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From Kasese to Kampala in 8 days

By Admin

Added 22nd October 2020 03:41 PM

I appeal to any of the six members who happen to read this to contact me and we celebrate our successful journey of 35 years ago.

From Kasese to Kampala in 8 days

Samson Bagonza Engineer in Chief works ministry

I appeal to any of the six members who happen to read this to contact me and we celebrate our successful journey of 35 years ago.

Most people know Samson Bagonza as the engineer-in-chief at the works ministry.

35 years ago, he was just another student on vacation in Kasese, which had been cut off from Kampala by civil war.

A bold, but risky, journey he took then changed his life forever. About two weeks ago, he relived the trek in a symbolic 2km journey in Maddu, Gomba. Below is his story…

It was a Sunday on September 22, 1985, when I heard my name on the 8:00 pm news on Radio Uganda.

I was in Kasese. The British Council Office in Kampala was informing me to report at its offices to finalise arrangements to travel to the United Kingdom for further studies.

The good news was, unfortunately, a slap in my face because both road and rail transport from Kasese to Kampala had been cut off for about two weeks.

There was a blockade of western Uganda from the rest of the country due to a stand-off between the National Resistance Army (NRA) and the government then.

After the July 1985 military coup that saw Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa take over power in Kampala, NRA moved out of the Luwero Triangle and took control of western Uganda. But I was advised to try my luck and travel to Kampala. I, therefore, decided to begin the journey the following afternoon.

Not only was it a seeming mission impossible, but it was also risky. I could have been mistaken for an NRA rebel. Little did I know that the eight-day venture would become a transition in my life.

DAY ONE: KASESE - KYENJOJO

On September 23, at about midday, I packed my small suitcase and walked to the old taxi park on Margherita Road in Kasese town.

I arrived in Fort Portal at around 3:30 pm and boarded a bus to Hoima at about 4:00 pm. I got off the bus in Kyenjojo at about 6:00 pm to get transport to Kampala, only to meet about 200 people, who had been stranded for up to two weeks.

I looked for a lodge and slept, wondering what to do next.

DAY 2: KYENJOJO-MUBENDE

On September 24, I moved around in the trading centre asking about the possibilities of traveling to Kampala. I was losing hope by the minute.

However, at around 12:00 pm, a small pick-up truck carrying two nuns came from the direction of Kagadi.

They said they also wanted to travel to Kampala using their own pickup truck but people advised them against it saying the furthest they could safely go was Mubende.

It was believed that Lutwa soldiers controlled the railway crossing ahead of Mityana town (Mpamujugu), west of which was in the control of NRA.

The nuns decided to move ahead to Mubende and allowed four of the stranded passengers in Kyenjojo to travel with them.

We arrived in Mubende at about 3:00 pm. They dropped us in Mubende town and headed to the Roman Catholic Church established in Kaweri for consultations and advice.

In Mubende, there were over 500 people, who had been stranded for more than two weeks. Among them, drivers of the Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) Scania trucks, fully loaded with bags of coffee.

There were more than 20 Scania trucks unable to proceed to Kampala.

DAY 3, 4: MUBENDE-KIGANDA

On September 25, I joined the stranded people and moved around Mubende looking for ways to proceed to Kampala.

Everyone was narrating scary stories that showed no chance. The next day, in the evening, at around 5:00 pm, some NRA soldiers in a dark blue education ministry Datsun pick-up truck, labeled Gift from the Government of Japan, came to one of the Scania truck drivers.

They asked him to drive to Kiganda, offload coffee, and load ammunition to an undisclosed destination.

Some stranded people begged the driver to transport them to Kiganda, some 50km ahead, towards Mityana.

Only seven people were allowed, me inclusive. We arrived at Kiganda trading center at about 8:00 pm. Kiganda was a small trading centre without hotels and lodges.

A Good Samaritan allowed us to sleep in his commercial building. We slept in two front rooms used as shops (dukas), but now filled with coffee to a depth of about half a meter. We bought mats and rolled them over the dry coffee and slept.

DAY 5, 6: KIGANDA

We remained in Kiganda on September 27 and 28. We had reasonable meals at a local restaurant and spent the days in the trading centre playing mweso.

I must say I impressed everybody with my talent for the game.

After out-competing them, they became reluctant to play with me again.

I have had experience in playing mweso since 1973.

On September 28, someone came to ask whether we were the group that wanted to travel to Kampala. He proposed that the only option was to walk to Maddu, where there was still a bus service to Kampala.

He also advised that since Maddu was far away from Kiganda, we needed to set off early in the morning. We were also advised to hire bicycle men to ferry us.

DAY 7: KIGANDA-MADDUKIFAMPA

We set off from Kiganda at 6:00am, on September 29, each of us with a hired bicycle.

We crossed the railway line between the railway stations of Wamala and Musozi. The bicycle riders did not have a hard time because the terrain was mostly flat.

We walked on hilly sections of the village paths. After traversing through a rural area, we arrived in Maddu at about 4:00 pm.

We were happy and excited, only to be informed that the last bus had traveled to Kampala the previous Friday.

It had been expected but did not return. They guessed that it was most likely due to mechanical problems. It was a market day in Maddu that Sunday and the trading centre was busy.

We paid our cyclists as we contemplated our next move. We were advised to travel to a place called Kifampa, where we were told there were three buses still plying the Kampala route.

Kifampa was about 16km away. There was a tractor that had brought pineapples from Kifampa to the market that was returning that evening. The owner was receptive and allowed to take us.

The tractor had no headlights but we arrived in Kifampa at about 8:00pm.

We found three buses in Kifampa scheduled to depart for Kampala. We were advised against the two that departed at midnight and 6:00 am.

We opted for the one of 3:00 am. We secured accommodation, cleaned up, had supper, and slept early in order to catch the 3:00 am bus.

And, indeed, it left Kifampa at exactly 3:00 am.

DAY 8: KIFAMPA-KAMPALA

Finally, on September 30, we traveled smoothly from Kifampa via Kabulasoke, Mpenja, Kanoni, Kibibi till we were stopped at a nasty roadblock at Mpigi.

It was manned by soldiers of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).

After a thorough search of the passengers and their luggage, we were allowed to proceed to Kampala.

We arrived at the Baganda bus park, known then as Katimba at about 10:00 am. I immediately got a special hire taxi and proceeded to the British Council offices on Parliament Avenue.

I partied with my six friends with whom we had braved the eight-day journey from Kyenjojo. We have never met again. I cannot recall any of them and would not recognize any, even if we met.

I appeal to any of the six members who happen to read this to contact me and we celebrate our successful journey of 35 years ago.

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