Museveni was born in Ntungamo in south-western Uganda in 1944 to Amos Kaguta, a cattle keeper.He was given the name Museveni in honor of the ‘Seventh Regiment of the King's African Rifles, the British colonial army in which many Ugandans served during World War II. At the time of his birth, many of them were returning home.
He attended Kyamate Primary School in Ntungamo, Mbarara High School, and Ntare School. It was while at high school that he became a born-again Christian and a student leader.
In 1967, he went to the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where, he studied economics and political science. While at university, he formed the University Students' African Revolutionary Front activist group and led a student delegation to FRELIMO territory in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule. At that time, Museveni was an admirer of international revolutionary Che Guevera.
Although he was still young, he saw it right to receive military training in guerrilla war fare. It was several years later when he applied his skills that his age-mates at the time realized how forward looking the young man was. His contemporaries at the time included Eriya Kategaya and Ruhakana Rugunda.
After University in 1970 at the age of 26, Museveni joined the intelligence service of Ugandan President Dr. Apollo Milton Obote. In his own account, Museveni said that he did not join the government because he liked Obote, but because, he wanted to see how government is ran.
When Idi Amin seized power in a January 1971 military coup, Museveni fled to Tanzania. While in Tanzania, he started organizing clandestine groups to try and overthrow the government of Idi Amin, these operated out of Mbale, Gulu, Kampala and Mbarara. In 1972, he took part in an attack-that went so horribly wrong against Idi Amin.
In 1973, more of his comrades were killed by Idi Amin soldiers in different engagements, prominent among these were Mwesigwa Black, Martin Mwesigwa, and Valerian Rwaheru. However, this did not deter his resolve.
By October 1978, when Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania. Museveni had already trained a significant number of fighters in his FRONASA outfit. The Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), joined forces with the Tanzanian army to launch a counter-attack which culminated in the toppling of the Amin regime in April 1979. Museveni was named Minister of State for Defence in the new UNLF government. He was the youngest minister in Yusuf Lule's administration. The thousands of troops which Museveni recruited into FRONASA during the war were incorporated into the new national army but retained their loyalty to him
The National Consultative Council (NCC) selected Godfrey Binaisa as the new chairman of the UNLF after infighting led to the deposition of Yusuf Lule in June 1979. Machinations to consolidate power continued with even during the Binaisa regime. In November, Museveni was reshuffled from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Regional Cooperation, with Binaisa himself taking over the key defense role. In May 1980, Binaisa was placed under house arrest after an attempt to dismiss Oyite Ojok, the then army chief of staff. A Presidential Commission, with Museveni as Vice-Chairman, was installed and quickly announced plans for a general election in December. Elections held that year were however rigged in favour of Dr Milton Obote of Uganda Peoples Congress.
Not satisified with the state of affairs, Museveni together with his supporters formed a rebel group called the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), which later became the NRA and planned a rebellion against the second Obote regime, popularly known as "Obote II", and its armed forces, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). The insurgency began with an attack on an army installation in the central Mubende district on 6 February 1981.
The organization and composition of the initial PRA group had its core base from the FRONASA recruits, the Munduli Cadets and some intelligence officers trained in Cuba.
Museveni explained that they decided to wage a people’s protracted war, as opposed to a conventional one, because they knew that it was the only way to cement the involvement of the population. Turning raw recruits into a fighting force was perhaps Museveni’s major achievement of the war. By the end of 1981, NRA rebels controlled most of Luwero and Nakaseke. They were making attacks in Mubende and as far as Hoima. This area was named Luwero Triangle. By the end of 1985, the rebels controlled most parts of Western Uganda and had besieged Mbarara barracks.
On 27 July 1985, the UPC government was overthrown by Lieutenant-General Tito Okello. The NRA finally agreed to talk peace with the military government and these commenced on 26 August to 17 December. However, although a cease-fire was announced, it was never respected. Museveni explained that while they were talking, abuse of human rights continued, the military junta continued to build their army and attack them. Museveni and his allies withdrew from the talks and continued with the military campaign.
The push for Kampala started on January 17th from different parts of the central region and by January 26, 1986 Kampala was overrun.
Museveni was sworn in as President three days later on 29 January. It was on this day that he made the now famous statement. "This is not a mere change of guards, it is a fundamental change," Speaking to a mammoth crowd outside the Ugandan parliament, the new President promised a return to democracy.
The NRM declared a four-year interim government, composed a wider political base than previous regimes. Party officials from the many political parties like UPC , DP, CP etc were appointed into cabinet. There was also a parliament, the National Resistance Council (NRC) that had both elected and nominated representatives. A system of Resistance Councils, directly elected at the parish level, was established.
The election of Resistance Councils representatives was the first direct experience many Ugandans had with democracy after many decades of varying levels of authoritarianism.
Uganda has since had five Presidential elections, in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 and an equal number of parliamentary and local elections.
Museveni is married to Janet Kataha. They have four children. During his free time, he likes literally herding his cattle at both Kisozi and Rwakitura.