Saturday January 18 2014

My father died unhappy, disappointed and angry - Brig Kanyankore’s son

Ferdinand Tayebwa is a primary school head teacher.

Ferdinand Tayebwa is a primary school head teacher. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE 

By Risdel Kasasira

“I was born 35 years in Nyakaziba in Buhweju District. All I know about my father is that he spent the biggest part of his life working life in the army. He joined the military before Uganda got independence and by the time I was born, in 1978, he had fled home because Amin’s soldiers wanted to kill him.

They were accusing him of collaborating with UNLA forces who were planning to attack Uganda from Tanzania. He was never home and I grew up seeing my uncle and I thought he was my father. But around 1984, someone wrote a chit to my mother that my father had died. That’s when I got to know that the man I grew up calling my father was not my father. We were told the enemies had shot him.

A concerned soldier, whom I cannot recall, wrote a chit to our family. They put a fire place at home and gathered to commiserate with us. At that time, I was convinced that my father, whom I had not seen, had died.

As time went on, we continued getting information that his colleagues within the NRA were the ones behind his death. But on December 25, 1985 when we were at church. He appeared. He and other rebels had walked through Ibanda, Bisya, where the Tarehe sita (Army Day) will be held this year.

We were shocked to see someone who had ‘died’. The whole village had to gather. He came with soldiers walking and people were celebrating. I can’t tell how many cows were slaughtered.
I remember people asking him to tell them what had happened. But we didn’t want to hear stories of his ‘death’ at that time. We were all happy.

However, when he died in 1999, that’s when stories of his reported death in the bush again started coming up and this was elaborated more at his burial by Maj Gen Benon Biraaro.
He said there a clique of some people in the bush whom I don’t know that had planned in the jungles where they were, to blow up his tent and incidentally, Biraaro, as a young soldier from the university, who was staying with him, alerted him that there were people who were planning to blow up his tent. He warned him to get out of the tent early in the morning. My father had to leave and indeed we were told that the tent was blown. That’s how that soldier came to write a letter to my family.

For the seven years he was away, our mother was harassed and at one point, she was put at gunpoint to reveal where my father was. We were scared as children and they had to take us to other relatives in Kashari. But for her she remained. People feared to associate with our family because our father was a rebel.

After capturing power, he became like “a god” in the village. He started recruiting for NRA in Buhweju as the war continued and spread to the north. A training camp was established at Nsika and sometimes Museveni would visit the area as my father spearheaded the recruitment and training process.

At that time, very few people in Buhweju had seen Museveni and there were funny stories that Museveni would change into a cat or chameleon in order to elude arrest or seen by the enemy.
But the whole Buhweju knew Kanyankore and I remember one time he told them that a special visitor was about to visit and it was President Museveni.

At the function, people started asking him whether it was the Museveni who used to dress in a gomesi? One old man asked him: “If you are the Museveni we have been hearing, why don’t you save us from these Anglicans?”

Since people in Buhweju are predominantly Catholic and members of Democratic Party, they were seeing UPC government as Anglican because of religious differences at that time.
These people were innocently asking but the President asked my father whether he was the one telling them to ask those questions. This issue came to be sticky because my father was later accused of recruiting only Catholics. He was later accused of flouting the procurement process of clothes meant for soldiers’ children and wives.

But before his arrest, we were living a good life. I remember when the NRA took over Kampala, I was brought to Kampala in a car. I had never travelled in a car. I was guarded by soldiers. We began school at City Primary School, now Daffodils in Kololo. I was there for one year with the children of other army officers like late Maj Bwende, Col Kashillingi, and Col Julius Chihandea. But after that, I went to Savio in Kisubi where I spent six years.

I qualified to go to St Mary’s College Kisubi. But my father had been put on Katebe since 1988. He had no money with him and I had to be taken to St Josephs in Mbarara because it was cheaper.

I was able to complete Senior Six with the help of the missionary fathers. Some of my sisters dropped out of school and got married because there was no fees. I had to work in the church so that the church could raise part of my school fees. Fr George Volling started paying my school fees. But my father died in 1999 when I was in Senior Five.

I spent all my six years at St Josephs and after that I went to Makerere University and State House paid my fees. I wanted to do Law but I was told it was expensive and urged to do Education.

In the last days of my father, I used to stay with him. But he was so secretive and never used to share his troubles. But towards his death, he started opening up. He would tell me his colleagues hated him. Those he told me about are still around. He kept on telling me how they suffered in the bush but some of his colleagues turned against him. He kept on wondering why he was hated.

We don’t know why he was arrested and imprisoned. Some people tell us he stole money when he went for a procurement deal in London. But why would he be incarcerated for two years without trial? He was sentenced and imprisoned in Luzira and came out in 1992 but remained undeployed until he died in 1999. He was not given a chance to work.

We also hear that he was being accused of training a personal army in Buhweju with an intention to overthrow the government. I remember soldiers surrounding our home, searching our house and bushes around, but there were no guns. It still remains an allegation. I have not gotten a chance to ask the President what wrong thing my father did. We knew him as a fighter and a liberator.

If I got a chance to meet the President, the first thing I would request would be to posthumously forgive him for whatever mistakes and also allow his family get his package. We have never received any package.

We tried to ask and we were told that he was dismissed with disgrace. The only money we got was that given to the veterans and I used it to renovate his grave. Lt Gen Ivan Koreta, then a brigadier, was the chairman of the NRA court martial that convicted and sentenced him and Gen Salim Saleh was the army commander. I was also told that the purchasing process of the clothes was jointly done with Gen Saleh.

I’m told, before his arrest, Col Anthony Kyakabale was paraded to give evidence in a high command meeting where my father had been accused of refusing a disabled man in Isingiro to join the army. I wasn’t there but we hear that Kyakabale was later promoted. He went to Luzira and was in the same cell with Moses Ali before Ali was released. They should have given him a chance, not just dismiss him from the army because he had done a lot for this country.

Our father died a very disappointed man, very, very disappointed, very angry and very unhappy. I remember some generals used to come home and ask him to go to the President and apologise. But he felt he had done no wrong. His dream was to see me go to India to study and become a surgeon but that wasn’t possible. I don’t think he would have wanted me to be a teacher.”