On May 5, 1985, Member of Parliament (MP) Sebastian Ssebuggwawo was arrested at a military roadblock and disappeared to this day.
The roadblock was manned by the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) soldiers.
Ssebuggwawo was a Democratic Party (DP) member representing Mubende West, Buganda region, in the 4th Parliament.
On that fateful morning, according to a press release issued by DP, Ssebuggwawo left Kampala for Mubende while being driven in a Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union car, a minibus registration number UXE 158. Ssebuggwawo was treasurer of the union.
Also in the car was Stephen Kabanda, an accountant of the union. Their driver was Edward Mulengera.
When they reached Mityana Town, Kabanda alighted from the car while Ssebuggwawo proceeded to Mityana Police Station to ask for police escort.
Ssebuggwawo then went to Naama, a village near Mityana Town, to see his uncle. About 2pm, Ssebuggwawo took the police officer back to the station.
At the police station, UNLA soldiers brought a body they said was of a rebel of the National Resistance Army (NRA) movement fighting to overthrow the Uganda government.
As an area Member of Parliament, Ssebuggwawo approached the commander of the soldiers, the notorious Capt Babu, to understand what had happened.
Ssebuggwawo’s inquiry, however, infuriated Capt Babu who asked Ssebuggwawo what political party he belonged to.
In response, Ssebuggwawo said he was an MP elected by citizens of Uganda in Mubende West, and he had the right to know what was going on in his constituency.
When Ssebuggwawo realised that the situation was getting out of hand, he decided to leave. Ssebuggwawo then drove off to Kiyinda, Mityana Parish, to attend preparation meetings for the 99th Uganda martyrs anniversary.
Ssebuggwawo, who arrived late for the meeting, joined Mityana District Commissioner and fellow MP P. Sseruyange for lunch.
While having lunch, Sgt Maj Sokolo, another notorious soldier, was seen arriving in a white Mazda pick-up.
Sokolo was present at Mityana Police Station when Ssebuggwawo had the verbal exchange with Capt Babu. Sokolo remained in Kiyinda the whole time, and when Ssebuggwawo left the parish for Kampala, he also left.
Sokolo abducts Ssebuggwawo
About 5.30pm, as Ssebuggwawo’s car approached Buyala near River Mayanja, about 14 miles to Kampala on the Mityana-Kampala highway, they saw a white Land Rover V-8, they later realised was used by Capt Babu, parked in the middle of the road.
All of a sudden, Sokolo’s Mazda came speeding from behind with full lights.
Sokolo parked his car near Ssebuggwawo’s as soldiers jumped out and grabbed the MP, his driver and the accountant. The three were bundled into the Mazda pick-up and whisked away.
According to a taxi driver who witnessed the whole episode, Ssebuggwawo cried out for help as he was being taken away.
“Ndi mubaka wa lukiiko Olukulu olw’eggwanga, abajaasi baatwala okuzita. Munyambwe,” (I am a Member of Parliament of Uganda. Soldiers are going to kill me. Help,” he cried.
Earlier, the New African magazine of May 1985, No. 212 had published an exclusive interview with Paul S. Kateregga, a DP Member of Parliament, who castigated the Uganda army for mistreating civilians.
“Why should Ugandans pay taxes to create and support an army if it is just going to mishandle and murder them?” Kateregga wondered.
Ssemogerere appeals government
Democratic Party president Paul Ssemogerere, also the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, challenged government to apprehend and prosecute Ssebuggwawo abductors.
On June 1, 1985, Ssemogerere held a news conference at the party headquarters in Kampala which attracted some members of the diplomatic corps.
“We are not satisfied with the way the government is handling the matter,” he said. “The Democratic Party gave evidence implicating the two army officers and there is a prima facie case against them, and they should be arrested and questioned.”
On June 7, 1985, Opposition Parliamentary Group led by DP officially wrote to then president Milton Obote demanding an explanation on the whereabouts of Ssebuggwawo.
“We demand an explanation on the abduction of Hon Ssebuggwawo at least by June 13, 1985. We also demand the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of this heinous crime. If our demands are not met, we and the people we represent reserve the right to take any appropriate political action,” the letter reads in part.
The letter also said out of the 52 Opposition MPs, two had been murdered since December 1980 when the UPC government was sworn in. They were Africanus Ssembatya and George Bamuturaki.
However, Prof Joseph Muhangi from Bushenyi District and a UPC Member of Parliament was the first legislator to be gunned down by known assailants.
Opposition MPs forced to flee for their lives were Pancras Kaboha, Bernard Buzabo, Abu Mayanja and Dr Crispus Kiyonga.
The document further inform president Obote about other similar cases against Ugandans.
“Mr President, these horrific incidents are not confined to only Members of Parliament, but extend to all the strata of the society in this country. But the government has done virtually nothing to stop them,” the letter read.
“We the Opposition Parliamentary Group, together with all Ugandans of good conscience and the whole world, are outraged by the recent abduction of yet another Opposition MP and demand a full explanation before it is too late.”
Responding to this document, vice president and minister of Defence Paulo Muwanga said Ssebuggwawo was dead and two soldiers had been arrested in connection with his death.
While it was thought that the two soldiers were Sgt Maj Sokolo and Capt Babu, after several weeks the two notorious soldiers were instead transferred to Mpigi.
Meeting their death
On January 28, 1986, two days after the NRA rebels captured Kampala and a day before former rebel leader Museveni was sworn in as president, Capt Babu was arrested by wananchi at Busega village, Kampala.
He was arrested and his hands tied behind his back before being stoned to death in the presence of an NRA commander, now a UPDF General, who was combing Nsangi areas for any UNLA soldiers.
Sgt Sokolo on the other hand was shot dead by NRA soldiers in 1987 as he allegedly attempted to escape from Makindye military prison. Sunday Monitor could not establish when Sokolo was arrested.