Credit New Vision
This is how Besigye won my heart. Nothing else. I am a very basic person; you win me really, on values. You have to speak to my heart.
They say love brings even the strongest to their knees, yet it still makes them stronger. In the era of social media and many flaunting their better halves, the executive director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS, Winnie Byanyima, was not spared.
If you are to look back, when was the last time you saw her praising any man publicly? Just in case you missed the recent one, she took to twitter on Friday, praising the two men in her life. Posting a photo of her husband, Dr Kizza Besigye and their son Anselm, Winnie wrote on her @Winnie_Byanyima twitter handle:
Two men in my life. They make me happy and keep me on edge! @akbesigye @kizzabesigye1 pic.twitter.com/LWLMyceCmi — Winnie Byanyima (@Winnie_Byanyima) February 1, 2020
Winnie, as she is fondly called by many, carefully guarded her private life, until 2014 when she opened up in a book titled Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution, authored by Nation Media Group journalist Daniel Kalinaki.
She reportedly fell in love with Besigye during the National Resistance Army/Movement war of 1981-1986. Kalinaki writes that a bush war fighter, Maj. Victor Bwana, broke his spine in a car accident in Kampala and was flown to Paris for treatment.
He says it fell upon Winnie, then acting head of mission in the absence of a substantive ambassador, to look after him for the six months he spent in hospital, paralysed.
For Byanyima, Kalinaki writes, it was a very frustrating experience, trying to unravel the bureaucracy and frustration of paying Maj. Bwana’s medical bills and supporting his family.
“Bwana and his wife were also living with HIV and a child born to them had died in Paris, sparking another frustrating effort to raise money to repatriate the remains back to Uganda,” he says.
Kalinaki, who interviewed both Byanyima and Besigye, said one day, the former received a telephone call and it was the latter on the end of the line. Besigye was going to be in Europe and planned to come via Paris and check on Bwana. “In Paris, Besigye sat down with Byanyima and listened to her litany of complaints and frustrations. She had tried everyone, including telephoning [President Yoweri] Museveni a couple of times, but the bureaucracy was unrelenting.
Besigye tried to explain the difficulties the new government was facing and promised to do his best when he returned to Uganda,” he writes. And he did, Kalinaki says. Although then based in Masaka, Besigye spent considerable time on the telephone, chasing the relevant paperwork in the defence ministry and keeping Byanyima abreast of every tentative step forward.
“He was the only person remembering Maj. Bwana. It really touched my heart that somebody could be so true, so loyal. This is how Besigye won my heart. Nothing else. I am a very basic person; you win me really, on values. You have to speak to my heart. You have to have my values. And he did. That is how I fell in love with him. I admired the selflessness, the loyalty, the commitment…” he quoted Byanyima as saying.
Byanyima told Kalinaki that she and Besigye, a four-time presidential contender and former president of the Forum for Democratic Change party, were both cadres of the Movement and there was nothing political about their relationship. “It was purely discovering each other through the tragedy of a comrade. That’s how we found each other,” she said.