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Saleh wants heroes list expanded

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th June 2009 03:00 AM

As Uganda marks Heroes Day today, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho, better known as Salim Saleh, one of the celebrated fighters of the bush war, says the list of heroes should be expanded to include Ugandans who fought other battles, such as Iron Fist.

As Uganda marks Heroes Day today, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho, better known as Salim Saleh, one of the celebrated fighters of the bush war, says the list of heroes should be expanded to include Ugandans who fought other battles, such as Iron Fist.

By Hellen Mukiibi

As Uganda marks Heroes Day today, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho, better known as Salim Saleh, one of the celebrated fighters of the bush war, says the list of heroes should be expanded to include Ugandans who fought other battles, such as Iron Fist.

In an interview yesterday, Saleh argued that the country should separately recognise heroes for the battles fought in different periods in the last 30 years.

“There were different heroes at different stages of the war,” he said, starting with the 1979-1989 period.

“The turning point for the struggle was in 1979, when most of the officers who are now in charge were recruited. Then you go into the Luwero war whose heroes are no longer visible because many have left active service.”

He cited the heroes of the next period — between 1989 and 1999 — as those who fought in counter-insurgency operations such as the Lakwena war and the Corner Kilak battle against the LRA.

“This period has its own heroes, like Maj. Mutumba, one of the first officers who died in the counter-insurgency in the north.”

In the 1999-2009 period, Saleh wants those who defeated Sudan-sponsored groups, as well as those who fought in Operation Iron Fist to be decorated. “We should also consider the UPDF soldiers on the peace-keeping mission in Somalia.”

The Government has in the past rewarded several army officers and civilians for their contribution to the National Resistance Army struggle, fought between 1981 and 1986. More heroes, including war casualties, will be announced today at the national event in Hoima.

Some of Uganda’s highest military medals include the Order of Katonga, given for heroism, Damu Medal (Kiswahili for blood) for those wounded in action, the Luwero Triangle Medal, for fighters or political leaders of the bush war.

Others are the Nalubaale Medal, for civilian activists who assisted the NRA/NRM during the guerrilla war, the Order of Rwenzori and the Order of Victory. Saleh was decorated with Damu and Luwero Triangle medals.

The usually reserved Saleh also hit back at those who claim that President Yoweri Museveni did not fire a single bullet during the war, arguing that his responsibilities as a planner, strategist and over-all commander were crucial.

“This man (Museveni), whom some say did not fight, organised and has kept the army together, even when fighting on more than seven fronts, like the LRA, ADF, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, the war against the Karimojong and others,” Saleh, also the brother of the President, said.

FDC leader Kiiza Besigye, who was a doctor in the bush war, recently said Museveni did not fire a single shot throughout the entire Luwero bush war.

“The arguments beginning to merge are very funny and the military officers may get carried away,” Saleh said.

“The argument that is developing is that the commander must fire a bullet. In my case, I must have stopped firing bullets when I was in Bukalabi but I never stopped being a commander.”

Saleh was shot and injured on both hands during fighting in Bukalabi in February 1983. After the war, he held various senior posts in the UPDF, including that of Army Commander.

Yesterday, Saleh, flanked by Maj. Gen James Kazini who was his aide de camp during the Luwero struggle, also gave an insight into the two achievements of the NRA which he said led to the fall of the Obote regime.

“There were several encounters but the decisive factors were the successful opening of the second front and the battles at Kembogo and Rutooma. That is when the enemy completely lost balance.”

Responding to claims that the demise of the Obote regime was due to infighting within the UNLA, Saleh said: “Of course the internal weakness played a great role. Their rush to end the war was a real disaster for them. They were embroiled in self-praise and politicising military operations.”

Museveni, in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed, described the battle at Kembogo as follows: “John Ogole (commander of the Special Force) pressed on with his remnants and at Kembogo in Singo on June 21, 1985 tried to attack our mobile Brigade, commanded by Salim Saleh. In the battle, the mobile brigade inflicted a major defeat on the remnants of Ogole’s forces. This brought to an end his military efforts in the central sector.”

He further called the opening of the second front in western Uganda under the command of the late Fred Rwigyema, as ‘the additional nail in the coffin of the UNLA’.

“The two defeats sparked off the mutiny in Obote’s army. It became clear that the UNLA was defeated and could not cope with the assault from our offensive. Obote was overthrown on July 27, 1985 through a military coup d’etat.”

Saleh wants heroes list expanded

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