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Tarehe Sita: Recalling the Kabamba battle

By David Lumu

Added 6th February 2020 10:24 AM

Tarehe Sita celebrations mark and recognise the heroism and gallantry exhibited by those 41 patriots, who laid the foundation on which the UPDF rests.

Tarehe Sita: Recalling the Kabamba battle

UPDF 3rd Division commander Brig. Joseph Balikudembe with patients at Moroto Hospital during a clean-up exercise in the build-up to Tarehe Sita Day. Photo by Olandason Wanyama

Tarehe Sita celebrations mark and recognise the heroism and gallantry exhibited by those 41 patriots, who laid the foundation on which the UPDF rests.


Thirty-nine years ago, a group of 41 men, led by President Yoweri Museveni drove along a dusty Masaka-Nyendo- Katigondo-Ssembabule road in an old truck with one mission, to attack Kabamba Barracks and grab as many guns as possible so that they start a revolution to overthrow President Milton Obote.

"There was no incident on our journey until we passed Katigondo, about 12 miles from Masaka," Museveni wrote in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda.

At Katigondo, a pick-up truck they were travelling got a puncture and unfortunately, they had no spare tyre. On that night, Museveni had to walk back to Masaka, a journey of about 12 miles to look for help.

Of course, Museveni delayed, and the mission delayed too. And subsequently, by the time they drove through Ssembabule town through Rwemiyaga to Kabamba, it was already daytime.

They attacked Kabamba at around 8:15 am, but they did not get as many weapons as they expected. When they attacked Kabamba on February 6, they had 27 guns. To these, they added 13 after the attack.

This, according to accounts of Museveni and fellow fighters, was not so good, but also not bad since they did not suffer grave losses.

On the next day, the group attacked Nsunga Police post and on top of three guns also captured a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

The total number of guns they had then increased to 43 with an RPG. Rocket Propelled Grenades are important for mobile guerrillas because they are the only movable close combat support weapon available.

The number of guns increased to 60 on February 8, after they attacked Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLA) posts in Kiboga district.

Just like that, the attack on Kabamba triggered a five-year guerrilla war, which brought Museveni to power in 1986 under the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M).

Today, Museveni will preside over celebrations of Tarehe Sita at Butalango in Nakaseke district under the theme, consolidating the UPDF strategic partnership with the people to guard gains of liberation.

According to the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) Tarehe Sita synopsis document, which was circulated to the media yesterday by the army's deputy spokesperson, Lt Col. Deo Akiiki, every February 6, the army remembers what he described as the "dauntless revolutionary" acts of 41 men armed with 27 guns who attacked Kabamba in broad daylight.

"This was a turning point in the history of Uganda and from that date, the trajectory of Uganda would be altered forever," it noted. 

"The attack was a clarion call and signalled the commencement of a determined resistance in the form of a popular and protracted struggle by a people against a regime.

Tarehe Sita celebrations, therefore, mark and recognise the heroism and gallantry exhibited by those 41 patriots, who laid the foundation on which the UPDF rests today, as a people's army and vanguard force in the struggle to achieve socio-economic transformation," the document noted.

In celebrating Tarehe Sita, the army also recognises the ‘‘noble recognition of the sacrifices made by thousands of gallant men and women both in combat and non-combat that provided enormous support in both human and material resources — many of them paying the ultimate price of shedding their blood''. 

To give back to society, which the army commander, Gen. David Muhoozi, says is the central fulcrum of the UPDF, several civil-military activities have been carried out by the soldiers, including renovating classrooms, health facilities, general cleaning and the provision of free dental and eye care services.

"The army is born of and restocked from the people that it is mandated to defend, rather than repress, as was previously the case. It is no wonder, therefore, that the people remain a core element in its mission statement; ‘To preserve, defend and protect the people and their properties, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda, contributing to regional stability and supporting international peace initiatives,'' the army leadership said.

During the Tarehe Sita celebrations, over 100 people, mainly army officers, are also expected to receive medals, for their contribution towards peace and stability in the country.

Significance of Butalango 

It is part of the wider Luwero Triangle corridor and covers Nakaseke, Luwero, Nakasongola and Busiro.

These were the main operational bases for NRA fighters.

A great number of NRA fighters were sons and daughters of the region.

The area was the main source of food for the NRA fighters.

It hosted the initial training grounds for the recruits.

The area provided critical intelligence for the successful NRA operations in all the districts that constituted the Luwero Triangle.

Engulfed in grief and misery, past bad leaders made the region known for notorious arbitrary arrests, mass killings of civilians and destruction during the liberation war. 

There are 33 mass graves containing over 370,000 human skulls in Luwero Triangle alone.


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