Reviews & Profiles
Bitter tales from the bushes of Luweero Triangle
Posted Wednesday, January 30 2013 at 00:00
Paul Lubwama loses his cool whenever one mentions the January 26 National Resistance Movement celebrations, which were postponed to today. However, unlike some people whose grouse against the celebrations revolves around wastage of resources, Lubwama’s reasons and concerns are inundated with gloom, grief and bitter memories of the war.
He rewinds to the events in the 1980s that he never thought would claim all his six family members. A portrait that was taken on Christmas Eve of 1979 is the only remaining memory of them.
He adds that with the escalation of rebel activities in presentday Luweero and Wakiso Districts, things started taking another shape on both sides.
Each group—the government troops and the rebels—had a specific character and means of persuasion to win over the local population and those who refused to take sides were viewed as enemies and were threatened, which led to the killing of many “innocent” people who wanted an ordinary life but walked a middle road.
“Day time was always for the government troops, while rebels always advanced in the night. However, as a tactic of war and as days passed, rebels began camouflaging in government army uniforms, stormed villages and acted anyway they desired to tarnish the government’s image,” Lubwama narrates.
On the night of August 10, 1984, a group of men dressed as government soldiers and speaking in Kiswahili raided their home in Wabusaana village and took away his father, whom they asked questions he never understood because he did not speak the language.
In the process, his mother and five siblings escaped into the nearby shrubs, leaving behind Lubwama, who was then 13, and had been a recruit of the rebels as a spy on Obote’s men. He associated with Obote’s soldiers during the day.
Little did he know that while he was away, “Obote’s men” had made a stopover at his home and had discussed some matters at length with his father, according to his elder brother, who died later in the war.
But according to Lubwama, while the government troops had earlier visited his home, they could not make a return at night because it was not their practice, which leaves a possibility that his father might have been killed by the same rebels he worked for.
Luweero Triangle, located to the north of Kampala, was where Yoweri Museveni led the National Resistance Army, to the bush in 1981, following his defeat in the 1980 elections, to fight “bad governance” until 1986, when he assumed power.
More still, Luweero Triangle is commonly remembered for the brutal killings, particularly of civilians during the war, which are mostly blamed on Obote’s government. But, little from this war has been chronicled to give a proper account of the killings that stretched across Kiboga, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Mubende, Mityana and Wakiso. What is clear though, greater Luweero remains in a state of poverty, with unemployed youth, the sons and daughters of fighters and heroes whose skulls are being eaten away by termites in memorial graves dug by President Museveni’s government after he took over power.
Those who survived the war by what they call the “grace of God”, the five years remain an unforgettable and unforgiveable period.
Who is accountable?
This is the big question whose answer you will not get from either party in the conflict. The rebels now the government in power, blame the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), who were the government then, and are prompt on reminding the population in those areas about what Obote’s men did to them.
UPC, on the other hand, has also never stopped calling for an investigation into what happened in Luweero and who was responsible. Yet many who witnessed the events have since decided to keep quiet, some are patiently awaiting justice for the looting, mysterious and brutal killings of civilians, disappearance of many people, use of child soldiers—most of whom died, the list is endless.
Rebel invasions versus government troops atrocities
John Kasozi (not real names), an elder in one of the villages in Luweero was also part of the guerilla movement, says the two groups killed people indifferently in large numbers and used different methods.