The man who chased the then guerrilla and now Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and nearly captured him in Mbale in 1973 as he fled the pursuing Amin soldiers has spoken out his daring task.
Saturday Monitor tracked down Mr Alfred Otwabe, a retired medical assistant formerly working at Mulago Hospital and now settled in his village of Kisangani, Gogonyo Sub-county, Pallisa District to get his firsthand account of the events of that day.
“On Sunday, January 29, 1973 at around 5:00 O’clock, I went to my cousin Mr Ezekiel Okodi’s house to collect my books. I didn’t find my cousin at home, but he came later. All of a sudden, about 10 people, some in plain clothes with guns and some soldiers came to the neighbouring house, about 20 metres from my cousin’s residence. They surrounded the house and started banging doors and windows. I asked my cousin what was happening,” Mr Otwabe told Saturday Monitor.
In the ensuing commotion, two guerillas: Martin Mwesiga and Wunku Mpima aka Kazimoto, were killed in an exchange of gunfire at house No. 43 in Maluku Housing Estate in Mbale Town. The third guerilla, Yoweri Museveni, survived by a whisker after he fired at the soldiers and fled in the ensuing confusion.
Mr Otwabe narrates how he pursued Museveni, thinking he was a thief and nearly captured him in a nearby forest. Museveni had burst out of the besieged house to escape the charging Amin soldiers. Mr Otwabe said he abandoned the chase after Museveni, realising he was closing up on him, drew his pistol and fired out three bullets.
“One person from the house opened the door and got out running towards us -- the crowd-- who had gathered around the place. That person was running zigzag through the crowd that had gathered outside the house. Taking my brother’s word, I thought the people inside the house were thieves. I chased the man (Museveni), right up to the valley towards the forest (Bugema). I almost caught him. The man knowing that he had run short of steam… knowing that he had become tired, he pulled out a pistol and shot three times in the air,” Mr Otwabe said.
“The soldier following me was elderly, with boots and carrying a long gun. He could not run so fast, but I was so close to the man (Museveni). But when the man shot three times, I got scared and ducked. I left the man running and he entered the forest (Bugema) down the hill. The soldier also ducked and stopped the chase,” Mr Otwabe added.
This version is partly corroborated by Mr Museveni writing about this chase on page 79 of his book “Sowing the Mustard Seed.” On that page Museveni states: “I ran towards a eucalyptus forest below the housing estate… I reached a big tree, took cover and fired at my pursuers with my pistol.”
Sunday Monitor has for the last four weeks been running series titled “Museveni Escapes” about the different episodes where President Museveni escaped death or capture by government soldiers and security operatives.
The series are mainly based on eyewitness and corroborated accounts and public records. President Museveni has written about some of these episodes in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed. In our series however, Sunday Monitor has been able to bring fresh witnesses of those events, bringing a new perspective and sometimes different angles from what was previously documented.
Mr Otwabe’s story brings to light hitherto unknown information including how Amin’s soldiers brutalised the people after Museveni had fled and disappeared into the forest.