Title: Betrayed by my leader
Author: John B. Kazoora
Available: Monday, Aug. 13
We were ordered to sit down, and in came a towering man exuding a lot of poise and confidence. He asked us to introduce ourselves; our reasons for wanting to join the struggle and about the journey to the bush. We later learnt that he was the most feared Commander Matayo Kyaligonza (Now Major General). He said he was disappointed with “intellectuals” because one intellectual called Kwizera who had also left Makerere University had harassed a girl in the village. In his mind he lumped us together with Kwizera. I was surprised by the generalising.
[Later] Paul Kagame the intelligence officer (Now President of Rwanda) called us and took away our identity cards. When we asked him why, he said “why do you need identity cards? Don’t bring your intellectualism here”, and that was the last we saw of them. We immediately started military training.
After three weeks of training in Kitebere at about 7:30p.m. I heard people whispering that Mzee (Chairman High Command (CHC)) Yoweri Museveni had come to our camp. The following morning he summoned our group of Biraaro, Karegyesa, Gariyo, Bwirizayo and I. He was seated with Sam Magara and Elly Tumwine. He asked us to introduce ourselves and to tell him where we originated from.
A few weeks later the CHC sent for our group again. We went and found him seated with Sam Magara and Frank Guma. After fidgeting and saluting him, he asked us to reintroduce ourselves again and wanted to know what we had read at university. All of us had read Political Science except Kenneth Gariyo who had studied Accounting. He then asked us who had taught us Political Science and we told him Mahmood Mamdani. He burst out laughing and said “how can Mamdani of all people teach you? What did he teach you anyway?”
He told Magara to punish us “Shughulikia haawa” “Take care of them” he said. Magara then called CHC’s escorts Arthur Kasasira, Musumbiji, Mugabi (not Hannington) and Dampa and ordered them to punish us. They removed our shirts and gave us ngwara (suddenly tilting you off from the ground), rolled us in mud and stinging shrubs (engyenyi), smeared us with ash and water and we were finally told to keep guard in the coldness the whole night. Throughout this ordeal CHC was laughing his head off. He seemed to find it hilarious. This was certainly part of initiation to remove the so-called intellectualism and face reality especially obeying orders. They later let us off.
Eyes on Kigongo
Halfway through the training, CHC summoned me and told me in Runyankole that he was attaching me to the Chairman of NRC Moses Kigongo as his Aide De Camp (ADC). He said he wanted me to assist Kigongo in mobilising wanaichi but most important of all to monitor all his activities and report back to him (He said he had gauged me during the earlier interview and knew that I would carry out this task well).
I was therefore removed from the recruits’ camp to the High Command on assignment. We had slightly better facilitation and food. My tent was behind Kigongo’s, which was next to the CHC. I found Kigongo to be very amiable and he treated me as his son especially in terms of grave scarcities. He once had a small piece of soap – he cut it into half and gave it to me. He made sure we shared the little food he would get.
Angry Tinye, snoring Otafiire
One day after training David Tinyefuza (now General Sejusa ) walked past us and we casually said hello while seated since he was an Old Boy and forgetting the earlier advice from Silver Oyera on familiarity. We did not know that when someone senior passes you, you stand up and salute. He then ordered that we go to endaaki (prison) and forgot us there the whole day till someone reminded him that we should be released.
We were in total concealment and had to maintain total silence but unfortunately Kahinda Otafiire who was the National Political Commissar and was living at the High Command used to snore quite a lot. The CHC joked that he should be arrested for breaking concealment rules. The snoring stopped when he lost weight. Otafiire would also sit by the fire, remove his trousers and wave them above the fire so that lice could drop off into the fire. You could hear the lice pop in the fire like popcorn.
Saleh shoots himself
On February 21, 1983, we engaged in ferocious skirmishing with government forces at Bukalabi. Salim Saleh was wounded (shot in both arms) in the fighting, and we lost eleven combatants. Saleh was treated by Dr Besigye. The battle had not been well planned, reconnaissance had not been done well and in fact a foreign journalist was in the camp and I fear they had wanted to impress him. As Saleh was recuperating, Tinyefuza succeeded Saleh with Julius Chihandae as his deputy.
This was not the last time Saleh was shot. At one time he shot himself in the leg during a drunken spur and was treated by Dr Ronald Batta. He was later charged with attempting to kill a Member of the High Command (i.e. Himself!). On another occasion under that influence, the CHC asked him about the strange scent on his body and Saleh said he had rubbed himself with a traditional herb to treat scabies to which the CHC said “ Kanihaano ogu” meaning what a terrible herb. Despite his personal weaknesses, Saleh was a superb commander.
Kigongo attempts to escape
Life in the bush was becoming incredibly harsh. Medicines were so scarce that people were dying of scabies, the enemy had squeezed us, there was lack of salt and food, and women like Janat Mukwaya had lost their breasts because of malnutrition and had ran bonkers.
It was at this time that Moses Kigongo planned to escape. I was still his ADC. One day as I was arranging his tent, I saw a passport and became suspicious. I decided to quietly inform CHC. He could not believe it and asked me to bring evidence and so I brought him the passport. I had hoped all this discussion would be in confidence.
Kigongo was immediately summoned by the High Command. He denied he was trying to escape and said that he had no passport. I was then summoned and asked if Kigongo had a passport. I confirmed that he did. I was then asked to leave so I did not know what transpired thereafter. I was very embarrassed to have given Kigongo’s game away because we had become like father and son through these difficult times in the bush, but I knew that if he had escaped I would have gotten in trouble. I had also expected and hoped that the CHC would handle the matter without involving me.
My relationship with Kigongo from then onwards went downhill. He was distant and cold with me, though he did not say anything about the matter. I had expected to be immediately removed from his service but this was not the case.
When we later captured Kampala in 1986 he told me “My son – do you know I could have been executed because of your treachery” to which I replied “Mzee – if it was not for me, you would not be Vice Chairman of NRM today”.
War takes toll on Museveni
When the final attack on Kabamba was in the offing, the CHC summoned me to Galamba in Busiro. I passed via Lukola and proceeded with Julius Chihadae to Galamba. CHC had earlier spread a rumour that the final attack on Kampala was imminent. When other comrades saw me they believed the rumour since I was the one in the farthest detach.
I saluted CHC and he asked me how Kyamusisi was. That was all he had to say. He was actually going to attack Kabamba and not Kampala. He was using the tactic of moving to the east while targeting the west. After I returned to Kyamusisi, Saleh continued with his group to Kabamba which they successfully attacked on 1st January 1985.
The CHC had meanwhile joined me at Namawugulu Forest for some days with half of the group that was due to reinforce incase of any eventuality. I ensured that he was well looked-after and provided with the necessary food and information.
About 10 years later, the government organised Heroes Day in Kyamusisi. I was not invited. In his book “Sowing the Mustard Seed”, Museveni mentions Kyamusisi – but not Kazoora who he had sent there to organise it. Was he trying to re-write history?
In September 1984, some senior officers had wives, mistresses, girlfriends and concubines in the camps. However, when the enemy squeezed us, the High Command ordered that all non-combatant women should leave immediately except Salim Saleh’s Jovia and Pecos Kuteesa’s Dora. This selective application of the rule infuriated Tinyefuza and some other officers including Henry Tumukunde who were both recuperating from gunshot wounds.
Tinyefuza had a concubine and he insisted that his concubine would stay in the bush just like Dora and Jovia. Tinyefuza also accused the CHC of favouritism and sidelining some fighters, and of being a dictator. Many people were not happy with the selective application of the rules.
At that time we were still living under concealment and we would only move with weapons at night. Hearing of Tinyefuza’s behaviour, for the first time in a long time, the CHC moved with RPGs and LPGs in broad daylight. He said he had come to quell a rebellion and that he was ready to break Tinyefuza’s legs into pieces. Tinyefuza was arrested and suspended from the High Command and spent some time in incarceration (endaaki) for defiance and disobeying the High Command’s orders. He was released in March 1985.
Facing off with Kasirye Ggwanga
While UNLA was still in disorganisation because of the 1985 coup, Saleh told me to continue reconnoitring Mityana. I found that most of the forces had withdrawn. It was only Mityana Police station that was armed. The Federal Democratic Movement for Uganda (FEDEMU) had been operating in the outskirts of Mityana towards Kampala, but their operations had been clumsy and cruel. They harassed wanainchi, stole and raped. I therefore began by disarming Mityana Police Post and put the guns in a land rover that I had.
After that a tall FEDEMU Commander who was wearing a cowboy hat came swaggering up to me and introduced himself as Kasirye Gwanga (now Brigadier), claiming that he controlled the area. He had previously belonged to Kayiira’s UFM.
FEDEMU was trying to claim some space after the Obote coup. I advised Kasirye Gwanga that I was advancing towards Mityana town and it was up to him to either cooperate or be annihilated. He immediately backed down and swiftly retreated. The next time I would see him was after we had captured power and he was part of us. With FEDEMU dealt with, we marched to Mityana to a thunderous welcome.
Links to Rwanda & meeting Prince Mutebi
In October 1985, Kabarole District was fully liberated, following on from Bundibugyo, which had been liberated earlier. Kabarole was the base of the first NRM interim government with offices at Muchwa and with Abbey Mukwaya as its first Special District Administrator (SDA).
It was at Buloba that Kyaligonza told me that the High Command (HC) and the National Resistance Council (NRC) had decided to form an interim administration and that I had been appointed Special District Administrator for Kabale (which included Kisoro at that time).
Kabale was strategically significant in that it was bordering Rwanda. We therefore made arrangements with the Rwanda government to ensure that our people were able to use the country as a transit without let or hindrance. Initially President Habyarimana was not friendly to us because he knew that a good number of our soldiers were Rwandese of Tutsi origin. We knew that Habyarimana had agreed with Tito Okello and Zed Maruru that they could attack us from the rear. We therefore had to monitor Mirama Hills, Katuna and Bunagana borders. He later agreed to work with us as he had no alternative.
Kahinda Otafiire, who was the Western Regional Commissioner, found me in Kabale and told me that CHC had instructed that I go with him to Rwanda to meet with President Habyarimana. We desperately needed cattle medicine as many cattle were on the verge of death. I wore a suit for the first time in five years and drove to Kigali with Otafiire. We returned from our negotiations with Habyarimana with the required drugs and Kahinda distributed them.
While in Kabale, Prince Ronald Mutebi (now Kabaka) arrived from Rwanda with John Nagenda. I took them to Kasese and handed them over to Amanya Mushega who in turn took them to Fort Portal to meet CHC. I also did the same for Samson Kisekka. He was very impressed to find a smart, eloquent guerrilla leader. He rose to the rank of Prime Minister and later Vice President before he eventually fell from grace to grass. He died on October 25th 1999.