When hunted by government soldiers while headmaster at Masuulita SS, Maj. Jacob Asiimwe (RO 105) decided to join the bush war, taking all of his 40 boarding students along. As a former teacher, he kept his pen and book throughout the bush war serving as the rebel movement’s administrative secretary. Now a Special Assistant to President Museveni, Asiimwe, who was Isingiro North MP from 1996-2001, recounts to William Tayeebwa how he recorded the UNLA atrocities in the Luwero Triangle war theatre: -
During the 1979 liberation war, I was the headmaster at Nsangi SS in then Mpigi district when a platoon of Kikoosi Maalum commanded by Oyite Ojok camped at our school. They told us to leave the place and camped there for a week with their artillery.
When they were leaving, they looted all our property. I came back to find my house looking like a dancing hall. Although this group had come to us as liberators, they ended up as our tormentors. It is from that time that I developed hatred for Milton Obote’s group.
So, in the 1980 presidential and parliamentary campaigns, I joined Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda Patriotic Movement. Although my family initially belonged to the Uganda Peoples Congress, I had developed hatred for the party because of what I experienced in 1979. During the December 1980 elections, I was part of Dr [Samson] Kisekka’s campaign team for the Mpigi North parliamentary seat. I was also on the UPM’s national campaign team.
After the rigged elections, Museveni’s group went to the bush in February 1981. When they left, those of us who did not go were being hunted. I was by then headmaster of Masuulita SS, but quietly in touch with them.
In mid April 1981, Museveni’s group attacked Kakiri police station where Tanzanian forces and Obote’s Special Forces had camped. The rebels then withdrew towards Masuulita and camped near my school. I was, of course, in touch with them that evening and offered them whichever help. When they left in the morning, [word] went around that I was in touch with this group. The very day they left, a group of about eight Tata lorries and a Jeep came commanded by Gen. Tito Okello himself. They asked a few questions and then left.
About a month later, they came back at night and surrounded the school. I had woken up to take an early bus to the ministry [of Education] in Kampala only to see soldiers around the school fence.
I knew they had come for me. So I went to the girls’ dormitory. The first group came and I told them I was the dormitory master. They asked me whether the headmaster was around and I told them he had intentions of going to Kampala. When they went to my house, my family told them I had gone to Kampala. Their commander ordered them to withdraw. They went back to town where they looted the place that whole morning.
I then sent a boy to the [rebel] camps to alert them about the presence of the UNLA in the area. After looting, the soldiers drove towards rebel camps and they were hit in an ambush. After that incident, I remained in the school until April 1982 when the UNLA made another attack in our area.
The rebels had a force at a bridge on River Mayanja on the Kakiri-Masuulita road. So, this force made an ambush and the UNLA group was badly hit. They camped near Kakiri again and the following day made an advance. They dislodged the rebels who were at River Mayanja and took over Masuulita.
I knew my chance of surviving them this time round was low and decided to join the bush. I took along all the 40 students who were in boarding. Quite a big group were actually Banyarwanda [whose families had been chased by Obote]. Some are still active both here and in Rwanda.
Having come from a soft life of a headmaster, I found the conditions in the bush quite hostile. The feeding and the sleeping were completely different from what I was used to. But because of my commitment to the cause, it did not take me long to adapt to the situation. I was not looking at life outside but rather on how we could accomplish our mission. Not at any single time did I think of failure.
Upon joining, I was immediately attached to what we used to call the political and diplomatic committee under Hon. Eriya Kategaya. We were doing mainly political work such as drafting the political programme, working out the Resistance Council structure and so on.
For the whole of 1982, I was with Kategaya and also doing training in the military field. My title was political leader and I became an ex-officio member of the Joint High Command and the National Resistance Council.