The luck in the NRA guerrilla war
Publish Date: Feb 11, 2014
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By Moses Mukundane

The Uganda Peoples’ Defense Force climaxed its commemoration week of Tarehe Sita 33rd Anniversary with a number of humanitarian activities characterised by general cleaning in most public places within the domain of public health, Bravo!

The NRA guerrilla warfare met various kinds of luck and ill-luck auspices that directed events before, during, and after the war. And had it not been a number of various accounts mentioned below, it would have been a different NRA history altogether today.

The Tarehe Sita which is known as a day the NRA started the guerrilla war to oust the Obote II government would not be commemorated on February 6 but rather on January 18. So what happened?

Following the allegedly rigging of 1980 elections by the UPC political party that eventually brought back Obote to power as the President of Uganda for the second time, Museveni and his colleagues hatched the plans of ousting Obote II government and capture political power through military means.

A number of secret meetings were held in Kampala (Makindye) chaired by Museveni and attended by Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a Salim Saleh, Rwigyema, Elly Tumwine, Ndayombi, Tupigane, Kanyankore, Bunanukye Feb,  Elias Mwiine a.k.a. Chefe Ali, to mention but a few.

The group finally agreed to enter the bush and start the guerrilla war on January 18, 1981. However, one member by the names of Tupigane, betrayed the group and released the information to Obote II government soldiers.

Fear of being arrested, and tension, suspicion and mistrust overwhelmed the war planners resulting into disorganisation and loss of coordination amongst themeselves. 

Consequently the date for start of the war was inevitably postponed to February 6th 1981, the day Kabamba barracks was attacked.

The very first 27 NRA soldiers usually heralded for starting the guerilla war with seven guns. This phenomenon has hitherto challenged the theory of the ‘strength of numbers’.

Nevertheless, had it not been the disorganisation and loss of coordination amongst the war planners following the leakage of information about the start of guerrilla war, the number would have actually been more than that.

Most war planners ran away for their safety as far as back home in their villages, lost contacts of their colleagues and thereby missing on the list of the first group of 27, though they joined the group later on, thanks to clandestine mission of tracing their whereabouts. 

The group of 27, were a few among many war planners who managed to maintain the group contacts, re-organised themselves and carried on with the plan and eventually started the war, attacked Kabamba barracks, and looted scores of ammunitions that replenished their guerrilla warfare.

With the joining of the earlier lost colleagues and the new recruits, the group waged a protracted guerrilla war that lasted for five years until they captured power on January 26, 1986.

The ‘golden bullet’ of the war - the Tumwine’s bullet

The mission to attack Kabamba barracks and the eventual rooting of ammunitions that later replenished the UPA/NRA guerrillas would have probably taken longer time, or even aborted, had it not been the cowardice of Elly Tumwine who fired the first bullet that eventually sparked the ‘babtism of fire’ between the UPA/NRA guerrillas and Obote II soldiers at Kabamba barracks on February 6, 1981.

The UPA/NRA strategic mission was achieved as they tactfully crushed the barracks in their few numbers and rooted scores of ammunitions.

The writer is a researcher who obtained data from NRA veteran (RO/00057)

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