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Tuesday,August 04,2020 21:05 PM

The Car That Set Off The Bush War

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st February 2004 03:00 AM

A RAMSHACKLE pickup, a lorry, 27 men and a few rifles, launched the attack on Kabamba Military barracks on February 6, 1981 , leading to a military campaign that brought Yoweri Musevni to power, five years ago. Grace Matsiko takes us through the historic events of tarehe sita

A RAMSHACKLE pickup, a lorry, 27 men and a few rifles, launched the attack on Kabamba Military barracks on February 6, 1981 , leading to a military campaign that brought Yoweri Musevni to power, five years ago. Grace Matsiko takes us through the historic events of tarehe sita

I fabricated a story that I was going to Sembabule to attend a wedding,” Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, now the President of Uganda wrote in his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed. Museveni, then a guerrilla leader told this lie to one of his acquaintances, the late Nathan Ruyondo, the former Town Clerk of Masaka, 23 years ago.
Ruyondo obliged and gave Museveni his treasured Peugeot 304, registration number UWL 515.
Little did Ruyondo know that Museveni was heading to Kabamba Military barracks to start a guerrilla war against the Milton Obote regime the next day, resulting in the loss of Ruyondo’s car and subsequently his life.
Museveni’s plan had been to drive from Kampala to Kabamba and raid the barracks early in the morning of Friday February 6, 1981. Luck, however, ran out for him and his group at Katigondo, about 12 miles from Masaka town on the Nyendo-Sembabule Road, when the tyre of their pickup truck was punctured by a sharp metal.
This was when Museveni accompanied by Gen Elly Tumwine, the late Sam Magara, one of his operational commanders and Charles Tusiime, now a Major serving under the Violent Crime Crack Unit, sought Ruyondo’s assistance.
Ruyondo accepted to lend Museveni his car on condition that he returned it the next day. Museveni then sat behind the wheel and the journey to Kabamba began. The rest of his group travelled in a lorry obtained by Lt. Col. Andrew Lutaaya, the former Anti-Smuggling Unit boss, now in private business.
When day broke, Museveni leading in the Peugeot with 26 armed attacked Kabamba armoury and this was his turning point.
After the assault on Kabamba, the group retreated to Kagadi in Kibaale where they abandoned Ruyondo’s vehicle. It has not been established who later took the vehicle. Efforts to trace the vehicle at Kabamba Military park yard proved futile as this reporter rummaged through tones of mangled metal pieces of tanks, pieces of artillery and military trucks.
Maj Shaban Bantariza, the army spokesman, when contacted about the matter referred this reporter to State House. But officials at State House were at a loss as to the whereabouts of the late Ruyondo’s car.
“I don’t think State House knows where it is. Check with the military personel,” said Onapito Ekomoloit, President Museveni’s ssistant adviser on the media.
One of the combatants who participated in the Kabamba attack was saddened this historic symbol could not be traced said that they last saw the vehicle at around 2.00pm, about a mile to Kagadi town on the day of Kabamba attack, as the group retreated into the bush.
“It ran out of fuel and we abandoned it before Kagadi town. We put salt in the engine and partially destroyed it,” he added. He said some people must have vandalised it for spare parts.
But another combatant said that the vehicle was picked by advancing Obote soldiers who took it to Kabamba barracks as an exhibit.
“One of the commanders repaired it and began driving it around, it could be in Masaka or Kampala,” he said quoting a National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrilla contact in Masaka.
Kwame Ruyondo, the son of the late Nathan Ruyondo said the family does not know the fate of the car either.
“That is the cost of freedom, people lose life like our father did, others lose property,” he said in a reflective mood.
“I am happy that our father did not die in vain.” says Kwame currently running a coffee business in Denmark.

Kwame, who took over management of the family estate after the death of his elder brother Col Patrick Lumumba, in 1991, says their father was picked by Obote’s security men two days after the attack and was detained at the Central Police Station, Kampala in the same cell as Jabeli Bidandi Ssali, the former minister of Local Government and Uganda Patriotic Movement National task force chairman.
Unknown to Bidandi and Ruyondo, Tusiime, a Cuban trained military officer was also jailed in Luzira prison. He was arrested by Obote’s soldiers in Bukomero while buying food for the guerrillas. When Ruyondo was released from Luzira prison by Gen Tito Okello Lutwa, he was very weak as a result of torture and died a month after Museveni took power, recalls Kwame.
Ruyondo was buried in March 1986, in Kazo county, in Mbarara District at a funeral presided over by President Museveni.
Ends

The Car That Set Off The Bush War

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