RA 084 Mugisha Muntu went straight from the University to the bush. Even before he joined the anti-Obote struggle, he was engaging the government army in hide and seek games. He would rise from a bush-war senior officer to Major General and army commander. Now an East African legislator, Muntu tells Richard M. Kavuma the struggle was every inch worth it; even if some current trends worry him.
I was a student of Political Science at Makerere University and I had just finished my exams when I went to the bush in March 1981. After analysing the situation, I was convinced that there was no other way the situation could be changed other than the military option. You could see that the group in power had closed all political options and they were not acting in good faith.
And when there is a state of repression, people react differently; there are those who sit back hoping that things will get better; others decide to collaborate; and others decide to resist. I happen to be among those who never want to see any injustice in society.
Not that there was anything against me as an individual; and not that I was running away from anybody. But in a state of injustice, even if you are not affected yourself, there are times when you say that wrong is wrong and it must be resisted.
Actually my father was in the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) in Ankole and he was close to the UPC establishment. He ran away to Tanzania in 1971. He fought in the 1972 Mbarara attack and he escaped when they were dispersed. Unfortunately, he died before they came back in 1977.
So, in terms of danger to me as a person, there was none. In fact when I joined the bush – this is something I came to know much later – I was put under surveillance by the senior unit commanders, because they knew that background. They thought I had been sent as a mole or a spy.
But I had attempted to leave earlier, in February 1981. We were trying to make contacts. There was a safe house behind Uganda House, which belonged to Kamu Katafiire and his older brother.
We gathered in that house, trying to get in touch with one of the undercover agents who used to move people from town to the bush. We would check almost on a daily basis and we had been waiting for five days.
Unfortunately, they arrested another agent, Mwanjiki, who had deserted the government army. Under pressure, he compromised that safe house.
They came to arrest whoever was in that house. We were in at that time –around 3 p.m. Fortunately for us, they were using lousy methods. They came with a land rover with this guy on top and stopped with a screech.
Looking out through the window, a lady who knew Mwanjiki cried “Haa, baareta Mwanjiki; twafa!” Everybody scrambled for the nearest exit. We made for the hind exit and climbed the stairs.
We found a man pointing a pistol at us and telling us to stop. We instead ran down and the stairs concealed us. Henry Tumukunde and I entered a shop from behind and sat down. Unfortunately two guys, Perez and Busingye were arrested. We later understood that they were taken to Mbuya and tortured to death.
So, we all dispersed and all contacts went underground. After my exams at campus, I tried again to look for contacts. I was trying to go to Nairobi to see if there was some other way [of joining].
A day before I was supposed to leave, a boy called Ham came very early in the morning and told me that: “Dampa has come. If you are ready, let’s go.”