Thought and Ideas
The shamba boy who taught Museveni how to handle a gun
Posted Sunday, October 13 2013 at 01:00
President Museveni is one of the leaders in the world who has been photographed many times while carrying a gun and this has earned him both tags of freedom fighter and gunman. But just when did Museveni first handle a gun? Sunday Monitor’s Faustin Mugabe digs up the archives to bring the story of the Mozambican shamba boy who taught Museveni how to use a gun.
President Museveni and John Batume Kawanga, a retired politician who represented Masaka Municipality in Parliament were perhaps one of the first recorded Ugandan university students to receive military training in African.
The first ever Ugandan university graduate soldier was Dr Albert Kaggwa, who after graduation in Britain, joined the British army during World War II. Albert was the son of the famous Apollo Kaggwa, the former Katikkiro of Buganda. He was born in 1918 and died in 1963 at the rank of a Captain.
While Dr Kaggwa was from the aristocratic family of Buganda and was thus privileged to go and study in a UK university and later went to a military academy in Britain, Museveni, son of a pastoralist from rural south-western Uganda, received initial basic military training from guerrilla fighters in the jungles of Nangade District of Cado Delgado Province in northern Mozambique.
Museveni’s first instructor, Julio Mateus, was not a professional soldier, but a revolutionary fighter who two years earlier, had been a shamba/house-boy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
When the 1964 Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) independence war broke out, he abandoned his job as a shamba/house boy to join the struggle.
In December 1968, Museveni led a group of seven undergraduates from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to the Frelimo liberated areas of northern Mozambique in a special study tour. Museveni and Kawanga were from
Uganda, Emmanuel Dube and Owen Tshabangu from Zimbabwe, Andrew Shija and a one Msoma were from Tanzania and Kapote Mwakasungura, a Malawian.
The seven were from the University Students’ African Revolutionary Front (USARF), a university student Pan-Africanist group, which was formed in late 1967 and elected Museveni its leader.
While the group had gone for a ‘special study tour’, they did not only get revolutionary awaking, but military training as well. Museveni was later to write on how he learnt how to use a gun in his 1970 thesis titled: ‘Fanon’s Theory On Violence: Its Verification In Liberated Mozambique’. Museveni was inspired by an Algerian scholar Franz Fanon who wrote The Wretched of The Earth’ which was an inspiring anti-colonial book across Africa.
Museveni’s undergraduate research work was among the best chosen by the University of Dar es Salaam in 1975 and compiled into a book called Essays in the Liberation of South Africa’. This was after Museveni’s had played a role in an attempt to oust Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin through military struggle. Within months of its launch, the book sold out. It was used as a propaganda tool by those fighting for independence or against dictatorship, especially in southern Africa.
When Museveni launched the Luwero Bush War, on February 6, 1981, the University of Dar es Salaam reproduced it in 1982 and again sold out. On how he learnt to fire a gun from Mateus, a former house-boy, Museveni wrote: “There we were, six [seven] university undergraduates of Dar es Salaam probably reactionary puppets of neo-colonialism in the making with more than 15 years Western education behind us getting rudimentary lessons in the science of liberating our people from a man who was considered but a grown-up child in the colonial days. There he was, watching over us and patiently correcting our faltering moves in handling a gun.
Our long stay in the western citadels of ‘learning’ notwithstanding, we learnt the ABC of national liberation from a former house-boy. This is what authentic national liberation means – making the first last and the last first. This commander had become a history maker, while we were history students…”
When this reporter contacted Kawanga, he said: “It was an epic journey from the Tanzania-Mozambique border through the wild to the Frelimo camps. And I remember Museveni was more known to the Frelimo leaders than us and while there, we were given different instructors to teach us the military science. However, I did not know that one of them was a former house-boy. What I know is that we were more educated and scientifically enlightened than them, especially in hygiene”.
Learning the gun