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Early NRA days, how I saw the revolution evolve -1981-86

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Added 26th January 2016 09:51 AM

As we celebrate this liberation day, I pay tribute to the men and women from all over the country who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Early NRA days, how I saw the revolution evolve -1981-86

Dennis Katungi works with Uganda Media Centre

As we celebrate this liberation day, I pay tribute to the men and women from all over the country who made the ultimate sacrifice.

By Dennis Katungi

As the 27 armed men attacked Kabamba on February 6, 1981, I was in vacation having completed PLE at the end of 1980.  Those were heady days.  You may well refer to me as one of the NRA Kadogo-activists who remained behind the enemy lines.

As a pupil, I considered myself well informed not only in current affairs, but on the political goings on around me. As a young Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) supporter, I had participated in the campaigns leading up to the botched elections of December 1980, albeit as a kid cheerleader.  

I had also heard the threats of the UPM president, a contender for Mbarara North, as my constituency - Kazo was known.  Yoweri Museveni had warned he would fight, if the election was rigged.

In the event, Kazo turned out to be one of NRA's foremost recruitment grounds, despite the fact DP had won the constituency.  Robert Kabura, one of the 27 who attacked Kabamba had been my classmate, though older before joining UNLA. Frank Kamuninga also among the 27 was a close family friend. Many of our young mates and close relatives ended up in the NRA armed struggle that culminated in capturing power in 1986.

In 1982, my family was involved in clandestine work, channelling more boys to the NRA Luwero war theatre.   The group of 20 or so that left with my late cousin George Rwaibanda and the late Capt. Kamuntu had a roll call at our house in Kazo at midnight.

Rwaibanda an NCO in UNLA had defected from his unit and hid at home for a few weeks.  It was Brig. Stephen Kashaka who came all the way from the jungles of Luwero to collect them.  This was the first of several groups to be dispatched to the bush.

You have to give it to Obote's National Security Agency (NASA) led by Chris Rwakasisi (now Presidential adviser). They had good intelligence. The following day, operatives came to our house with the local chief to inquire about a large group of people who left our property next to the diary milk cooling plant in Kazo.

We thought the operation was clandestine but NASA rumbled us and some people got arrested.  Kazo Sec. School Bursar then known as Catherine had kept a group of 10 young men in her house for a whole day as they had to wait for Brig. Kashaka who had gone by bicycle to Nyabushozi to fetch more boys.  From when Kashaka arrived on mission, to when all the 20 or more boys gathered at our house to embark on the midnight trek - it had taken two days.  A good number of the 20 were UNLA deserting to NRA

A game of cat and mouse unravelled with our parents going into hiding as a result of harbouring ‘guerrillas'. My father, together with Mzee Lazaro Kyabihende father of Brig. Taban hid in our farm, I remember Hebert Kyabihende now Lt. Col in UPDF and myself ferrying food and information to those in hiding.  Other elders - Mzee James Rwetega, Mzee  Georgee Ruzara and Mzee Bwamunyoga also went into hiding.

When I left Kazo to study in Jinja, my classmates joined NRA en-mass.  I remember feeling left out when I heard that Hebert Kyabihende a.k.a.  Lt. Col. Makanga ,Col. Kanyesigye who heads Military Police, Lt. Col. David Kamukama , Maj. Stephen Mugarura currently Legal officer SFC and many others had enlisted. The next time I saw them after storming Kampala, they were seasoned soldiers and me, a senior five student.

Most of the officers mentioned above had been part of our juniors social club which we named Makanga boys.  This is where Lt. Col. Hebert Kyabihende derives the pet name Makanga.  It was our social cum debating club in Kazo in mid-80's. This club emptied into the bush, save for yours faithfully.

As we celebrate this liberation day, I pay tribute to the men and women from all over the country who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I fondly remember those from Kazo.  Some had joined Fronasa - then UNLA and ended up as commanders in the NRA bush war.  A few are alive, but many died.  Elly Tumwine (now General), the late Hannington Mugabi, a munduli cadet, the late Patrice Lumumba, Geoffrey Mwijukye (a.k.a  Brig.Taban),  Burundi Nyamunywanisa ( Brigadier), the late Col. Frank Kamuninga Kifuba, Joram Mugume  ( General), the late Maj. George Rwaibanda,  the late Rutembana, Dora Kuteesa (wife of Maj.Gen Pecos Kutesa), the lateTom Mihirane,  the late Fred Kashoma, the late Kakwezi, the late Muhanguzi Kimosho, the late Lauben Ikondere, the late Robert Kabura, the late Katuuku, the late Akanga Byaruhanga, the late Kagumire, Sam Karogo (now Major), the late Geoffrey Katumbuza, the late Kodi Nunguri, the late Kusasira Butimbire, the late Koozi, late Muharabu and the late Kamwerere.  

This is not a comprehensive list of Kazo fighters, but those I remember because I knew them personally.  They and others were brave men and women.  They fought a good war until Uganda was free.

We will eternally be grateful to these combatants. When they eventually captured government, the surviving fighters looked for us and gave us generous treats. Gen Elly Tumwine was the army commander as Kampala fell.  

Col. Patrick Lumumba was the fearless Commander of the 3rd Battalion.  Gen. Joram Mugume became the first Chief of Logistics and Engineering.  For limited space, I cannot enthral you with the bush war heroic exploits of Kazo

Suffice to know that many fell before they tasted the fruits of liberation.  Kakwezi (kacamu), Hannington Mugabi, Rutembana, Muharabu  & many other fighters are burried in the Luwero triangle.  May God remember them and all the others who made the ultimate sacrifice.   Happy 30th anniversary.

The writer works with Uganda Media Centre.  


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