BY AHMED KATEREGGA MUSAAZI
On Monday 20th May 2019, Uganda Cabinet noted that Celebrations marking the 30th Heroes Day Anniversary would be held today Sunday 9th June, 2019 at Kasanje Playgrounds, Kasanje Town Council in Wakiso District under the theme: “Celebrating the courageous Heroes who brought Peace and prosperity we are enjoying”.
Holding a National Heroes Day cerebrations at Kasanje was overdue as the area was a base of the rebel fighters of Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) under the late Dr. Andrew Lutakome Kayiira and later the breakaway Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda (FEDEMU) under the late Lt. Col. George Nkwangwa.
National Resistance Movement/Army was a friendly force with UFM as the two were operating in Central Region and both armed by the late Col.Muammar Gaddafi of Libya from 1881 and by 1982, the two liberation groups and Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) under Gen. Moses Ali, announced in London, that they had formed Uganda Democratic Alliance as their umbrella body.
According to President Yoweri Museveni, in Sowing the Mustard Seed (1996), Col. Gaddafi wanted all fighting groups to integrate into one force but Museveni cautioned that if that is done, then there could be a danger of infiltration. If one group is infiltrated by an enemy force, then it will spoil all. So, they agreed on collaboration, sharing reconnaissance information and mapping up strategies.
For example, between 1980 and 1982, West Nile sub region had become a no-go area for UNLA after Milton Obote, who was with the UNLA Army Commander Maj.Gen. Tito Okello, survived narrowly an ambush at Koboko, laid by Maj. Later Brig. Bernard Rwehururu of Former Uganda National Army (FUNA) under the late Maj.Gen. Isaac Lumago. This prompted the Army Chief of Staff the late Brig. and later Maj. Gen.David Oyite Ojok to reinforce UNLA with Acholi and Lango tribal militias which committed genocide, the worst being the Ombaci massacre. As UNLA was occupied in West Nile, NRA was expanding in Luwero Triangle.
After 1986 NRM/NRA victory, UFM, FEDEMU, UNRF and UNLA were integrated in NRA now UPDF. The screening process for UFM was at former Tiger Battalion Mubende and for FEDEMU it was at former Air Sea Borne Regiment Tororo. A former NRA medical doctor in Luwero Triangle and then State Minister for Defence Dr. Ronald Batta, in whose memory, Ronald Batta Memorial Military Hospital Entebbe was built, was the one in charge of screening UNRF fighters. The UNLA Army Chief of Staff, the late Maj.Gen. Zeddy Maruru, was the one that led his officers to surrender to NRA High Command Chairperson, Yoweri Museveni, among whom was his ADC, now Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala.
At Kasanje, there were two notorious gombolola chiefs in Mpigi District now Greater Mpigi. One was Edward Kabira, the Gombolola Chief of Kasanje Sub County, and the other was Night Kulabako the Gomboloa Chief of Katabi. According to testimonies of some of the students; the late Muwanga and his two brothers Kiyegga and Seruyimba now bodaboda operators at Kitintale, we studied with at St. Victor’s SSS Kitaasa in Bukomansimbi in 1982, who had run away from Kasanje, the two used to order for the killing and sometimes participated in beating, torture and killing of the people with impunity.
Some of their atrocities were exposed in Munnansi, a newsletter that was published by Foundation for Africa Development funded by German based Konrad Adenuer Foundation. It was a mouth piece of DP edited by the late Anthony Wagaba Sekweyama, who was Deputy Publicity Secretary of DP then. Hundreds and hundreds of the people were killed in Kasanje where there was a UNLA detach and at Katabi, which was near the Uganda Air Force barracks. These were real and imaginary rebels and collaborators.
On several occasions the area MP who was also Leader of Opposition in Parliament Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere used to talk about those atrocities on the floor of parliament or wrote to Leader of Government Business who was Prime Minister, Ambassador Eric Otema Alimadi, but nothing was done. Interestingly, Night Kulabako, a light skinned young lady, was among the leading “No Lule no work’ demonstrators at Abayitaabiri, protesting the removal of the late Prof. Yusuf Lule as President and replacing him with the late Gofrey Lukongwa Binaisa. This prompted the Chairperson of UNLF’s Military Commission who also doubled as Minister of internal Affairs, the late Paulo Muwanga to call for her. After spending some time with one of the UNLF leaders, Kulabako came back a changed person supporting government and when UNLF was torn apart, she supported UPC and Muwanga ensured that she was appointed a Gombolola Chief.
Edward Kabira is reported to have been killed by mob justice after Saturday July 27th Okellos coup that toppled Obote ll regime. Kulabako survived but was arrested and charged with a number of murder cases but was acquitted as witnesses failed to go to court to give evidence and testimonies implicating her.
I am delighted to note that Kasanje war veterans will not only go with medals, there is also pension (akasiimo) given to civilian veterans coordinated by Lt.Col.Jacob Asiimwe, a Special Presidential Assistant. Then, according to Ministry of Works and Transport’s presentation during the Manifesto week, Busaabala, Kasanje and Nakawuka roads are ear marked for tarmac in the next financial year.
Among the new cities approved by cabinet recently, chaired by President Yoweri Museveni himself, is Entebbe that will cover Entebbe, which was Uganda’s capital in the colonial times before Kampala became the capital city at independence. However, Wakiso District Council is of the view that no matter the name, the city should cover the entire Wakiso District as was promised by president Museveni at a public rally he held at Kyengera in February 2016 during campaigns.
In a nutshell, I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate all Ugandans regardless of political affiliation for reaching this noble day on which we celebrate and appreciate our heroes from various sectors and backgrounds in appreciation of their contribution towards building our nation.
The writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Center (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.