This morning the country woke up to the sad news of
the passing of Col Shaban Bantariza, the Deputy Executive Director of the
Uganda Media Centre. The news of his passing was stunning to many because it had
not been reported publicly that he was sick.
His last known public appearance was
on August 12 at the National Resistance Movement [NRM] Secretariat at Plot 10
Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he had gone to address, the Central Executive Committee;
the topmost organ of the party.
Together with six others, Bantariza was challenging Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza as the Deputy Chairperson of the
NRM in charge of Western Uganda. Bantariza,
said he was not in the
race because Kyaligonza has failed but rather he wanted to be a link between
government and the people.
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But unlike others, Bantariza never even got
to the chance to appear on the ballot paper after he was eliminated on a
technicality. Being a deputy spokesperson of the government, directly drawing a
salary from the Consolidated Fund, the law prohibited him from engaging in
This technicality might not have targeted him if it was not
for a one Kefa Mafumo, the Presidential Secretary in charge of Political Affairs,
who was challenging NRM Vice-Chairman AlHaji Moses Kigongo. In
the end, Bantariza paid the price. He tried resisting the elimination but him
not being a General like Kyaligonza, he yielded. But before he did, he tried to
explain that everybody working in and for government picks a salary from the
“I’m appointed by the President like the minister and
we all pick salaries from the consolidated Fund. Why eliminate me and leave
others? By the way, this is not a regular Public Service job that the law talks
about,” Bantariza, tried to reason with other contestants. One of them, Nsegumire
Kibedi, who was challenging Hajji Abdul Nadduli for the Buganda region vice
chairmanship stood out.
“You guys what are you still looking for? You already have
a government job and you still want more?. Why can’t you leave it to another
person,” Kibedi who was to also later bow out of the race in favour of the eventual
winner, Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi, said?
Bantariza wondered why anybody
thinks that he shouldn’t contest for any position. He said that as a person who
helped midwife the NRM, he had a duty to influence the direction it takes. He
said it was only people like him who understood the ideological position of
the party that he helped get in power 35 years ago.
Bantariza has not been shy with
articulating the vision of the NRM. Even when he was a public servant, he would more often
than not be on public media, defending not just the government that he speaks
for, but even the political party that controls that government.
He wouldn’t tire
reminding his listeners that Uganda was liberated from the jars of monsters and
that he wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the gun again if any group threatened the
peace of Uganda. for him, anybody threatening
the presidency of Yoweri Museveni was, in essence, threatening the very existence
years ago, Bantariza was sent to Kamwokya, to deliver a package; a donation of
100 million Shillings to Kamwokya ghetto-based groups, from President
//Cue in; The Money that...
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Bantariza dismissed arguments that the money was being dashed out to
neutralize Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi
Wine who enjoys substantial support in the area.
//Cue in; "the president I think…
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In a video clip from a news bulletin of NTV Uganda; now making rounds
on Social media, Bantariza warns Bobi Wine and his People Power 'tribe', that for
them, they don’t have ka sukaali [sugar] but fire [guns]. He says he has three
guns to his name and he’s ready to use them if this group was to threaten Uganda’s
wonder that the NRM secretariat headed by the party’s Secretary-General
Justine Kasule Lumumba was among the first to send in condolences.
“Col. Bantariza has been a loyal member of the
NRM government and the party which he has served till his death,” a statement issued
in Kasule’s name by NRM senior communication manager, Rogers Mulindwa reads in
It adds that on Thursday last week, Bantariza was part of the 47 eminent
Ugandans appointed by Museveni to carry out the reconciliation programs
among party members. His area of operation was Butaleja, Busia and Kibuku
It adds that after picking the necessary facilitation
for the exercise, he later felt unwell to travel and sent back the undisclosed
resources to the party.
“We feel, Col Bantariza has gone too early and at a
time we needed him most,” the statement adds.
Francis Bantariza was born in 1963 in Bishenyi
district, present-day Mitooma district. He went to St Leo’s College Kyegobe in
Kabalore district. He later joined Makerere University in 1985 but he abandoned
his studies in favour of joining the National Resistance Army the same year.
much is known about his time in the bush but he made his name mainly as the spokesperson
of the Uganda People’s Forces [UPDF] the foster child of the NRA. He held the job two times between 2000-2002
and between 2003-2006. Journalists who interacted with him while he held the
position, say he’s one of the best to ever hold the job.
He was forthcoming
with information never mind the spin to it. The time he held that position, the
UPDF was always in the news for good and not very good reasons.
It was during
his tenure that the Lord Resistance Army insurgence was at it peak then the Juba
Peace Talks all of which kept the army in the news. Then the severing of ties
between Museveni and his erstwhile physician and minister, Dr Kizza Besigye.
The claim that Besigye had formed a rebel movement, the People’s Redemption
Army, his arrest, the siege of the army on the Courts, all had Bantariza to explain.
When he was dropped as army spokesperson, Bantariza was sent to Oliver Tambo
Leadership School Kaweweta in Nakaseke district. From there, he was sent to the
National Leadership Institute [NALI] Kyakwanzi as a director where he served up to
In 2013, he was appointed as Deputy Executive Director of Uganda
Media Centre. His time at Kyankwanzi however didn’t go well as he was charged
in the Court Martial for abuse of office and fraud. It was said then that the ministry
of finance had donated a tractor to NALI but Bantariza using his powers as the
director instead forged documents to show that he had bought it at 67million Shillings.
He was also charged with being highhanded in the way he ran the institute
leading to several complaints by soldiers under his command. He was tried and
later acquitted by the Court Martial, then chaired by Gen. Levi
Karuhanga in April 2015 for lack of evidence on all the counts. In that very year
in September, Bantariza retired from the UPDF at the rank of Colonel.