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Ex-rebel leader Itongwa dies in Germany

By Julius Odeke

Maj. Herbert Kikomeko Itongwa, the former commander of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has died aged 51. He died on April 19 in Germany.  Itongwa, whose army number was R100, led a rebel movement that operated in Central Uganda comprising army deserters mostly from Buganda region fighting for the introduction of a federal system in the country.

Details surrounding his death are unclear since there was no postmortem.

Itongwa’s rebel movement operated in Luweero district, 65km north of Kampala from 1995 until it was defeated a year later and Itongwa fled to Nairobi, Kenya.

He was given refugee status in Kenya before he moved on to Europe in 1999. He hit headlines when he was arrested in 2003 in Aalborg, 140 miles northwest of the Danish capital, Copenhagen, where he had been living.

Itongwa joined the NRA bush war around the time it started, in 1981 where he was said to be the most daring fighters the NRA ever had.

In the bush, Itongwa belonged to a class of fighters everybody came to fear because of their extraordinary courage. These fighters were nicknamed Karapenge because they would rather die fighting than withdraw from the battle front something some of their colleagues suspected they were fighting under the influence of drugs.

The late Maj. Itongwa was ever in the company of the NRA’s fighters including the late Lt. Col. Moses Drago Nyanzi, Lt. Col. Jet Mwebaze, Lt. Col. Magala Proof, late David Musisi Karapenge, Maj. Moses Kanabi, Sabata, Boxer, Kamomo, Musoke Kateregga, Bruce Muwanga, Licambo, Kangaho, and one, Mulindwa.

How Itongwa fell out with NRA

In 1995, a 15-page missive authored by disgruntled fighters complained about what they called unfairness in promotion and deployment of former NRA fighters.

In the document were listed 17 disgruntled senior fighters who included, Itongwa RO100, Julius Chihandae RO24, Andrew Lutaaya RO28, Matayo Kyaligonza RO34, James Kalanzi RO59, Peter Rwamukaga RO59, Sekamwa Boxer RO113 and Lawrence Bisaso RO125 as some of the sidelined fighters as far as promotions was concerned.

Itongwa had reportedly never been content with the rank of major, which was given to him in February 1988 and this forced him to meet some Baganda fighters who included the late Nsobya, Lt. Col. Bruce Muwanga, and Lt. Col. Moses Drago Nyanzi, and together they discussed what they called sectarianism in the award of ranks and promotions.

Itongwa reportedly complained that he was not at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, like Gregory Mugisha Muntu, Patrick Lumumba and Fred Mugisha. He believed he should have been at the same level as the said officers who now had higher ranks than him.

Itongwa felt that the reason behind this was ethnic discrimination. In his view, Baganda officers were being sidelined.

Either genuinely or opportunistically, Itongwa took advantage of the denial of Buganda’s quest for federalism by the 1994/95Constituent Assembly (CA) and declared war against the very government he had helped come to power.

He named his rebel group the National Democratic Alliance that was later linked to Maj. Fred Mpiso, a group that was seen as fighting for federalism with the support of some veteran politicians, including former DP Treasurer General, Evaristo Nyanzi.

His famous NDA rebel group is reputed for having killed the South Western regional police commander, Erisa Karakire, and his driver Samwiri Kakonge, as well as the kidnapping of then-health minister, James Makumbi.

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