I paid the price for trying to run kadogo school effectively

Respected. Throughout our kadogo series, the name Katimbo has been mentioned many times as a father figure to the child soldiers while at the kadogo school in Mbarara. Now a retired officer, RO496 Capt George William Katimbo joined the rebel ranks from his home area of Masulita in Luweero District in 1982 and retired from the army in 1994. He told Henry Lubega why he left the army after only 12 years.

Sunday March 27 2016

Former child soldiers on parade at the Kadogo school in Mbarara

Former child soldiers on parade at the Kadogo school in Mbarara District in the late 80s. Capt Katimbo (inset), headed the school twice. PHOTOS COURTESY OF HENRY LUBEGA  

By Henry Lubega

I first admired [Yoweri] Museveni during the 1979 liberation war. My love for him was because of his numerous efforts to topple the [Idi] Amin regime. When he finally started a political party in 1980, I was more than eager to support him. I was a Grade Three teacher at the time.
During those elections, we canvased votes for Samson Kisekka [RIP] for the Busiiro North constituency but unfortunately, he was defeated. After the elections, Museveni went to the bush. I went to Bidandi Ssali’s place in Nakulabye for advice on what next now that our leader had gone to the bush.
He showed me a number of children and said, ‘Do you see those children? I want to see them grow. Don’t you have children?’

‘Yes,’ I told him and he said, ‘Go and raise your children. Stop asking where Museveni has gone.’
The person I had expected to advise me had instead discouraged me. So I went home and watched as the war escalated in the Luweero area, including Masulita my home area after the Kabamba Barracks attack.

There was heavy deployment around our area, cutting us off from other parts. Nevertheless, I would stealthily go to Kalongelo at the weekends to do Chaka Mchaka. Not so far away from my home area in Kakiri was a military roadblock manned by Tanzanian soldiers. It attracted the rebels.

The night before they attacked the roadblock, I got a strange visitor at my home at around 9pm. The visitor introduced himself as Kamwerere and said he had been sent by Mzee (Museveni) to call me. I asked myself what this Munyarwanda wanted from me.

At the time I was the deputy head teacher of Masulita Primary School. I had never met Museveni, but I suspected that it was Jacob Asiimwe who told him about me. Asiimwe and I were teaching at sister schools. Asiimwe taught at the secondary school while I taught at primary level.

After walking for about two miles in the forest, we got to where Museveni was. I went with my elder brother Nalumoso.

We found Museveni with Asiimwe and he asked, ‘Of these two, who is Katimbo?’

I identified myself and he asked whether the other person I had gone with could be trusted. I said yes.

Museveni then went on to say his boys were preparing for an operation but they were hungry. He wanted me to organise some food quickly. I went back to school and mobilised for food and after eating, they attacked the roadblock that night.

The next morning at around 10am, Kamwerere again came for me. This time Museveni and Asiimwe showed me the captured guns. Museveni pointed at the GPMG [General Purpose Machine Gun] and said, ‘With that the war is over.’
He went on to say, ‘The problem I have is that all the soldiers are tired. I need people to carry those guns. Go and organise boys you trust.’

He wanted 12 boys, but I took about 20; this was the first lot I sent to the bush.

The primary school was a government school with both boarding and day sections with a population of 1,200 pupils. However, as the situation worsened, children stopped coming to school. Those in the boarding section could not be picked by their parents. I was stuck with them.
When I decided to join the fighters full time, I mobilised some 16 teachers and about 60 pupils – most of them in P4 and P5. Some teachers feared to go with me to the bush.

For the children, I went with them because there was no way I could leave them at school unattended to. Their parents were unknown to me and I did not know how to find them.

In the bush, the very young ones were joined with girls from the secondary school and taken to Kijaguzo Parish and put under Fr Seguya’s protection.

He was a staunch NRA supporter. They stayed there until a time when they were older enough to join the fighting forces. The 16 teachers I went with joined the rebel ranks immediately.

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