When journalists came to the rescue of Balaam Barugahara


By Edris Kiggundu of the Observer

*When journalists came to the rescue of Balaam Barugahara*

Political campaigns are some of the most hectic events not only for the candidates but also the hordes of journalists who trail these candidates. Personally, I have covered three presidential campaigns (2006, 2011 and 2016). In 2006 and 2011, I trailed Dr Kizza Besigye for The Observer. In 2016, I covered President Museveni for the same newspaper. In all those campaigns, I moved with the candidates virtually every inch and space of this country. The most eventful campaign for me was that of 2006 when Dr Besigye, fresh from South Africa, took the country by storm. His rallies were ecstatic but were also filled with tension given the kind of challenge he had put up against the incumbent, Yoweri Museveni. Every now and then at his numerous rallies, there would be shouts of “spy, spy” from his supporters especially when they saw unfamiliar faces in the crowd. One day while campaigning in Busoga, my friend Balaam Barugahara was identified as a “Museveni spy” by some FDC youths. Balaam, still largely unknown then, had hitched a ride in the press van with a number of journalists including this columnist. He told us he was a genuine supporter of Dr Besigye and wanted to find ways of promoting him. In fact on several occasions, he tried to seek audience with KB through his aide Sam Mugumya but he had not been successful. So back to that day, a group of youths chased Balaam from a rally, ready to lynch him. He quickly found his way into the Press Van as the angry youth bayed for his blood outside. When he entered the van, Hussein Bogere, a senior journalist from Daily Monitor and I immediately shielded him (Some FDC youth then including the current Makindye East MP, Ibrahim Kasozi, never forgave me for this). As the van made its way from the rally, I practically sat on Balaam until after a safe distance of about 2 KM. Never the person to give up, Balaam returned to the campaign (something I thought was suicidal) and soon, he was manning Besigye’s car with Mugumya. They would guard the car in turns. Today, the fortunes of the two have changed. Mugumya is incarcerated in jail in DR Congo, while Balaam Barugahara, is a budding young millionaire and proud supporter of the NRM. I still don’t believe that back in 2006 Balaam was a Museveni mole. Until up to around 2011, I think he was a genuine Besigye’s supporter but as his business profile grew and realised that to make it bigger you had to be in the good books of government, he made a strategic decision to support NRM, which controls the state coffers. That was entirely his personal choice, which I respect.

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