In 1967, after Ahmed Kashillingi (now Lieutenant Colonel) completed his A'level at Kigezi College Butobere, he travelled to Mbarara for recruitment in Uganda Prisons.
However, he was disqualified on grounds that he was short in spite of his height of 5'8ft. Thus, an upset Kashillingi went and lived with his aunt, Angela Kamazoba, a teacher in Mbarara. While there, he was notified about the army recruitment at Mbarara barracks.
But on arriving there, he found when registration was completed. As the distressed Kashillingi stood there, he heard the commanding officer, Mesusera Arach (Colonel), give instructions to those who had been registered to remove their shirts and board the army truck.
Interestingly, the unregistered Kashillingi also removed his shirt and got onto the truck, which took them to Biharwe. From there, they were instructed to run back to Mbarara barracks as a way of testing their body fitness. During the run, they were being observed by Arach in his Land Rover.
Indeed, Arach was impressed by seeing the light-skinned Kashilling leading the race. That is why he instructed the army clerks to register him as the number one recruit. Before the enlisted were taken for the nine-month military training, Arach took Kashillingi to his home at Ruharo and lived with him for a week.
Upon completing the nine-month course in Mbarara, Kashillingi and Lawrence Opio were sent to the army headquarters in Mengo, Kampala for another course on conditions of service, regulations and armed forces Act. Their tutor was John Mwaka, who was later promoted to colonel by President Idi Amin, on August 28, 1973.
Afterwards in 1969, Kashillingi underwent a signal course at Jinja. From there, he, together with Moses Ali (now General), Dusman Sabuni, Alfred Aswa and Juma Oris undertook a three months para-trooping course at Malire barracks.
Then in 1970, Kashillingi was taken to England for an upper-grade course in records management. Subsequently in 1972, after President Amin was hosted by Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, Libya in February, Kashillingi was sent to Benghazi, Libya for a one-year commando course.
On return in 1973, he was sent for another one-year para commando course in Bagdad, Iraq. After that, Amin deployed Kashillingi in the then Bugolobi-based commando unit headed by Maj. Ibrahim Garandi.
Subsequently, in July 1976, the director of special operations in Amin's army, Col. Isaac Maliyamungu, ordered for the arrest and detention of Kashillingi and 13 other soldiers from different units. Maliyamungu accused them of connivance with Israeli commandos towards the rescue of Israelis and Jews from hostage at Entebbe Airport, on July 2, 1976.
They had been abducted by militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Maliyamungu detained Kashillingi and his colleagues in a room named C-2 at Makindye Barracks. After spending about 20 minutes smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, Maliyamungu returned to that room, pulled out his Soviet pistol and shot live bullets at the detainees as he laughed.
In the process, he killed 12 detainees. Only Kashillingi and WOI Mohammad Yusuf of the air force survived. Aware of her husband's predicament, Kashillingi's wife, Zainabu Mbabazi, pleaded with the wife of Amin's vice-president, Mustapha Adrisi, to free her husband.
Indeed, Adrisi was of help. A freed Kashillingi returned to his commando unit, where he continued serving until Amin was toppled on April 11, 1979.
After Amin was removed from power, Kashillingi responded to Radio Uganda announcements made by Prof. Yusuf Lule's government directing former Amin's soldiers to report to the nearest police stations or army barracks. On reporting at Kyanamira Police post, Kabale, Kashillingi, and others were instead arrested and detained at Luzira.
Using commando skills he garnered from Libya and Iraq, Kashillingi dug a hole using a fork and almost escaped. After he was detected, prison authorities kept his lower part of the body inside water for days. As his body started decomposing, he was removed from the stinking water.
Later when Kashillingi recovered, he used another hair-raising commando skill and escaped from prison, along with Kanyima. From Luzira, he walked to Rukungiri and kept in hiding.
Not long after Dr. Andrew Kayiira formed a rebel group, Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM), Kashillingi joined it, along with other ex-Amin soldiers, such as Ndugutse alias Kalisoliso, George Nkwanga, Lutaaya Sonko, and Joseph Tomusange alias Tom Demo.
One mid-morning, Kashillingi was instructed to drive a Fiat Mirafiori and pick UFM guns from their contact near Lubiri barracks. After they were packed in the car boot, Kashillingi drove towards Nateete. But on reaching Nalukolongo, he found a roadblock mounted by government soldiers.
Every car was supposed to be checked. The moment the soldiers cleared the car in front of him, Kashillingi sped off past the roadblock without being checked. Thus, he delivered the weapons safely in a garage at Nakulabye, which was a UFM cell.
Thereafter, Kashillingi and a few UFM operatives were assigned with assassinating the then chairman of the military commission, Paulo Muwanga, at Najjanankumbi along Entebbe Road. Although Kashillingi and his colleagues reached the agreed venue on time, Abdullah of Nakulabye UFM cell did not deliver the guns. Therefore, the mission flopped.
After the 1980 general election, Yoweri Museveni (now president) started war preparations through the Popular Resistance Army (PRA). Museveni's agent, Joy Mirembe, met Kashillingi at the present venue of Shoprite in Kampala and persuaded him to join Museveni's rebellion. Mirembe and Kashillingi were known to each other since Amin's reign when Mirembe was married to a prison warder at Luzira, called Ahimbisibwe, while Kashillingi's wife, was a Taekwondo instructor at Luzira prisons training school.
Accordingly, Mirembe led Kashillingi to another PRA agent, who had a shop near Full Gospel Church, Makerere. Kashillingi stayed there for two days and was thereafter taken to Nakulabye inside the garage of rally driver Wycliffe Bukenya. That garage was a PRA cell coordinated by Andrew Lutaaya (now Brigadier).
Indeed, Lutaaya picked Kashillingi from that garage and delivered him into rebel ranks. After Museveni and his colleagues launched the PRA war on February 6, 1981 with an attack on Kabamba barracks, a unit headed by Matayo Kyaligonza (Major General) was deployed in greater Mukono to divert Obote's soldiers' focus on the main group in Kiboga and Bulemeezi.
Accordingly, Kashillingi was deployed in Kyaligonza's unit. Their first camp was in Kasawo, Mukono on Makayo's land. They were originally 14 fighters in that unit, with only one sub-machine gun and a pistol. Kyaligonza was in possession of that pistol, while Kashillingi held the sub-machine gun. From Kasawo, they shifted to Nazigo, Seeta on Senteza's land.
Meanwhile, Kashillingi trained recruits into commando skills that involved the use of stones to attack military installations. As a result, in April 1981, they attacked Kisoga Police Station with mostly stones at 8:40pm and seized seven G3 guns. Then, they shifted to Jjanda, Namugongo, where the Rev. Ssewanonda was one of their crucial collaborators. They attacked Ngogwe Police Station and seized 10 sub-machine guns and some bullets.
Starting from June 1981, the PRA was renamed National Resistance Army (NRA) following its merger with Prof. Lule's Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF). On his return from Nairobi and London after those merger talks, Museveni instructed all NRA forces to converge near Matugga. Thus, new units were formed and deployed.
Kashillingi was put in the mobile brigade, along with Butamanya, Drago Nyanzi, Bruce Muwanga, and Mohammad Kanaabi, among others. Consequently, in 1983, all NRA units were combined because of the dreaded attacks they suffered from Obote's forces, commanded by Col. Charles Ogole.
Thereafter, NRA retreated to Ssingo and Ngoma. Following Oyite's death, Obote's army got so disorganised, leading to the July 27, 1985 coup, spearheaded by Brig. Bazillio Olara Okello. Bazillio then installed Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa as the new president. NRA battled with Lutwa's forces at Katonga Bridge and Kashillingi was one of the crucial commanders. Eventually, Lutwa's government was toppled on January 26, 1986. Kashillingi commanded the capture of Entebbe Airport.
FLEES KAZINI ARREST
Following the NRA's capture of Kampala, Museveni appointed Kashillingi as the director of army records. Later on, February 6, 1988, when NRA commissioned formal ranks, Kashillingi was appointed Lieutenant Colonel along with Mugisha Muntu, Kizza Besigye, Jim Muhwezi, Kasirye Ggwanga, Ivan Koreta, Stephen Kashaka, Ronald Bata, Peter Kerim, Lutaaya, Frank Guma, Nasur Ezaruk Amin, Stanley Muhangi, Bamwesiga Kamwesiga, Fred Mugisha, Samson Mande, Julius Aine, Chefe Ali and Serwanga Lwanga.
Later in 1990, Museveni reshuffled the army and dropped army commander Salim Saleh (General), along with Kashillingi and Julius Chihandae (Brigadier). Museveni instructed Kashillingi and Chihandae to report to the minister of public service, Tom Rubale, for redeployment.
Meanwhile, Museveni left for an official visit to Djibouti. But before doing so, he directed the commander of the 301 Brigade, James Kazini (RIP) to arrest Kashillingi. Accordingly, Kazini deployed three arresting officers and 40 men to Kashillingi's residence at Block 12, Acacia Avenue.
The three arresting officers were Lt. Edward Kacumitana, Lt. Paddy Zebikire and 2nd Lt. Kyeyune. Dramatically, Kashillingi evaded the arrest using a Mercedes Benz. He kept in hiding for three days in Uganda as he hoped to meet Museveni for intervention.
However, Kashillingi decided to run away to Zaire (now DR Congo) after he reportedly heard the minister of state for defence, David Tinyefuza (Sejusa), instructing soldiers: "Kashillingi has escaped. Don't arrest, just shoot him on sight."
Kashillingi escaped to Zaire using a military car he seized from soldiers. At the Uganda- Zaire border at Ishasha, he lied to authorities that he was crossing to purchase drugs for his sick son, Hussein Kashillingi, who is now a lawyer.
After crossing, he told Zairean authorities that Kazini was plotting to kill him. That's why he was offered safe passage through Buganza- Nyamirima-Rutshuru and Goma. Within a few hours, President Mobutu Sese Seko was briefed about Kashilingi's predicament.
So, he offered him accommodation in Goma. Kashillingi stayed in Goma for three months, until Mubutu invited him to Kinshasa for a meeting. Meanwhile, the Ugandan government, through state minister for foreign affairs, Omara Atubo, pleaded with Mobutu's government to extradite Kashillingi.
Subsequently, in 1991, Kashillingi was kidnapped in Beni at night and was brought back to Kampala. He was charged with treason and sent to prison. In court, Kashillingi was represented by Remmy Kasule and Edward Muguluma.
Eventually, on February 17, 1995, Kashillingi was acquitted. According to NRA/UPDF official rankings, Kashillingi is soldier no. 40 (RO/0040).
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