Forty five years ago, Uganda was at war with rebels who had invaded its territory from neighbouring Tanzania.
The war that lasted no more than 72 hours started on September 16, 1972, when the enemy forces of the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), led by Yoweri Museveni, and Kikosi-Maalum, commanded by Lt Col Tito Okello Lutwa, attacked Uganda from Mutukula and Isingiro border areas.
They were, however, easily repulsed by the Uganda Army. Kikosi-Maalum attacked Uganda from Mutukula while Fronasa entered Uganda through Isingiro and attacked Simba Barracks near Mbarara Town. Hundreds of their fighters were captured and killed.
Uganda Army lost 27 soldiers, among them Lieutenant Abdultif, the Air Force Company Commander of the Tiger Battalion, who was shot dead by a sniper in Mutukula.
Amin rushes to Mogadishu
Since the late 1980s, Somalia has battled with irregular regional forces, clan militias and now Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.
In 2007, Uganda sent troops to Somalia to try and bring order to the failed state. Uganda currently has more than 6,000 soldiers and officers serving as part of a 22,000-strong Amisom force.
But as a peaceful and stable country in 1972, Somalia acted as Uganda’s saviour. Uganda’s president Idi Amin in October 1972 ran to Somalia for help from his counterpart Siad Barre to fight off the threat coming from Tanzania.
Somalia bailed out Uganda by sending a peace keeping force while Libya under Col Muammar Gaddafi sent a fighting force. They arrived in Uganda a week after the September 16, 1972 invasion.
The Mogadishu Accord between Uganda and Tanzania was signed in October 1972 following talks facilitated by president Siad Barre. The accord had four major articles which included:
1. To cease forthwith all military operations of any kind against each territory and to withdraw not later than October 19, 1972, all their military forces to a distance not less than 10 kilometres from the common border,
2. To effect an immediate cessation of hostile propaganda invested against each other through radio, television and press,
3. To refrain from harbouring or allowing subversive forces to operate in the territory of state against the other,
4. Lastly to release nationals or property, if any, of the other state held by either state.
The accord was deemed to have come into effect on October 7, 1972, and it was simultaneously announced on radio in Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Mogadishu.
Uganda’s minister for Foreign Affairs Wanume Kibedi signed for Uganda. His counterpart John Malecela signed for Tanzania while Mr Jaalle Omala Arteh, Somalis secretary of state for foreign affairs, signed for his country.
The pact also resolved that Siad Barre appoint a neutral military observer team to monitor the progress of the agreement.
Indeed Barre came up with the Somali Military Observation Team (SMOT) to make sure that the two states withdrew their forces from the common border.
In the first week of November 1972, SMOT, led by Brig Nur Adow, arrived in Uganda. On November 10, 1972, they visited Mutukula and the following day visited Kikagati in Isingiro. The team was accompanied by the Ugandan commander of the Air Force, Col Gad Wilson Toko.
Brig Adow was quoted by the Uganda Argus of November 13, 1972, as saying: “The friendship between Uganda and Somalia will never break. Uganda and Somalia are setting a good example to the rest of Africa and I hope that African countries will follow suit.”
This he said while acknowledging that African countries can solve their problems themselves. Indeed, the Mogadishu Accord averted what could have become a costly war for the continent given that Libya had already sent in troops to support Amin’s regime and Zaire was also willing, while Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia were ready to support the invading forces in order to reinstate deposed president Milton Obote.
Jinja barracks renamed Gaddafi
During the burial of some of the soldiers killed during the Mutukula and Mbarara battles at the former Burma cemetery in Jinja, Amin told mourners that the Defence Council and Cabinet had decided that the military barracks in Jinja be renamed from King George VI Barracks to Col Gaddafi in appreciation of the military assistance he gave to Uganda when it was attacked. To this day, it is known as Gaddafi Barracks.
“Libya’s decision to come to Uganda’s aid was very historical and which the people of Uganda must never forget,” Amin was quoted as saying by the Uganda Argus of September 28, 1972.
Road named after Said Barre
In appreciation of Said Barre’s role in mediating a peace deal between Uganda and Tanzania, former Mackinnon Road in Kampala that joins Kampala Road to Nile Avenue was renamed Siad Barre Avenue, a name it carries to date.
As a return to the kind gesture, a road in Mogadishu was named Uganda Road.
During the naming ceremony, according to the Uganda Argus of October 23, 1972, the mayor of Mogadishu, Osman Mohamad, said: “Uganda Road is one of the most important roads in Mogadishu and symbolises true love which the people of Mogadishu and Somalia have for Ugandans.”
Exchange of prisoners of war
On November 15, 1972, George Joseph Masanza, a Tanzanian spy captured inside Ugandan territory in August 1971, was released from Luzira Maximum Security Prison and handed over to SMOT’s Brig Adow who later handed him over to the Tanzanians.
Earlier on November 2, 1972, four Ugandans taken prisoners by the Tanzanian forces in 1971 were set free. The four were Suleiman Amule, Ali Ramathan, Ali Nasur and Moses Galla.
The four were handed over by the Tanzanian government to acting commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade in Masaka, Maj Isaac Malyamungu, in the presence of Mr Abdurrahman Hussein Mohamed, Somalis ambassador to Tanzania. The hand over was carried out at Mutukula border.