John Kazoora fled from Makerere University before graduation and joined the NRA rebellion in Luweero. In the third part of our serialisation of extracts from his memoirs, he reveals his encounters with Paul Kagame, Saleh’s shooting from the hip, and the toll of war on Museveni.
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.