amin who took her swimming, playfully carried her by his shoulders around the house, fixed her a glass of milk and sang her and her other siblings songs he had learnt on his exploits in the field.
The other dirty and tyrant stuff she did not get to know about. Even as some Amin stalwarts vanished while some changed allegiance and left the country fearing they would vanish next, Salamushita and her siblings never knew about it. The Amin she knew was the family man who alÂ¬ways returned home loaded with all sorts of jokes that belied his erratic character.
â€œIt makes me sad that father is said to have killed lots of people, but then again, I cannot judge him, for I donâ€™t know the truth. If he did kill them, I am truly sorry to the families of the deceased, but a child cannot be blamed for the bad deeds of his or her father,â€ says the towering SalaÂ¬mushita apologetically.
She recalls she had just joined Senior Two at Gayaza in 1979 when things went awry.
Her father, who had in the last month of the previous year seized a part of Tanzania, was overpowered by Tanzanian troops, helped by several groups of Ugandan exiles who had fled the time the dictator had intensiÂ¬fied killing.
And on April 11, 1979, the day Kampala was fully captured, SalaÂ¬mushita and her father narrowly escaped by helicopter to Libya. They stayed there until 1980, then relocatÂ¬ed to Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi royal family allowed Amin refuge and paid him a generous subsidy in return for his staying out of politics.
Salamushita left Saudi Arabia three years later and has since been on the road between Kenya, Burundi, Angola and the DRC, hustling for a living while looking for the best cover from anyone her father offended, who might want to harm her.
Since that 1979 hasty departure from home, this is the first time SalaÂ¬mushita is setting eyes on Uganda again.
â€œI have suffered a lot out there on different hustles while looking over my shoulder just in case. After a whole three decades, I have decided to come back home, thanks to my new father, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who sent for me to come home.â€
Salamushita says Museveni heard she was suffering in Kinshasa and sent Joy Kyakabaale, the liaison ofÂ¬ficer for UPDF widows and orphans, to bring her home.
But it wasnâ€™t easy to convince her that Museveni didnâ€™t have a grudge with her.
â€œSee, I feared because I knew MuÂ¬seveni wanted my father to face trial around the time he died in 2003,â€ says Salamushita.
Remember when it turned out in July 2003 that Amin was in a coma at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia due to kidney failure?
Museveni, when asked to allow him return home, accepted, but maintained the former dictator would stand trial for his crimes against huÂ¬manity. Amin eventually died at the hospital and on August 16, 2003 was buried in Jeddah. It was under such milieu that Salamushita had mixed feelings about returning home.
But Kyakabaale went to Kinshasa and took her through a series of counseling sessions, while promising her the presidentâ€™s support.
â€œI told her about scenarios where Museveni took care of Oboteâ€™s chilÂ¬dren even though Obote had several unanswered queries when he died. I told her about scenarios where former rebels have been allowed back home and given decent resettleÂ¬ments. After a week of counseling and encouragements, she accepted to come back home,â€ says Kyakabaale.
How Salamushita is referring to Museveni as her father, says lots about reconciliation and reaffirms that one cannot blame the children for their parentsâ€™ misdeeds.
â€œI have five questions for my new father, but I cannot share. Only he can answer them and that will help clear things up for me. For now, he is busy doing final touches to his camÂ¬paign trail so I am going to wait and ask him as we celebrate our victory,â€ says Salamushita hopefully.
Asked to make a wish, Salamushita says she wishes Museveni could alÂ¬low her on his campaign trail so she helps canvass for votes for him.
â€œI am a hard worker and I have been doing more rigorous stuff than the campaign trail. That is childâ€™s play for me,â€ she reassures.
Over the years on the road, Salamushita found her best cover in Kinshasa where she has spent more than 20 years, the reason she speaks Lingala fluently alongside Arabic and English.
â€œI have been a mobile market trader on the border between the DRC and Angola, dealing in second-hand clothes and other merchandise.â€
Also in Kinshasa, she found a man with whom they had three children, all attending school now in Angola, aged 26, 23 and 17. Her first born, is studying engineering in Angola while the second is doing medicine, and the third is in Senior Two.
She hopes to bring them home in Uganda, as their father, with whom the children would have stayed, passed away.
â€œI want us to start a life here. It feels good to be back home,â€ says Salamushita, who hopes to reunite with her mother Sarah Mutetsi, who left when she was nine years old, and has all these years been talking to her only by phone.
â€œThere are lots of things I missed that I want to catch up with now that I am back home. One of them is eatÂ¬ing matooke and beef. I also want to go to West Nile and see where my faÂ¬ther was born, then hopefully reunite with my surviving ancestors.â€
â€œI also look forward to meeting my siblings. I am told father had about 40 of us, so meeting the rest of us will be interesting, as I never had the chance,â€ she concludes.
Museveni is my new father , says Aminâ€™s daughter