Title: Battles of the Ugandan
Resistance; A Tradition of Maneuvre.
Author: Muhoozi Kainerugaba
Publisher: Fountain Publishers
Volume: 223 pages
Reviewer: Robert Kalumba
Muhoozi Kainerugaba's Battles of the Ugandan Resistance; A Tradition of Maneuvre tells the story of the National Resistance Army (now UPDF) and their five-year guerilla war led by his father, President Yoweri Museveni.
The year is 1981. President Museveni, then Vice Chairman of the governing Military Commission, has his convoy stopped at a UNLA manned roadblock in Kireka. The occupants in the car are him, his wife Janet Museveni, and their young son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Their convoy consists of escorts of the President who are Salim Saleh, the late Fred Rwigema, the late Akanga Byaruhanga and another solider.
The soldiers manning the roadblock have orders, from Museveni’s boss Maj. Gen David Oyite-Ojok, to kill Museveni and his entire family. A gun-toting Saleh, on realising the danger, walks up to the commander of the roadblock, slaps him hard and informs him to tell his superiors that “Commander Salim Saleh” was responsible for the rescue of Museveni.
A few days after that incident, Salim Saleh was arrested by the UNLA soldiers, and taken to Mbuya barracks. He was badly beaten and tortured and like his brother before, he too was staring death in the face. This prompted Museveni to declare that if his young brother were to die in jail at the hands of his torturers, he would personally shoot Oyite Ojok. Salim Saleh was immediately released.
This narration is got from the book, Battles of the Ugandan Resistance; A Tradition of Maneuvre. The author happens to be the young boy who was in the car with his parents at the roadblock in Kireka, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Muhoozi is now a Lt. Colonel and head of the Special Forces Group. His book tells the stories of the National Resistance Army (now UPDF) and their five-year guerilla war that was led by his father, President Yoweri Museveni. But what does Battles of the Ugandan Resistance offer that Sowing the Mustard Seed, (a book written by the author’s father), Ondoga Ori Amaza’s Museveni’s Long March or Pecos Kutesa’s book Uganda’s Revolution 1979-1986 don’t?
Well, Muhoozi treads those waters with one aspect that many authors who are writing about events that they never witnessed do, that is, extensive research.
In the book’s preface, the author says he sat separately with his father, Gen. Tumwine, Gen. Salim Saleh, the late Maj. Gen Kazini (whom he interviewed twice), Brig. Steven Kashaka, Brig. John Mugume, Col. Sam Kavuma and Mr and Ms Maumbe Mukwana who each gave their own narration of events that made it to the book. Each gave their own version of the history.
This history was then interwoven by the author with military treatises from western authors like William McRaven and writings of well known military theorists like the Prussian solider and German military theorist, Carl Von Clausewitz. In so doing, the author theorises the Guerilla war.
He, for example, uses the battle at Bukalabi where the NRA in terms of causalities suffered the worst during the five year war, to justify the German’s military theorist Clausewitz’s assertion that defence as compared to offence is the stronger form of warfare and at Bukalabi, the NRA proved that theory right. He also goes ahead to give his own view about what went wrong and what could have been done better.
The good and bad
The disadvantage however, is that for the layman, Muhoozi could come across as both boring and irrelevant. No one knows about Robert Leonhard’s The Art of Manoeuvre. What the casual reader will expect is some revelations about the war that no one has written about. But for the military academician, the book is bliss. And militarily speaking, this is a chance for Muhoozi to state his worth amongst his peers.
The author and his father
In this book, Muhoozi fights hard to separate Museveni the father and Museveni the Chairman of the High Command of the NRA. For one, he never refers to Museveni, as “father”, in the whole of the 223 pages of the book. He keeps it professional, always referring to him by his rank as CHC (Chairman High Command).
When he veers near hero-worshiping, as in chapter two of the book, under the heading, Mbale 1973; “Cometh the hour Cometh the man”, (Page 26) where Museveni escaped death in Mbale, the author alludes to Museveni’s reactions during those terse moments as a demonstration of Museveni’s “innate appreciation of the idea of “relative superiority” which is the cornerstone tenet of special operations.” Really Muhoozi? One would say that what Museveni did in Mbale is what one would do when cornered by thugs, that is, try and run as fast as your legs can take you and pray that the thugs’ bullets don’t get you!
Muhoozi in that same episode quickly adds that “by acclaiming Museveni’s actions in Mbale and in subsequent situations, we are not trying to elevate him to the status of Clausewitz’s famous description of genius in war.” Muhoozi cleverly covers his tracks.
Portraying Salim Saleh
It’s with his uncle Salim Saleh however, that the author goes slightly overboard. He portrays Saleh in the mould of the famous cowboy actor John Wayne, peppering the book with lines such as “with guns blowing away Saleh in his trademark custom was smoking away!”
In other instances the author nearly presents the battles he’s writing on as more of Salim Saleh running the show. In the battle of Masindi, he says, “again Saleh displayed that rare quality found in only the choicest military leaders.”
In the battle of Kembago, he writes, “Saleh’s decision to stand and fight was the “critical event” that ensured that a battle of decision was fought…” In the battle of Masaka, he writes, “Saleh whose command style and commitment bordered on the suicidal, certainly had tonnes of will power.” Muhoozi in praise of Saleh seems to be in awe of the man. Is Muhoozi saying that without Saleh, the NRA was toothless? That’s what tends to come across.
So do we get any juicy revelations in this book? Yes we do! We learn of the incidence when Salim Saleh contemplated shooting himself in the head. We also learn that the late President Julius Nyerere (and not Mummar Gadaffi like many people think) was the biggest contributor externally to the NRA.
We also learn in chapter five of the book titled Bukalabi; Saleh’s Baptism in Fire, of a distortion of sorts about some fundamental fact. This chapter tells of the day bullets ripped through Salim Saleh leaving him close to death. The jacket Saleh was wearing after that shootout was found to have had 30 bullet holes in it.
But the book credits the late Rwabwisho for having saved Saleh’s life when he pulled him away from the battlefield. Whereas such a heroic act cannot go by unnoticed, it was Dr Kiiza Besigye and his small bunch of medical help who actually nursed the broken body of Saleh and gave the famed solider another chance to liberate Uganda. Isn’t that worth mentioning? Muhoozi thinks not.
Battles of the Ugandan Resistance, is a well written book. Fast paced and entertaining. Although most of the stories in it have been told, it’s the style the author uses that distinguishes it from the rest. However, the biggest impact this book has is the revelation of who Muhoozi the person is. And that is, theoretically, Lt Col Muhoozi Kainerugaba is quite a military academician