Col Ibrahim Abiriga is the MP for Arua Municipality who is popularly known as “yellow man”; a self-proclaimed diehard supporter of President Yoweri Museveni. He has been in the limelight for campaigning to lifting of the constitutional age limit of 75-years to allow Museveni to qualify to run again in 2021.
Kampala, Uganda |AGNES E NANTABA| He is also a jovial MP who can meet and mingle with anyone regardless of style and character. He aspires to show his support for NRM and specifically President Museveni by wearing yellow all the time. He says his wardrobe is of predominantly yellow outfits ranging from suits, shirts, shoes, hat, socks and recently undergarments.
“Everything on me has to at least have yellow if it is not fully yellow. The plate I use, the cups, my bed is yellow, house and everything must be yellow,” Abiriga says.
“I have just returned from DR Congo where I landed on very good yellow undergarments so I was forced to buy all the 20 left in the shop,” he says.
His yellow style gets him noticed. During the 2017/18 budget reading at the Kampala Serena Hotel, President Museveni gifted him with a pair of Ugandan-made sandals for being “a disciplined legislator”. The president had carried the sandals, together with shirts, hats and shoes that are made in Uganda to promote the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) campaign. Unfortunately the sandals are not yellow and Abiriga says he will fix that – by paint them yellow.
Abiriga says his love for Museveni is a response to a calling by his father Yusuf Abdallah (RIP), a former soldier under the King’s African Rifles (KAR) who fought in World War II.
Abiriga says, “My father was a big proponent of President Museveni and he urged us always support him and the NRM”.
He says he also adores Museveni because of the President’s push for a united West Nile region for close to 15 years now. On December 24, 2002, the Government of Uganda and Uganda National Rescue Front II (UNRF II) signed a historical peace agreement that has remained a milestone in ensuring the security and stability in the West Nile region.
The yellow legislator is also a soldier. He first served in the army of then-Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada at the rank of Staff Sergeant until he was promoted to the rank of Major under NRA and finally colonel in now UPDF.
His father pushed him to drop out of school in senior three at Kabalega SS in Masindi and join the military despite objection from his uncle and protests from him.
“There was no official recruitment then and since he had been a soldier, he maintained that my destination was also in the army,” Abiriga says.
In 1971, Abiriga joined the army but applied to continue with school under the department of education at Grammar Secondary School where he reveals to have completed Ordinary Level. After nine months of training, Abiriga was deployed in the Secret Service at Makindye Military Police in Kampala.
In 2001, President Museveni appointed Abiriga as RDC for Arua. He held the job for 12 years until he was transferred to Yumbe in the same position in 2014. A few months into the position, Abiriga resigned to join elective politics and become an MP.
“At this age, I need to associate with younger people to share in the fresh views and even when I had set out to run for only one term, I have reconsidered a second one come 2021,” he says.
Abiriga is the heir and surviving eldest son of his father who had 34 children. He says he was born at a time when hunger was at its highest hence his name.
“Abiriga means hunger,” he says, “During that time, people survived on sim-sim and groundnuts paste mixed with water.”
Abiriga says he had over 30 wives and sired over 30 children in his early years but they all died. He says only God knows why they died but, he adds, the elders and relatives blamed the deaths on Abiriga’s failure to breastfeed as a baby.
“I was told that I never suckled my mother’s breast because I rejected it completely so it was just poured out,” he says. Today, Abiriga says he has one wife and 10 children.