By Herbert Ssempogo, Francis Kagolo and Frederick Kiwanuka
SOME 755 Ugandans were yesterday recognised for their role in the liberation of the country from tyranny. Last year, 83 heroes were decorated, bringing the total number to 838 in two years.
Winnie Byanyima, the wife of FDC chief Kizza Besigye, Maj. Roland Kakooza Mutale, the outgoing principal private secretary of the President, Amelia Kyambadde and his former press secretary, Hope Kivengere, were among the heroes decorated this year.
Two types of medals were given out: the Nalubaale medal for civilians and the Luweero Triangle medal for those who contributed militarily to the liberation.
Some of the awards were given out at Kikyusa, Wabusana, Luweero district, where the Heroesâ€™ Day celebrations took place yesterday.
Other notables, who received medals, were the defence ministry permanent secretary, Rosette Byengoma, works minister John Nasasira, Prof. Badru Kateregga, former Nyabushozi legislator Elly Karuhanga, Christine Nanyonjo a.k.a. Mama Kyama and former finance minister Gerald Ssendaula.
Kyambogo University chancellor Dr. Eric Adriko, James Musinguzi a.k.a Garuga, the late Bishop Festo Kivengyere of Kabale, Joviah Kyosabiire and Col. Shaban Bantariza also received medals. Garuga, a former political rival of security minister Amama Mbabazi, played a key role in the formation of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change.
The hundreds of people at the ceremony applauded when Gen. Elly Tumwine read Amelia Kyambadde and Kakooza Mutaleâ€™s names.
Three elderly women of Kikyusa, namely Nalongo Nalima, her daughter Margaret Najjuma and Ruth Kazibwe also got the Nalubaale medal. They had not been included on the list, but the President cleared them for the award during the ceremony.
The winners endured the afternoon sun as President Yoweri Museveni pinned the medals on their lapels with the assistance of senior army officers.
Addressing the crowd, the President said the medals were â€œa token of outward appreciationâ€ for the great work the winners rendered to the country. Recounting the five-year guerilla war that brought the NRM to power, Museveni said so many combatants died during the war in several places including in Kikyusa.
â€œHowever, by 1985, we had captured the area (Kikyusa) and we sent the 7th Battalion, which sent away the enemy,â€ he said.
In attendance were ministers, the clergy, MPs and diplomats.
The President said the regime of Milton Obote, not the National Resistance Army (now the UPDF), killed people in Luweero. Museveni said a certain politician had accused the NRA of committing the Luwero massacres.
â€œHe says Museveni and his people killed the residents as they shot at each other. I am considering pressing charges, but some people say he is lying and will retract his statements,â€ he stated.
â€œDo not be surprised when you hear that the Police are investigating him. If a person, who wants to be a president, cannot change their language, what do you do? It is hard to ignore a person who breaks the law.â€
â€œIgnore him,â€ a resident shouted and the President accepted the suggestion and asked his ADC to pick the manâ€™s cell phone number.
UPC leader Olara Otunnu has been trying to convince the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Moreno-Ocampo, to investigate the UPDF and Museveni over their role in the northern war. Ocampo demanded hard evidence and refused to engage in â€œpolitical debateâ€.
In his address, Museveni also said people from diverse backgrounds participated in the liberation struggle without resorting to tribal sentiment, which he said should be emulated. â€œAny person who starts tribal sentiments is an enemy,â€ Museveni said.
As Museveni delivered his speech, he was interrupted by Nalongo Nalima and her daughter Margaret Najjuma briefly when they emerged from the crowd and walked to the podium. Museveni ordered his security to escort them to the VIP tent. Later, he chatted and took pictures with them. They also got medals.
Talking about household income, Museveni commended the people there for taking to pineapple growing, which he said would boost their earnings. He appealed to leaders to promote the development programs among the residents by letting them know about NAADS money.
Museveni asked the local NAADS official, Fred Tabalamule, to explain how much money had been disbursed to the sub-county. Tabalamule said sh551m had been sent since 2005.
The President also said road construction and extension of electricity to the rural areas of Luwero was underway.
At one point, a woman complained to the President that she had failed to secure a loan, prompting Museveni to ask former vice-president Specioza Kazibwe to explain how people can benefit from microfinance money.
Kazibwe, the head of the governmentâ€™s Microfinance Support Centre, said a programme to help farmers get funding at low interest rates was underway.
However, Museveni explained that the Government was preparing for elections next year and this would affect funding of other programmes. Sh200b has been earmarked for elections, he said.
On arrival, Museveni laid a wreath on a monument under which over 1,058 people are buried. After paying his respects, a three-gun salute in their honour tore through the quiet village.
On their part, the Luwero War Veterans Association boss, Hajji Ssedunga, asked Museveni to seek a fourth term next year.
Ssedunga appealed to the Government to include all the 60,000 former soldiers for pension. In a reaction, Luweero Triangle state minister Nyombi Tembo said sh750m had been disbursed to Ssedungaâ€™s team.