Uganda: ‘I’m not a greedy person. I don’t have money like those other leaders’ says Salim Saleh

By Patrick Smith
Posted on Friday, 28 May 2021 17:33, updated on Wednesday, 29 September 2021 17:07

Salim Saleh
Salim Saleh, a retired Ugandan military officer and brother of President Yoweri Museveni. (Photo: Facebook)

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni may be a household name, but Salim Saleh has been there all along advising his older brother on military matters within his capacity as a retired army officer, while building a name for himself in business.

A phone alarm rings and with military precision, Lieutenant General Salim Saleh logs onto the video conference call scheduled for the top of the hour.

Sporting an open-necked, blue checked shirt, and cradling a large mug of coffee, Gen Saleh is ready for combat, but he assures me its of the verbal kind. Today it’s more about being a ‘gentleman farmer’ than a security hegemon.

Saleh was speaking from his house in Gulu, the city in Northern Uganda that became the epicentre of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency, three decades ago. Now he is leading a national project there to boost coffee production.

East African coffee thrives, thanks to a combination to rich soils, benign climate and local farming expertise.

To mark the occasion, I brewed a pot of coffee with beans from the grassy slopes of the Rwenzori mountains that straddle Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In demand in Europe and the United States, these light fragrant beans are shipped from both countries. Another reason to find a way to cooperate in the regional economy.

Not your regular businessman

Two points dominate Saleh’s biography. His older brother is Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, to whom he has been a long-time advisor on all matters military. The second point is more contentious. Saleh is widely said to be one of Uganda’s richest businessmen with interests in gold and private security companies, as well as extensive land holdings.