As I write, it is September 17, 2014, which reminds me of the same day 42 years ago, when Ugandan exiles invaded from Tanzania.
A few days before the invasion, I travelled from Kampala with two Makerere students through Masaka, Kalisizo, Kyotera, branching off to Katera where we found a military check-point at a narrow breach of the escarpment just before sloping down to the Lake Victoria shore where we boarded a canoe.
While on the lake and before we crossed the Kagera River, which visibly crosses the lake with a strong current, the boat’s engine ceased to function but luckily, we were skillfully rowed across the river and the lake.
We landed safely in Minziro on the Tanzanian side from where we proceeded to the Fronasa training camp near Bukoba Town, arriving on September 15.
Mr Yoweri Museveni, our commander, (now President), informed me about the impeding invasion and that we were going along with the Obote forces and take advantage to move our materiel (arms and ammunition) into the country.
On September 17, we (a Fronasa platoon) set off very early with the Obote forces for Uganda. Our force was in one lorry and we had a Land Rover full of arms and ammunition.
Our platoon was divided into two sections; one section commanded by Mwesigwa Black with Bagira as his second-in-command and the other section commanded by Museveni, also our over-all commander, with me as his second-in-command.
The Obote forces on the Mbarara axis were about 300, commanded by Captain Oyile and the over-all commander of the axis.
We branched off after Kyaka bridge and headed towards Isingiro and Mbarara, by-passing a Tanzanian sugar plantation and a government ranch. We were supposed to have surprised the Amin forces in Mbarara but the convoy was slow and at day-break, more time was wasted attacking a tse-tse fly camp at the border that was eventually set on fire.
Some months before that invasion, Museveni and I had passed by that road transporting our material on new bicycles which were so hastily assembled that when we peddled, the peddles fell off and we ended up pushing the bicycles up to our rendezvous with Zubairi Bakari at Nshungyenzi.
We slowly proceeded towards Mbarara uneventfully until we were passed by a speeding Peugeot driven by Ali Fadhul, the then commanding officer of the battalion based at Mbarara.
A few miles later in Masha around where, in 1899, Henry Stanley (Kakira Mukyenkye) met Bucunku, the Omugabe’s envoy, now marked by a conical monument, we met a lorry full of soldiers, probably following their commanding officer. As we fired at them, some of our comrades ran away, including the driver of our lorry.
After this brief encounter, we set off driven by Museveni and on reaching the junction at Nyamitanga, he could not turn the lorry towards Mbarara so another driver turned it and we proceeded on our mission. Just after we had passed Agip Motel, we met and fired at a Land Rover full of Amin’s soldiers and only one soldier escaped and ran towards Kijungu suburb.
At the forest before the barracks, we were fired at by 106 guns and a shrapnel piece passed over my neck. It is here that most of us dispersed before reaching the barracks.
After some time, I walked with an Obote soldier for more than 10 kilometres to a village beyond Biharwe where I stayed for three days and took a taxi to Kampala and then to Dar es Salaam.
Museveni drove back to Tanzania but some of our comrades who went to relatives’ or friends’ homes in Mbarara Town were later picked up and killed.
Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP. [email protected]