The rise of armed struggle

NRA fighters in the bush in 1982. Standing L-R: Dr Ronald Bata, Jim Muhwezi (3rd Left), Sunday Mukulu (4th Right), John Kazoora (centre) and right is Serwanga Lwanga. Squatting, second right, is Henry Tumukunde. COURTESY PHOTO

What you need to know:

Obote II regime begins to end. With widespread discontent among the opposition about the 1980 election, Obote II tenure builds on a sandy ground and is easily shaken by waves of unrest.

Although Milton Obote and his Uganda Peoples Congress cronies enjoyed numerical strength in Parliament, and, therefore, had the luxury of legislation, the citizens, especially opposition supporters, grumbled about the thorny political beds they slept on.

Factions outside the UPC have variously stated that armed struggle in Uganda started almost as soon as the Military Commission stole the election for Obote IN 1980.

Prof. A. B. K. Kasozi, in his book, The Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, says: “…Effective resistance began with the formation of fighting groups that later crystallised into formidable movements that robbed both the UPC administration and Uganda of peace for more than five years.”

History is also rife with stories, although there has been no official report on this, that as soon as the UPC returned to power, several leaders and members of other political parties, including Members of Parliament, were detained without due process of the law.

It is also said at one time, the Makerere University leadership was dissolved because they were opposed to the regime.

Francis Bwengye in The Agony of Uganda; From Amin to Obote, widely states: “…he [Obote] allowed his soldiers to carry out widespread killings, raping of women, and looting of property of defenceless innocent citizens. The degree of official terror had even surpassed that of Amin. He denied Ugandans freedom of expression and banned free press in the country…”

He alleges that people such as the Chief Justice Samuel Wako Wambuzi, the Inspector-General of Police, Luke Ofungi, the Commissioner of Prisons Sentamu and other civil servants, were sacked from their jobs because they were suspected of not supporting UPC.

Civil unrest
The above, with the stolen election, is largely believed to have planted seeds of revolution among the disillusioned Ugandans.

Bwenyge further states that by the end of 1980, “Ugandans both inside and outside the country, who realised that the political trends were leading to the rigging of the election to return Obote to power by fraud and force of arms, formed the Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM), a guerilla organisation, which would carry out an armed campaign against the regime in case it seized power”.

The UPC regime had little, if not nothing, to do to stop the civil unrest that ensued unless it accepted defeat and joined DP in Parliament. But it, if at all, unknowingly opted for unrest as long as they returned to power.

In the previous article, we noted that a faction of DP members had resolved to take up arms against the UPC regime, which they widely accused of rigging the vote. However, only a younger DP leader Andrew Kayiira managed to pull the feat through his UFM organisation.

The Moses Ali group
Before the election in 0ctober 1980, a group of ex-Amin soldiers had formed the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF). Its chairperson was then Brig. Moses Ali (now General). Gen. Ali served in the Amin regime as the Finance minister and in 1978 disagreed with the Field Marshal over widespread killings of civilians and some soldiers.

He would be dismissed by Amin but in late 1978 when war between Amin and Nyerere broke out, he was recalled to the army, but Gen. Ali would never join Amin again.

The UNRF, which reportedly had more than 10,000 well-trained soldiers, had sworn to overthrow the UPC regime for having rigged the election, destroyed West Nile and blocked ex-Ugandan soldiers from returning home.

By this time, however, the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces and the Uganda National Liberation Army still guarded the regime enormously, but this would not last more than five years.

NRA emerges
UPC’s woes were increasing. Another candidate, who had clearly kissed the dust in the 1980 General Election, Yoweri Museveni, also accused the regime of rigging itself into power and would later declare rebellion against the UPC government.

He had stood on the Uganda Patriotic Movement party ticket. This party had only one seat in Parliament – won by Crispus Kiyonga.

Prof. Kasozi says the nucleus of the National Resistance Movement was born at 8:30am on February 6, 1981, when a platoon of 27 young men under Museveni attacked Kabamba School of Infantry.

But to understand the movement well, we should step back to the grassroots organisations by the group.
“A number of civilians began to organise a political arm of this group [NRM]. These people included some of the top brass of the UPM; Eriya Kategeya, Kirunda Kivejinja, Bakulu-Mpagi Wamala, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, etc. Politicised individuals like Hajj Moses Kigongo and others met in various houses in Kampala to map out the struggle (one house was on Prince Drive in Kololo, near Obote’s house),” Prof. Kasozi says.

The group, which aimed to organise masses to fight for democracy, founded the People’s Resistance Council which comprised several resistance groups. Its military wing was called the People’s Resistance Army (PRA).

In June 1981, the fighting groups would meet in Nairobi and also Uganda. The PRA, Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF), and the UNRF, among others, met in Nairobi after conceiving the idea to form a union but would later abort it.

However, the PRA and the UFF merged to form the Uganda Resistance Movement. Yusuf Lule was elected chairperson while Mr Museveni took the vice chairperson post and also headed the High Command.
The National Resistance Movement was organised into the National Resistance Council, the political organ headed by Hajj Moses Kigongo, and the National Resistance Army.

Through the above armed groups, we can, therefore, ascertain that the plot to oust the Obote II regime began as soon as he was declared winner of the 1980 general election.
Continues Tomorrow