By Freddie B. Kwiringira
Reflections on the unsung heroes of the NRA/NRM Revolution
It is 35 years since the historic attack on Kabamba and launch of NRA/NRM. We also mark 30 years of NRA/NRM in power which has changed the course of history, albeit with discernible shortcomings.
There is a lot to celebrate, but also a moment in time to take stock of the events in the last three decades. Uganda is a better country no doubt about it. But there have been lost opportunities due to devious politics, self-interests, and dishonesty that undermined the ideals of the struggle.
Memories evoke the triumph, patriotic songs of the heroic NRA. There was ecstasy, immense optimism. The 10-point program being preached by Col. Amanya Mushega, then-minister of Education and National Political commissar, now in FDC and Lt. Col. Henry N. Masiko, now head of patriotic clubs. I reminisce on the strength of Resident Commissioners, the Special District Administrators (SDAs), and novel economic policies like barter trade. There were the Kaunda suits, Chaka mchaka patriotic training sessions, and the simplicity of leaders of the revolution.
This was a major departure from the politics of the past. Uganda having been characterised by turmoil had organised elections in 1980 which UPC ‘won’. Now President Yoweri Museveni, who was the leader of the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) and few of his compatriots kept their warning that they would “go to the bush and fight the government” if the elections were rigged.
A number of young graduates joined the struggle that started with 40 men, 27 of the armed on 6th February 1981. This was a daring. Many perished, never saw the fruits of the struggle but content that Uganda would be a better country. Some are in unmarked graves, and others in mass graves scattered in Luwero triangle. Others have disagreed with the system and are in opposition or abeyance.
It was costly war. Over half a million people perished in Luweero triangle, Kasunga Nyanja- Toro, Rubona, Rwenzori mountains slopes, and Lwamata-Kiboga. They were mainly peasants who supported the war. It also provoked the war in Northern Uganda immediately after the capture of power that caused untold suffering, 20 year of insurgency, displacements, and over 300,000 lives lost. It also created a generation of destitute. The depressing effects are still manifest.
Promising young men like Raiti Omongin, Sam Magara, Rubereza, Katabarwa, Seguya, Mwesiga, Mwesigye, Magara, Kagina, Mugabi died fighting for liberty, freedoms, and sanity that we take pleasure in today. There are many nameless freedom fighters not captured in our history books that paid the ultimate price – death.
I derive this from accounts in the diary of my cousin – Phillip Hatanga from 1982. He was in Nairobi Kenya before joining the bush struggle. His diary echoes the sentiments of his comrades who never lived to enjoy the fruits. He wrote: “When all is lost, the future remains.’’
His remains are interred in a bushy knoll in Busanza-Kisoro. It is painful that the ideals of the revolution which promised a fundamental change have since been reneged.
There has been extensive debate by political scientists, historians, and former combatants; Gen. David Sejusa, Maj.Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye, Col. Amanya Mushega, and Maj. Gen. Benon Biraaro. They all lament about how the ideals of the revolution are shortchanged. The debate will continue into the future.
It is unfortunate that many heroes are never recognised, history is edited to suit the actors with personal interests. The men and women of valor who did mighty exploits, sacrificed immensely to the liberation of their motherland are never acknowledged.
The first commanders of NRA/ NRM, Ahmed Seguya, Sam Magara, Joy Mirembe, Fred Gisa Rwigema, Elly Tumwine, Julius Chihanda, Kanyankole, Kyaligonza appear in a sentence or paragraph in the historical biography of President Yoweri Museveni titled “Sowing the Mustard Seed”. Who will tell the story of unsung heroes, their abilities, drive, motivation, abilities, contribution, aspirations and fears?
We pay tribute to the unsung heroes/heroines.
Freddie, CEO, Global Divine Ventures (GDV) Email; email@example.com