In the last part of our series, former Mawogola saza chief Mumiransanafu Kitayimbwa recounts Kabaka Edward Muteesa’s last moments in Uganda and how he was betrayed by one of his juniors in Mawogola County on return from Burundi.
With the route to Kabale District secure, I had to find another car other than the one I had used during my scouting mission.
At a village called Kawanda where some ex-servicemen from Bugerere had settled, there was a man called Dan Luyombya, an ex-serviceman with an old Ford Zephyr. I told him I wanted to use the car to take my brother the Kamuswaga to Ankole. He did not mind, only that the car had no tyres.
I went to Matete to meet Mayanja our mechanic, to have the car fixed in preparation for the long journey. I told him I wanted to use the car to go to Mbarara and hide Kamuswaga who was staying with me and was a danger to my security. Mayanja immediately went to work as I looked for the tyres.
The next morning, I sent my driver Ssempala with a note to an Indian friend who operated a spare parts shop in Masaka. Ssempala rode his bicycle to Kyabakuza and walked the rest of the journey to Masaka.
In the note, I asked for a particular size of tyres to replace the old ones on the Zephyr. The Indian man came out of his hiding, went to his shop and gave Ssempala the tyres. He also gave him a container of petrol and drove him up to Kyabakuza where he had left the bicycle.
The process of fixing of the vehicle was completed on June 14, 1966. That night, I went to Muteesa and told him the car was ready and we would set off on the night of June 16. He had to bid farewell to all those who had kept him in Lugusuulu at old widow Nzerena Nabakoza’s place.
From there, I went back to Luyombya and told him the car was fixed and I would pick him up at any time to escort us since he knew his car better. He was more than willing to come with us. That night, I told Muteesa all was set for the journey to Kabale the next day.
We set off from Lugusuulu on the night of June 15, 1966. That was when Mayanja and Luyombya got to know that we were travelling with the Kabaka.
During the final preparatory trip, the Kabale District Commissioner (DC) Mayanja and the police commander (DPC) Wasswa Lutalo instructed me on where to park when ‘Buganda Katikkiro Mayanja-Nkangi’ arrived in arrived in the area.
We reached Kitagata at 6am where our car broke down. We spent some time having it fixed and in the process, safari ants attacked us. That was where I got the name Mumiransanafu (one who swallows safari ants).
We reached Kabale at 5pm the next day and went to where the DC and DPC had advised us to park. It was under a eucalyptus tree on the road to Kisoro. I then walked back to Kabale Town with Kabaka’s guards Malo and Katende, leaving Muteesa, Mayanja and Luyombya in the car.
It was Badru Musoke, a taxi driver in Kabale, I saw first around the restaurant where we used to have meals while in the town. I assured him that I had brought the Katikkiro. He then took us to the DC’s office. The DC got so excited that I had taken ‘Mayanja-Nkangi’. I told him he was at the spot where he had told me to park.
The DPC was informed and he sent his men to look for a man called Mugabo, a hides and skin dealer. When Mugabo was brought in, he said his store was almost full. They told him to open it as they wanted to meet some sick people from Buganda who they never wanted to mix freely with the rest of the population. Mugabo opened the store and went back to the DC’s office, leaving me, Malo and Katende at the store.
I left the Kabaka’s guards sitting outside the store as though each was on his own and went back to where I had left Muteesa. I told him the DPC and DC were coming to see him.
He was scared and said, “My life is in your hands. Whatever you decide, I will not say no. You have brought me this far. I leave everything to you.”
In a few minutes, the two men arrived where Muteesa’s car was. They asked where Mayanja-Nkangi was. But as they came out, I told them the person I had brought was not the Katikkiro; it was Sir Edward Mutesa II. They were shocked and immediately prostrated themselves on the ground.
The DC said I should have told them so they would have gone and picked the Kabaka themselves from Masaka. They knelt down and greeted Muteesa. He responded and thanked them for their commitment to helping him.
They asked him to sit in their car and drove to the DPC’s house, while our car was ordered to be driven to the hotel where we normally stayed. Mugabo was kept close by so he would not talk to other people.
At the DPC’s house, Muteesa stayed in the car while we worked on the travel papers. The Kabaka was given the name of Kyeswa while Malo and Katende were given Rugundana and Bwezirigirire, respectively. His travel papers said he was going to Bujumbura to visit his relatives for seven days; I was travelling as an officer while Mugabo was also given a letter to take his hides.
On June 17, 1966, at around 4am, we set off from Kabale in a Peugeot 403. It was driven by Musoke the taxi driver. It had Mugabo, the two bodyguards, Muteesa and myself. Luyombya and Mayanja stayed behind in Kabale waiting for me. We had no problem entering Rwanda. The place I recall we went through was Gitarama. At exactly 12pm on June 18, 1966, we reached Bujumbura.
In Bujumbura, Mugabo and Musoke left us somewhere and went to report to the police the presence of the deposed king of Buganda. Mugabo knew the place and had connections with the police since he did business there.
I don’t know what negotiations went on in Burundi, but after sometime, a senior police officer and civilian government officer came to where we were hiding and told us that Muteesa was considered a refugee in the country and we were driven to a palace.
That was where we spent the night. The next morning, Muteesa thanked me and told me ‘I am not going with you to exile, go back to Buganda and tell the people of Buganda what has happened’.
Early the next morning while still in Burundi, BBC radio broke the news that the deposed king of Buganda had arrived in Bujumbura. We set off from Bujumbura that morning for Kabale where I found Luyombya and Mayanja waiting for me. We proceeded back home to Ndaiga where I reached on the night of June 20, 1966.
Arrest and detention
When I returned, those who knew what I had done came to congratulate me having heard the news that Muteesa was safe in Burundi. By bad luck, one of the sub-county assistant chiefs in Sembabule went and reported my involvement in Muteesa’s escape to the police.
On June 24, 1966, at around 5am, two Land Rovers with 15 police officers surrounded my home. Four of them entered the house. This I knew was coming as soon as I returned from Bujumbura.
When they knocked on the door, my wife went and opened. They asked whether it was the saza chief’s home. I had told my wife that should they ever come for me, she should never try to hide me because the whole house would be showered with bullets.
She told them I was in and they asked to see me. I came out and found them standing in the doorway. They cordially greeted me and when I sat down, one came and sat close to me. He asked me about the Kabaka. I said I did not know anything about his whereabouts.
They called my wife and told her, ‘Don’t worry; we are government officers from Kampala and Masaka. We have come for this chief to go and teach him, like others, the new working order now that the Kabaka government is no more.’
I asked to have my coat and shoes, to which they accepted. I also asked to say a word of prayer before leaving the house. I told my wife to send my regards to my mother and children and those I had been working with.
As I stepped outside, two police officers came from different directions and handcuffed me. We drove away.
Our first stop was at Masaka Police Station. There I was asked how many children I had, my wife’s name and my next of kin. By the time I finished, there were four cars waiting outside. I was transferred from Masaka to Kampala.
In the convoy was a CID officer, a Kenyan called Musa. He knew me very well. Whenever he was in Mawogola on duty, he used to have lunch at my home. When we reached Lukaya and made a stopover, he told me not to worry, saying that was the life of a man.
We reached Kampala at around midday. At the Kampala Central Police Station, there were many other chiefs and former Lukiiko members who had already been arrested.
One of those who brought me from Masaka announced to the rest of the police officers that the person who sneaked Muteesa out of the country had arrived. I was like a tourist attraction; they all came to have a look at me. That evening, the other detainees and I were driven to Luzira Upper Prison.
For the next two years, every Saturday CID officers came to interrogate me. All they wanted was to know how I got in touch with the Kabaka and how I managed to get him out of the country. I always told them to do what they wanted because as far as I was concerned, I did not know anything about the Kabaka and his escape.
I was under detention, and it being a state of emergency, I was never taken to court. After two years, I was told that a decision had been made by the Internal Affairs ministry that I would be hanged since I had refused to talk.
After five years in detention, on January 28, 1971, a decree releasing all political prisoners was made. By 5am, they had started opening our cells. They drove us out and those whose relatives were near Kampala came for their people.
My sister came for me and we first went to Rubaga where she stayed. But I wanted to go home and see my children and wife after five years in detention.
My biggest service to Buganda and this country was protecting Kabaka Muteesa in Mawogola for three weeks and planning his escape. On June 18, 1966, at 12pm, I delivered him to Bujumbura in Burundi from where he managed to reach his final destination – Britain – where he desperately wanted to go after the attack on his palace.”