Who is Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya?
Who is Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya?

Who is Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya? Flash Uganda Media looks at his biography, early life, Age, politics, and family of the former vice president of Uganda.

Professor Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya aka Mahogany is a Ugandan politician, physician, University Professor, farmer and businessman who was Vice President of Uganda from 23 May 2003 until 23 May 2011. 

He has represented the constituency of Busiro County North in the Ugandan Parliament since 1996. His autobiography, Intricate Corridors to Power, was published in 2008.

Early Life and Education  

Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya was born on 5 August 1949, in the village of Lwantama in Kakiri sub-county Busiro County, present-day Wakiso District, about 30 kilometres (19ml), by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.

Francesca Nabulo, mother to the former Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya died in June 2012 at Mulago Hospital.

While still living, Nabulo talked about his son as a very intelligent child, God-fearing and had an independent mind, he was also straightforward in everything he did and because of that, she was confident that her son would turn out to be influential. 

Bukenya was very obedient and always asked questions on anything he was not convinced about. He was so caring and whoever gave him anything, he would share it with others.

Prof. Bukenya 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 Secondary School, Bukuumi and Old Kampala Secondary School.

Later, he joined Makerere University School of Medicine in 1971, graduating in 1976 with the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB).

While outside Uganda, Bukenya obtained a Diploma in Public Health at the Royal Institute of Public Health in London, in 1982. 

He also attained the degrees of Master of Science (MSc) in Community Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine UK, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health from the University of Queensland, with a thesis topic of The Epidemiology of Under-Five Childhood Diarrheas in a Peri-Urban Population of Papua New Guinea.

Work and Experience

Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka 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 entered politics and was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Busiro North constituency.

Before the above position, Bukenya first served as the Director Makerere University Institute of Public Health from 1991-1995. He also worked as a medical officer at Mbale Hospital up to 1982 when he left Uganda for Papua New Guinea.

He also served as chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) parliamentary caucus. During this period he is credited for having managed to defuse the tension that was boiling up between President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and other historical leaders of the ruling NRM party

Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya was chairman of the NRM in the Buganda region. He subsequently became Minister of State for Trade and Industry from 2000 to 2001 before being elevated to the post of Minister of the Presidency in 2001-2003. 

Bukenya became Vice President in 2003 replacing Specioza Kazibwe, who at the time was grappling with a failed marriage.

He later stood for the post of Secretary-General of the NRM and lost to Amama Mbabazi. In May 2011, he was replaced as Vice President of Uganda by Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.

Prof. Bukenya as well served as a Chairman of NRM in Buganda region

Bukenya replacing Specioza Kazibwe
Bukenya was appointed by Mr Museveni, became Vice President in 2003 replacing Specioza Kazibwe.

Political Life

In 2005 Dr Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya surprised political watchers when he alleged that the government was being controlled by a mafia clique.

In an interview with one of the local dailies in Uganda, Bukenya said that the mafias were plotting his downfall. This was attributed to his ever-increasing popularity and his closeness to the powerful Catholic Church in Uganda.

On July 3 2020, Police fired teargas to disperse more than 600 supporters of former Vice President Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya. He had organized a political gathering of over 600 people at his home in Kakiri, Wakiso District.

Kampala Metropolitan spokesperson Patrick Onyango said that Prof. Bukenya used taxis to ferry people to his home without following the Ministry of Health guidelines on controlling the possible spread of coronavirus disease. Taxis are only allowed to carry half of their capacity at the moment.

Onyango added that Prof. Bukenya erred by bringing together a large crowd for a political rally well knowing that such gatherings were suspended. President Yoweri Museveni banned political rallies in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-9).

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“At the moment political gatherings are not allowed. We talked to him to abandon the idea but he refused. We deployed in and around his home to deter him from engaging in illegal activities,” said Onyango.

Onyango said Bukenya then shifted his rally to Masulita but again the police got information about the gathering. Police went to Masulita and discharged teargas to disperse the crowd.

“We had to disperse them using tear gas. We impounded three of his taxis that were ferrying people without observing the set guidelines of half the capacity.”

Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya was the Vice President for over 10 years before he was dropped in 2011. He lost the parliamentary seat in 2016. 

Prof Bukenya losing to mafias

In an interviewMahogany claimed that the mafias were feeding President Museveni, who he had earlier described as the only man with a vision, with wrong information.

Though he did not name who the three “Mafias” was, it was understood that he was talking about Mr Sam Kuteesa, Ms Hope Mwesigye and Mr Amama Mbabazi, who he had indirectly accused of arrogance in his dealings with members of the NRM caucus before the leadership of the caucus was handed to the backbenchers.

“At the time we had a movement caucus in the parliament for only a select few. They would come and tell you ‘we have decided with the president that on this issue you vote this way. In most cases this information was given without opportunity for reasoning, arrogantly and on the assumption that we have no brains except to do as they say. We decided to fight the way this caucus was formed. We wanted a caucus which was exclusive of all members of the parliament who supported the movement,” he wrote in his book Through Intricate Corridors of Power. 

Well, the alleged mafia had the last laugh. He was a few days later forced to convene a press conference where he humiliated himself by retracting his earlier comments.

“What I meant was that competition in the government procurement process sometimes gets so stiff that some bidders are tempted to resort to underhand methods. And this was in reference to the Irish case in the national IDs bid process,” he said in the presence of Ms Mwesigye.

“I have been telling journalists that this man (Mbabazi) has been advising me since I joined politics. How could I have harassed him? Sam Kuteesa has been advising me, how could I have harassed them? Iam delighted that this is over,” Bukenya said.

In the morning of September 13, 2010, Prof. Bukenya and Gen. Kahinda Otafiire suffered a humiliating defeat in the race for the post of Secretary-General of the NRM.

Balibaseka Bukenya was chairman
Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya was chairman of the NRM in the Buganda region.

Prof Bukenya humiliated before PAC

In March 2010, Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya declined to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament which was investigating the abuse of more than Shs500 million meant for the Common Wealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007.

Bukenya, who had been required to answer queries related to his role in the award of an Shs9.4b deal to supply at least 200 executive vehicles to Motor care and the award of a contract to supply 80 units of BMW R 1200 police outrider motorcycles, argued that under the law he could not subject himself to PAC, which the Attorney General agreed with.

However, President Museveni pulled the rug under him when he met the Committee on April 29, 2010, and distanced himself from some of the controversial decisions that had been taken by the Cabinet Committee on CHOGM. Bukenya was compelled to appear before PAC, which indicated him along with eight cabinet ministers.

On June 11, 2011, Prof. Bukenya was arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court and charged with abuse of office and influence-peddling in the procurement and hiring of BMW vehicles for Shs9.4 billion.

Early in October, the bail that had been granted by the magistrate collapsed following his committal to the High Court. 

A tearful Gilbert Bukenya was sent to Luzira prison. Though the IGG was to later drop the charges against him, the fact that he was the only one out of the nine ministers who had been indicated by PAC who did time in jail smacked of a selective application of the law and an attempt to kill his political ambitions.

“I am a mahogany; they tried to uproot me but failed. They tried to burn me into charcoal, but failed,” he told his supporters shortly after he was released on bail. This is where his nickname Mahogany emerged from.

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Four days into his stay in Luzira, the High Court threw him out of Parliament having found him guilty of voters bribery, but Bukenya bounced back during the December by-election taking 10,728 votes (76.7per cent), while his closet challenger, Mr Kasta Bukenya, got 3,035.

The events of October angered Bukenya. During the May 2014 by-elections in Luweero, he broke ranks with the NRM and campaigned for the Opposition candidate, Ms Brenda Nabukenya.

He quit the NRM and announced the formation of the pressure group, Pressure for National Unity (PNU), which was to later participate along with the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Conservative Party (CP), Justice Forum (Jeema), Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) and Mr Amama Mbabazi’s Go-Forward pressure group in the ill-fated attempt to form The Democratic Alliance (TDA).

Bukenya was married to Dr Margaret Mary Musoke Bukenya NV
Gilbert Bukenya was married to Dr Margaret Mary Musoke Bukenya, a classmate at Makerere Medical School in the early 1970s. PHOTO/NV

Mahogany returned to the NRM 

Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya returned to the NRM after the collapse of TDA, but the years of hacking had surely taken their toll.

The mahogany tree was finally brought down by a hitherto relatively unknown Denis Ssozi Galabuzi during the 2016 general elections. Mr Galabuzi, who took the Busiro North seat, has since been appointed Minister of State for Luwero Triangle.

Prof. Bukenya has been living in a relatively quiet life since he announced that he had quit politics in 2018. Mr Mwambutsha Ndebesa a historian at Makerere University, however, wonders whether he had ever been a factor in the politics that he claims to be quitting.

Ndebese adds Bukenya’s source of strength which was believed to be in Buganda ad the Catholic religion is a myth. 

“He was not appointed Vice President because he had a strong constituency or background in the management of public affairs. It was not because he had the potential to shape the politics or destiny of the country. It was just patronage. Vice President’s in Museveni’s Uganda are like Presidential assistants. They do not have any power.”   

“Had he been there from the beginning? Had he had any impact? Had he been appointed an RDC, Minister of State, or Minister? I think he had only created a myth for himself in that upland rice thing, but had never really been a factor in the politics,” Ndebese argues.

Mr Ali Male, a counselling psychologist with A-Z Professional Counseling and Support Centre, says that it is usually because one skipped a stage in the process of human development that (s) he will do things that he should have done much earlier in life.

“For each state of development, there are certain needs that have to be given attention. If that does not happen, the need to address that need appears at a larger stage. There can also be fixation or retardation in the human and behavioural development process. This may make them behave like they are much younger,” Mr Male says.

The divorce case is another low, but after the political humiliations and falls, it is inconceivable that Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya can fall any further.

Bukenya to parents: Educate disabled kids

Parents of children with disabilities have been criticized for denying them a chance to go to school.

The Ex-Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, in 2009 said disabled children were like any other child and could be successful in life. 

He remarked while receiving 51 wheelchairs from the Indian Community at his home in Kakiri, Wakiso district; Bukenya commended the community for starting industries, which, he said, had employed the youth.

Family, personal life and religion   

Prof. Gilbert Bukenya was married to Dr Margaret Mary Musoke Bukenya, a classmate at Makerere Medical School in the early 1970s and together they have children. However, the two divorced in 2019 due to litany of misdemeanours, including abandoning his marital obligations and adultery.

Bukenya was involved in extramarital affairs with several women including the mother of Bukenya’s late son, Capt. Brian Bukenya, Ms Teddy Ndagire. That was around 1982/83.

In the late 1990s, the respondent took up and maintained a mistress named Ms Stella Njuba (deceased) a daughter of a close family friend with whom they got 2 children.

In the early 2000s, the respondent also started a sexual relationship with a one Ms Margaret Kabasinguzi Nyabongo Akiki who was part of his mobilization staff in the constituency with whom they got one child that led to the breakup of her marriage. He still maintains this woman and their child in a house he built for them in Fort Portal.

In 2004 Bukenya started sexual relations with a one Jamila Nakku who he maintained in their country home in Naguru, Lwamtama. Nakku claimed Dr Bukenya had married her at a cultural function at her parents’ home and the bride price received by her mother.

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In 2008, Bukenya started on an adulterous relationship with a one Ms Shony Batanda a staff at his office as Vice President’s office and with her, he has one child aged 9 years.

Around 2014/2015 the respondent had a relationship with a one Ms Justine Najjemba with whom they got a child about 5 years, she stays in Namayumba, Wakiso District.

On several occasions, he has continuously committed adulterous with a one Ms Cissy Namujju a former political mobilization staff.

Dr Bukenya has also had sexual relation with Ms Josephine Nakaju.

Mahogany had several other affairs which have been highly publicized in the media with popular musician Ms Irene Namubiru, Princess Sheila Nvangi among others.

Ex-VP Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya in response to his wife divorce petition she filed before the High Court Family Division after 16 years of them separating, he said has never lived a celibate life.

Dr Margaret got married to Dr Bukenya since Saturday, September 21 1974. The two made their vows at St. Augustine Chapel, Makerere University.

The two, later went through the blissful stages of a happy marriage, living at Mulago and Mbale hospitals where they both worked as medical doctors.

Dr Margaret in her affidavit accompanying the petition said Dr Bukenya had deserted their family/matrimonial home, engaged in endless instances of adultery and infidelity which has subjected her to countless acts of emotional distress and abuse amounting to cruelty.

“I have been abandoned by the respondent (Dr. Bukenya) without any explanation whatsoever in a manner that can only amount to the dissertation.”

However Prof. Bukenya in his response through his lawyers of Rwakafunzi & Co. Advocates noted that he does not object to the dissolution of their marriage since them (him and his wife) both had a mutual agreement since 2003 to live separately.

“After the mutual agreement to stay separate I did not become celibate and I have never lived like one,” Prof. Bukenya noted.

He also asked the court to award his alimony to his wife since he had already surrendered some properties to her.

Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya in response to wife divorce
Bukenya in response to his wife divorce petition she filed before the High Court Family Division after 16 years of them separating, he said has never lived a celibate life.

Prof. Bukenya explained that his wife did not contribute anything to the purchase and development of the land in Garuga Katomi as the same is a property of his friend Bill Bertrand who has had it for over 40years through his profession as a medical doctor thus his contribution and ownership is minimal.

According to his response, Prof. Bukenya further states that his wife did not contribute anything to the purchase and development of the country home and farm on Busiro Block 233 plot 7 at Lwantama, Kakiri because this land belonged to his father since 1930 who bequeathed the same to him and his siblings who now occupy it.

Prof. Bukenya further states that they jointly purchased developed the town plot and building in Kakiri currently rented out to post bank with the late Stella Njuba and it now supports her children.

However, he admitted that his wife contributed to the development of their matrimonial home at plot 10 Muwafa Road, Ntinda between 1992 and 1993.

“We both mutually agreed that she keeps this property together with another property at plot 9 martyrs road, Ntinda which is a block of apartments where she collects rent,” Prof. Bukenya asserts.

The Ex-VP also noted that his wife has commercial buildings in Gayaza town and other properties she shared from her parents among others.

“I am a retired pensioner who would also wish to have a share in my wife’s properties to which I contributed by virtue of spouse support, but will not burden my wife who is also a pensioner who needs the use of her properties,” Prof. Bukenya asserts.

Adding…” in the same vain I should be left to enjoy the little income I get from a very small share in the Garuga Katomi property and the clinic in Kakiri where I do the medical practice.

He then asked the court for each party to bear its costs in the case.

In the court documents, Dr Margaret asserts that Dr Bukenya has not spent a night at the family/matrimonial home in Ntinda since July 2012 and before that, he had visited briefly in October 2011 to attend Mass following his release from prison.

Through her lawyers of Ligomarc & Co. Advocates, Dr Margaret asked the court to issue an order that she receives half the fair value of the property to which she has contributed as determined by a valuer appointed by this court.

She also asked to be awarded alimony commensurate to her station in life and that the respondent pays the cost of and incidental to the petition. 

Prof Bukenya is a member of the Catholic Church. He is credited with the introduction of the cultivation of upland rice, also known as NERICA IN Uganda.