People & Power

I hated Museveni, but he saved my life - Rwakasisi

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Mr Rwakasisi during the interview. He says Museveni prayed before pardoning him. photo by Dominic Bukenya 

By Henry Lubega

Posted  Sunday, March 9   2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Memory lane. In the last installment of the three-part series of My Life with Obote, Chris Rwakasisi explains how he was directed to bring down Godfrey Binaisa’s regime, his sharing a cell with Idi Amin’s adviser Bob Astles, and how Museveni failed to sign his death warrant. Sunday Monitor’s Henry Lubega brings you the story.

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When I came back with the Uganda National Liberation Front army of 1979, I was an equivalent of the minister of commerce in Yusuf Lule’s regime. When he was removed and replaced with Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, I was appointed the National Political Advisor.

Binaisa was very fearful of the situation at the time and it was until I devised a strategy of touring other parts of the country besides Buganda that things somehow normalised. We started from Ankole, Kigezi, Tooro, and then to the north. In all these places Binaisa was well- received. Our first rally in Buganda was in Mubende.
On our way back to Entebbe, we found banana stems had been planted on the roads to welcome us.

Meanwhile, all this time I was pushing for restoration of political parties. We needed to go back to our political parties and it was during one of the National Consultative Council meetings that I brought up the issues.
The next day after I had raised the issue of going back to our party colours I had to escort the president to preside over the promotion of some officers in Gaddafi Barracks in Jinja.
Those to be promoted included Lt Col Oyite Ojok and Tito Okello. After inspecting the guard of honour in the pavilion, Binaisa whispered to me in Luganda “Nze sigenda ku bi promontinga nze” (I am not going to promote those things) I said to him this will be terrible Mr President the order had been passed.

He went on “nkugambye sija kukikola” (I have told you I am not going to do it) and indeed he refused to promote them.
I was so annoyed with Binaisa that he realised it and invited me to lunch at Nile Mansions. During lunch, he tried explaining why he had refused to promote the soldiers; his reasons bordered on tribalism. I told him count on me no more. “From today I am going to work against you and to remove you,” I told him before walking away. His reason was that if he promoted the largely northerner officers, they would turn against him and overthrow his regime.
That very day I was summoned by Obote to Dar es saalam. I went with Dr Luwuliza Kirunda, David Anyoti and Osindek Wangor. Soon after our arrival at Obote’s house, Julius Nyerere also arrived and asked what was happening, Obote told him I would explain.

After my explanation, Nyerere said: “You go and raise dust and remove Binaisa.” I asked him how. He responded: “Has Binaisa got the police or the army? The police and the army are mine, you go and remove him.” When we returned, we kicked off with rallies to give Binaisa an ouster. The first was in Kabwohe and the second was to be in Bushenyi.
As I was driving to Bushenyi for the rally I heard on radio that Oyite Ojok had been appointed Uganda’s ambassador to Algeria. When Luwuliza arrived at the venue I told him of the news and it is then that we decided to call off the rally and head back to Kampala.

Meantime, Binaisa had sent police to come and arrest us in Bushenyi. We by passed the police at Lukaya heading to Bushenyi to arrest us. Soon after, Binaisa was overthrown by the military commission.
I started preparing for the return of our party president [Obote] by making several trips to Tanzania. I looked for where he was going to land. If he landed in the north it would be seen as a tribal return, so we decided to take him to Ankole to prove that UPC was a national party.
Two buffalo planes were availed to him. One by Kenneth Kaunda and another by the Tanzanian Forces. They landed in Bushenyi where we started planning for the campaigns and the elections.

1980 Elections
Paulo Muwanga is accused of having taken over the responsibility of announcing the results, forgetting that Akbar Nekyon, a DP member, started announcing results from the DP headquarters, including those of my constituency when elections were still going on. It was causing commotion in town; the chairman of the Military Commission had to take an administrative decision. When Obote heard the news he called me to know the truth.

As soon as he got the results he sent a helicopter to bring me to Entebbe. At State House, I found Muwanga and the late Otema Allimadi in a room next to the president’s office. During the campaigns Obote had told people that I was going to be his prime minister. When I was ushered in his office he told me “You recall what I told you but these gentleman here Paulo is campaigning for his friend Otema Allimadi for the post and I don’t know what to do,” I told him so be it, but he insisted.

He brought out a list of proposed cabinet posts and told me to choose one I wanted but I declined to choose. Obote said: “But I still want you in my office but if I say you are a minister of state people will say you are a junior minister, a minister without portfolio. The Baganda will say minister atalina mulimo. For a minister for the presidency they will say you are running my errands.

In the end for the convenience of everybody, I was regarded as a state minister which I was not. In the circles of the fourth floor of the Nile Mansions I was referred to as the prime minister. I have been referred to as the former head of Nasa yet I have never been. Its head was Kasendwa Ddumba. I was minister of national security, a post I took reluctantly.
Let me also clear the air on allegations that president Museveni was once a member of General Service. He has never been. He was a staff of State Research which Amin turned into an intelligence organ. The State Research Bureau under Obote I was never a security organ. It was doing research which the president’s state of the nation speech was drawn from. It is Amin who turned this office into an intelligence outfit.

1981 rebellion
We had heard of the rebellion plans and several reports were seen but we dismissed them, no one took them seriously. It was until they attacked Kabamba that we realised the reports were genuine. After the attack the rebellion went on developing up to the time when our very own army turned against us and toppled the government.

When the rebellion started, it took a financial toll on us. We had to keep soldiers on the front lines, and the cost of doing so was doubling in terms of all military supplies.
One of the reasons why we failed to stop the war was the big gap in our command structure.

President Obote being a civilian was not willing to interfere in military affairs; he concentrated on the economy and literally left the military issues to Oyite Ojok. Even Oyite Ojok had limitations in terms of material; there was no money in government.

Panda gari
This was a child of military intelligence; which came about as a result of rivalry between security organisations. In a situation like what Uganda was going through then it was difficult to control soldiers who had just emerged victors in a war.

Panda gari came up as a random surprise, in the security situation we were in at the time. It had nothing to do with the National Security Agency, it was military intelligence at work.
There was a term in the army then known as (NYA) Not Yet Approved. These are the people recruited from the village and trained on gun basics before going to the battlefield.

The indiscipline is also attributed to the quest for revenge. Majority of the army was from Lango and Acholi, and these are the people who had suffered a lot during the Amin regime.

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