Today, June 9, marks 38 years since the first National Resistance Army/ Movement (NRA/M) heroes were executed at Kikandwa, Luweero. They died for their faith and political ideology.
On that day, about 15 suspected NRA rebels and their collaborators were summarily executed by the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
Earlier, on February 6, 1981, NRA rebel leader Yoweri Museveni had launched a protracted war to fight the government of Uganda led by then president Milton Obote.
Museveni succeeded when in January 1986 he ousted a military junta of Gen Tito Okello Lutwa who in July 1985 had ousted Obote in a military coup.
Luttamaguzi joins the war
Luttamaguzi Babumba was not among the first civilians to join the NRA struggle because when the rebellion started in February 1981 he was with his younger brother, Akisoferi Kataayi, at Nsambya Hospital in Kampala.
Kataayi had in January 1981 been involved in a car accident which left him with a fractured spinal bone. Luttamaguzi later left Kataayi with his other brother only known as Kaddu to return home to Kikandwa, Luweero, to see his family.
It is said that soon after arriving in the village, Lutta, as he was also called, was introduced to the NRM ideology by his friend, a one Bomboka, which he emphatically accepted and joined the rebellion.
Luttamaguzi’s reason for joining the war was oppression of the people by the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) regime. He abandoned his ailing brother in the hospital and joined the NRA Bush War.
When Resistance Councils (RCs) were introduced in March 1981, Luttamaguzi was elected chairman RC1, Kikandwa village. Luttamaguzi and others started the rigorous clandestine work of recruiting members into the struggle.
The job was not only vigorous, but dangerous as it put the lives of the recruits at risk. But it was a risk he was ready to take. He also served as a night guide to the rebels.
Movement was always at night and Luttamaguzi knew the area well. In March 1981, the government forces launched a campaign code-named LLO (Locate and Liquidate Operation) which was intended to wipe out the rebels from Luweero District. The operation yielded little success.
Double-agent betrays rebels
Intelligence is a very crucial tool in a war. But intelligence gathering is sometimes more dangerous than being at the front line. It is also during intelligence gathering that the worst mistakes are made.
In the early days of the war, the rebels wanted to do counter-intelligence on government forces operating in the immediate territory.
According to Luweero war veteran Maj Kakooza Mutale’s report titled Luttamaguzi Babumba: First Martyrs of Resistance, two rebels, Sam Magambo and Kawooya, were sent to spy on the government forces.
The two were sons of Kikandwa village. Kawooya knew of a girl in their village, Nalumu, who was in close contact with the UNLA soldiers in the area.
It is said that Kawooya established a romantic relationship with Nalumu with the intent of using her as a double-agent to spy on the enemy. Kawooya was the son of Yonasani Kanyike of the same village.
It is believed that Nalumu was aware that Kawooya was a rebel and so the UNLA used her to spy on him. She spied on him and got intelligence about who was who in the rebel ranks in Kikandwa.
Morning of June 9, 1981
With good intelligence, UNLA soldiers decided to invade Kikandwa. The date was June 9, 1981, at about 7am.
About 100 or more soldiers descended on Kikandwa village, with Nalumu said to be in the lead with another boy, Joshua, popularly known as Omudama from Tororo in eastern Uganda.
Nalumu led the soldiers to Kabonge, a rebel collaborator and RC I in the village. Luckily, Kabonge was not at home, but his wife Flaska Namutebi Kabonge was arrested and beaten senseless.
The next home to be attacked was that of Kinene. It was at Kinene’s home that the soldiers assembled all suspected rebels collaborators from the village. Helping Nalumu and Joshua in identifying the rebel collaborators were two other UPC members, Nadduli and Kakyabulo Kyeyune. Kinene also survived because he had spent the night at another home.
Once Nalumu was done identifying the rebel collaborators, the UNLA soldiers started the executions.
A one Sentongo was the first to be killed. Next was an old man named Nkangirwa, a step father of Luttamaguzi and a member of RC I of Kikandwa village.
Nkangirwa had denied any knowledge of the rebels, and due to his age the soldiers had pardoned him. But Nalumu pinned him, saying three of his sons had joined the rebel ranks.
This infuriated the soldiers. It is said that one picked a hoe and hit Nkangirwa on the head. He died instantly. Others killed at Kinene’s home were Siiza and Sempa.
Luttamaguzi is murdered
Finally, some UNLA soldiers arrived at Kinene’s home with Luttamaguzi. When interrogated about harbouring the rebels, he admitted, but claimed that while he hosted them, he did not know their whereabouts since they arrived at night. He said the rebels only asked for food and continued to a destination he did not know.
Luttamaguzi, however, knew where the rebels were but decided not to reveal their hideout. As the soldiers went on torturing their captives, some regretted joining the armed struggle and cursed Lutta for having persuaded them to join the rebels.
In response, Luttamaguzi begged his comrades to be strong.
He was reported to have said: “Bannange mugume nebwemunawanjaga mutya tuli bakufa” (Comrades, let us be firm and strong. Our wailings and pleas for mercy won’t change our fate. We will all die)
At the height of the torture, Luttamaguzi is said to have looked Joshua, one of the tormentors, in the eyes and said: “Ggwe Joshua otussizza naye temujja kutuwangula” (You Joshua got us killed but you will not defeat us)
Luttamaguzi’s utterances are said to have infuriated Joshua. On hearing this, a soldier armed with a panga sliced off Luttamaguzi’s head.
As Lutta’s head bounced and rolled towards other bundled dead bodies in Kinene’s compound, Joshua, who spoke broken Luganda, is quoted to have said: “Nze yali talabanga mutwe ya muntu bwazanya nga ya nkoko, naye wano Kikandwa nze amaze kulaba oyo” (I had never seen the head of a human being dangling like that of a hen. But I have seen it today at Kikandwa)
Several other unnamed people suspected of being rebel collaborators were killed that day. But some survived and told their story.
Among the survivors were Ms Flaska Namutebi, wife of Kabonge, Ms Sentongo and Mzee Yonasani Kanyike.
Luttamaguzi declared hero
Immediately after his execution, Luttamaguzi was declared a hero by the rebel leadership.
Speaking about Luttamaguzi, President Yoweri Museveni in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed on pages 131 and 132 writes: “… they gave us a guide called Bomboka, who was to die later during the war. It was he who introduced us to Edadian Luttamaguzi of Kikandwa near Semuto, who later became a hero of our movement.
“One of our battalions, Lutta, based in the Kufu-Kikandwa area, was named after him. He was part of the nine people who were murdered on June 9, 1981, on the orders of Bazilio Okello and Paulo Muwanga because they refused to reveal the whereabouts of our soldiers in spite of the fact that they knew where they were. It is to commemorate that event that we have declared June 9 Heroes Day in Uganda.”