By Mike Ssegawa
In 2010 Balaam Barugahare landed a deal that would turn him into top political handler for the big men of Uganda.
Yoweri Museveni, then a candidate for the re-election as president had just released his “another rap” song making him appeal to youth in that campaign. So, his handlers identified a man who had made a name and money from organizing music events.
The name Balaam was synonymous with music fetes for music icons such as Jose Chameleon, Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine before he built his Busabala beach, Juliana Kanyomozi among others. So, the deal to organise Another Rap launch ahead of elections was landed to Balaam.
For purposes of this story, we shall leave out the names of Museveni’s political handlers who identified Balaam as a resource.
So Museveni appears at Lugogo Stadium, a venue for the big stage, and released his one hit wonder. The turn up was wow. The youth were in thousands. Museveni was elated. Here he went ahead to win comfortably despite the usual allegations of malpractices.
Museveni however wondered how he had been invited for a successful show without breaking the bank as past rallies. That’s when Balaam was introduced to him.
Fast forward. By 2015, business smart Balaam had penetrated the system…this time round, the system wanted artistes to endorse Museveni campaign. Working with a top lawyer in town, Balaam managed to silently put up a team that came to be known as Tubonga nawe. They made a successful celebrity launch and despite the public’s anger at artistes like Bebe Cool who they accused of recruiting fellow artistes, the hand of Balaam was not seen. He was however the unseen controller of events and still is, with his growing financial muscle.
By the time, Balaam had become a rich man, and invested his money here and abroad. He had multi million dollar deals in South Sudan and he had landed a deal with the Uganda Electoral commission to do education and sensitisation worth billions of shillings. In fact the people privy to what is going on the country were shocked when they realised that Baalam had beaten Museveni’s son in law Odrek Rwabogo to the EC deal when both were competing for the same contract.
Fast forward. Balaam has continued doing relevant work for the ruling party and government, earning billions through his events and promotions company. Once in a while, he will do strategic work which needs his connections.
The opposition in Uganda this weekend were mad with singer Ronald Mayinja who performed at the NRM Tugikwateko victory party in Kiboga.
Mayinja danced with the host Ruth Nankabirwa who is the party’s chief whip and chief architect for the voting patterns of MPs on the constitutional amendments. Some people see betrayal!
Sources privy to this website say Mayinja who is eyeing a seat in Gomba come 2021 or 2023, was fished by Balaam. Balaam pays the highest amount of money for any show in Uganda and musicians fight to catch his eye. In rejecting Balaam’s deal some artistes see music career suicide.
Mayinja who sings for Golden Band with his colleagues such as Catherine Kusasira part of Balaam’s gang, have dwindling numbers and their music fortune is going down. That explains why Mayinja wanted to enter into politics.
Although he has been singing songs with social justice themes, politics wasn’t his thing. His co_director Mesach Semakula is more involved in music activism as one of the leaders of the industry. Singing itself is no lucrative with new artists on stage.
The entrance into politics of people like Kato Lubwama, Judith Babirye, Peter Sematimba and recently Bobi Wine, has inspired more musicians and comedians to join politics, after all, politicians themselves have not made themselves any better.
However, it’s the entry of Bobi Wine that has worried the ruler of Uganda, Mr Museveni. Bobi Wine has received a lot of national and international interest and the Ugandan leader sees a future threat in the self proclaimed ghetto president.
It’s at the back of this need that Balaam is back into the eye of the storm. The NRM chairman, according to our sources, had tasked him to fish all the stubborn artistes and turn them NRM ahead of the refenderum.
Top on the list is Bobi Wine who at least should take at least a middle position ahead of the refenderum whose campaign was launched in Kiboga on the weekend, which party was graced by the second man on Balaam’s list…that man was Ronald Mayinja who’s been hobnobbing with opposition leaders such as Betty Nambooze and Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.
Meanwhile, the leadership and influence of Balaam in the music industry cannot be kept under darkness after the death of Mowzey Radio when he took centre stage, including giving the singer a heroic national send off at Kololo Independence Grounds reserved for a few events but he got the grounds for free using his connections.
However behind the send off was a mobilization intent for the music industry which seems increasingly more assertive and influential.
As Balaam looks forward to tame Bobi, his efforts to bring Mayinja, is an indicator of the man whose power is one the rise. And whose influence on the streets, studios, stage and state House are no longer in doubt but skyrocketing.
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