A s the 1980 elections simmered to a boil, candidate Yoweri Museveni boldly declared that he would “go to the bush” if the elections were rigged. Despite his warnings, the forces that held sway called his bluff and a line was drawn in the sand.
Shortly after Milton Obote was sworn in as president, candidate Museveni’s bold utterances mushroomed into the fog of war. And a group of 40 men, led by Museveni, rode through the lowlands of Sembabule in an old truck to attack Kabamba Barracks and grab as many guns as possible, in order to put paid to Obote’s presidency.
It was February 6, Bob Marley’s birthday. And although Marley had confessed in song to shooting the sheriff, it was the sheriff’s deputy whose shooting remains a cold case. Whether Museveni’s Popular Resistance Army (PRA) hit him with a stray bullet the day they attacked Kabamba is anyone’s guess.
At any rate, five years after attacking Kabamba, Museveni was sworn in as President of Uganda.
In 2012, Kiguli Army Primary School, which is based in the innermost keep of Nakasongola Barracks, was in crisis. The school was coming apart at the seams, pupils had no shoes or hope.
As orphans of fallen UPDF soldiers, these pupils were constantly stalked by poverty and continually mule kicked by adversity. Then, one day, their P7 English class had its poetry posted online. As luck would have it, these poems were seen by a publishing house based in Albertville, Alabama, USA, called PDMI Publishing LLC. This imprint was owned and managed by Todd and Lisa McKinney alongside the redoubtable Victoria Adams.
Together, the three collaborated with Kiguli Army Primary School to publish the pupils’ poems and ship them to Uganda in the form of an anthology entitled Songs of Kiguli. It was at this point that the newly appointed managing director of Luwero Industries Limited, the then Brig James Mugira, boldly chose to partner with PDMI in order to bolster literacy in Nakasongola.
And so, after three more anthologies over the next three years, Kiguli Army Primary School was ranked the best performing army school in the country and one of the three best schools in Nakasongola as a whole. And it didn’t stop there, Mugira, along with his human resources manager, then Lt Col Johnson Namanya, renovated the school so that its newfound status was matched by immaculately manicured school premises.
Suddenly, enrolment soared as the school garnered national and international attention through associations with Uganda’s premier afro-soul music group Qwela and support from eminent poet and presidential pitchman John Nagenda.
Qwela’s song Mwana Wangye begins with the words “they said that we could not to do it….” in echo of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech after he marched on Selma in 1965. For in a world where the cynics always have the last laugh, the naysayers were finally proven wrong.
The primary school children of Kiguli subsequently grew into university students and upstanding citizens. And the families of Nakasongola rose above their origins by improving their children’s education to ensure that the boldness of Kiguli equalled the boldness of Kabamba.
Tahere Sita, celebrated three days ago, highlights this boldness to go where nobody has gone before in order to break new ground and extend the frontiers of possibility to the provinces of actuality. The UPDF, thanks to such trailblazing officers as Mugira and Namanya, proved that ‘military intelligence’ is not an oxymoron. And can convert the politics of apathy to the politics of empathy.
More, Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s detonation theory stated that a sufficiently audacious act can trigger a social explosion whose consequences are almost impossible to estimate. Of course, the attack on Kabamba is not the reason why Ugandans are so boldly entrepreneurial that Uganda was recently ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
Actually, the attack on Kabamba reminds us of the potentialities of our innate boldness and how this is of a piece with the fable of the sculptor: “There was a sculptor. He found this stone, a special stone. He dragged it home and he worked on it for months until he finally finished it. When he was ready he showed it to his friends. They said he had created a great masterpiece, but the sculptor said he hadn’t created anything. The statue was always there, he just chipped away the rough edges.”
And so it is with Uganda.
Mr Matogo is content editor and writer with KQ Hub Africa