By Najibu Mulema

When you read or listen to Janet Kataaha Museveni’s historical background definitely, you will know that Uganda’s longest serving first lady is no ordinary person.

Janet Kataaha Museveni is the First Lady of Uganda since May 1986. She is married to Yoweri Museveni, with whom she has four children and she is the current Minister of Education and Sports.

Kataaha was born in 1948 in Bwongyera village in Kajara county, Ntungamo District, Western Uganda to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kataaha.

Her school time started in Kyamate Primary School and Bweranyangi Girls’ Senior Secondary School.

After primary and secondary education, Janet enrolled to train as nurse in Mulago Hospital but later abandon it when her brother advised her and found a place for her to work at Entebbe International Airport as air flight attendant.

She later on went to study in Ireland but failed to progress to a degree level. She later on enrolled for a degree course in Makerere University and graduated in 1998.

Describing her tender age in her book known as My Life’s journey, Janet appeared to be innocent but she became cognizant of her environment as she grows up. She paints a picture of a childhood as idyllic detailing her way of life at home, interactions with her father, affection towards her mother and brother and the closeness within the extended family and cousins.

However, her happy childhood turned out to be sad due to passing on of her father at a tender age, her brother Edward in 1965 and later her mother in early 1970s.

Because of political instability in Uganda at a time, she has called many places home as her life was characterized by movement from Uganda to Kenya, then to Tanzania after Idi Amin overthrew Milton Obote in 1971; back to Uganda and then to Kenya and later to Sweden where she stayed as a refugee until Museveni took over as President of Uganda.

Interestingly, her story also reads like that of struggles of Ugandan women during the political turmoil and the experiences in exile such as challenges of raising a family without a stable incoming. She sought of represents Ugandan women who underwent tough times in exile.

Janet got married to Museveni while he was still a fugitive, relying on support from Tanzanian government headed by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. The couple married in 1973. After their wedding in London, they moved to Dar es Salaam and lived in a hotel for over a year while she was expectant. The two had earlier met as children studying in neighbouring primary schools as Janet narrates in some of her encounter with Museveni.

Janet and husband President Museveni

Five months into pregnancy and still living in a small room, they would sometimes fail to pay bills and would go without dinner. At some point, Janet got frustrated after trying to get an apartment to no avail because it was expensive. However, Museveni would remind her that they were not in Tanzania to fight for accommodation and that one room was more than enough.

Luckily, they were able to rent their own house just before they got their first born, Muhozi Kaineruggabba. At some point when help form Tanzanian government was not forthcoming, Museveni enlisted as a lecture at a Cooperative College in Moshi. They later returned to Dar es Salaam when Nyerere’s government resumed financial assistance.

After Idi Amini was deposed and they returned home, Janet was forced to exile again when it became apparent that government was targeting them after Museveni began underground movement to topple Milton Obote.

Her life in Kenya with children somehow of comfortable as they lived in a leafy suburb but they had to move to Sweden to escape assailants who were pursuing them as a way of fighting Museveni especially after he was branded enemy of the state.

After more than a decade in exile, Janet finally came home after Museveni took over power, established his family and later reburied her mother and brother who had been buried away from her ancestral land.

President Museveni, wife Janet and daughters

Janet Museveni founded the Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), a private relief agency in late 1986, which she said was shaped by her experience as a refugee. She became involved with the HIV/AIDS campaigns in Uganda in the 1990s, forging ties with radical pastor Martin Ssempa for abstinence-only sex education in Uganda.

First son Muhoozi Kainerugaba

In November 2005, she announced that she would seek the parliamentary seat of Ruhaama county in the February 2006 general elections. She contested the seat against the candidate for the Forum for Democratic Change, Augustine Ruzindana, and won overwhelmingly. She was re-elected in March 2011 to another five-year term.

On 16 February 2009, Janet Museveni was appointed State Minister for Karamoja Affairs, by her husband, President Yoweri Museveni.

On 27 May 2011, she was elevated to Minister for Karamoja Affairs complete with a State Minister for Karamoja Affairs.

On 6 June 2016, after her husband’s re-election as President, she was appointed Minister of Education and Sports.

Janet has four children with President Museveni who include; Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Natasha Karugire, Patience Rwabogo and Diana Kamuntu