I have followed inquiries about the death or disappearance of Journalists, Priests, Politicians, Common people (Abantu baabulijjo) on the UAH forum, but it seems the answers given by some members , are either not satisfactory or simply unbelievable. I think that the people who know the truth are either scared to come forward with it,simply because they want to forget the past or are silent to protect themselves from the ”Political or Military Heavy Weights” who may fear being incriminated in those cases. I may also add that during the rule of Idi Amin most people inside Uganda knew much less of what was actually happening than those out of the country.
In the beginning the killings were not so secret, but with the support of the people Idi Amin enjoyed, even those who could have condemned the killings were convinced that ”Amin was killing Obote’s people”. The soldiers themselves were terrified as they did not know who among them would die next. Oh yes, they were pointing fingers at each other and the Acholi and Langi were the most vulnerable. It was commonsense that Amin inherited a Professional National Army, but the dominance of the forces by the Acholi and Langi scared him. Given the manner he liquidated them, one may conclude that he (Amin) feared that these two tribes would overthrow his regime and re-instate Milton Obote.
In 1973 I went to Nairobi, Kenya with the Uganda National Boxing team for the then annual Millington Drake Boxing Tournament. We were staying at the Brunners Hotel, about opposite Six-Eighty Hotel. One day I received a telephone call in my Hotel room. I was requested by the receptionist to come to the Reception and that there were two ”gentlemen” who wished to talk to me. When I arrived at the Reception I was introduced to two men who identified themselves as Captain Aswa and Mr.Jolly Joseph Kiwanuka. Immediately, I realized that I was talking to the man who actually announced the coup that brought Amin to power. About the other man, I often heard his name as ”Jolly Joe Kiwanuka” and had something to do with Express Football Team, which the fans called ”e Team Y’Abantu”. I was now confused about why these two wished to talk to me in particular. Mr.Kiwanuka told me that he was a business man and that he was temporarilly in exile and that he would ”soon return home”. Captain Aswa told me that he wished to talk to somebody ”who comes from Fort Portal” and that he had been told by the Ugandan Team Officials that I am the one who ”comes” from Toro. He requested me to convey a message to his brother, Regimental Sergent Major of the 2nd Paratroopers’ Battalion, Apollo Ezati, which I said I would. When I returned to Uganda I decided to shut my mouth. I suspected that he could have betrayed me for promotion as a loyal soldier, at which point he could have reported me as someone who was in touch with the ”enemies of the 2nd Republic” and wanted to involve him. Many people lost their lives, not because Amin had sanctioned their death, but because of personal feud,,jealousy or envy.
The people in Uganda relied on the Radio Uganda, UTV and Newspapers to know what was happening around the country. Amazingly, the people seemed to trust the press. People were dying, but the press would announce that ” He has run to his imperial master”.
By 1975 fear was everywhere including in the armed forces barracks. Idi Amin had re-enforced the State Research Bureau (SRB) by transfering many ”Nubians” from Army and Air Force Units to the Bureau. After the struggle for the office of the Chief of Defence Staff by the then Military Police Chief Brig. General Hussein Malera and the Chief of Defence Staff Brig. General Charles Arube in which Brig. General C. Arube died, it was apparent that Amin was losing power. Amin was scared of everyone. Brig. General Hussein Malera was retired and sent back home to Southern Sudan. Colonel Mustafa Adrisi was transfered from Bondo Regiment in the North and made Acting Chief of Staff.
One morning, ( I’ve forgotten the exact date.) shortly after 0600 AM I heard on Radio Uganda (Ebiraango) that ” Hajjat Affua Namuddu abikka mutabaniwe Charles Lwanga, yafudde” ( Hajjat Affua Namuddu announces the death of her son Charles Lwanga). I thought I was dreaming because I had been with Charles Lwanga the previous day and he was inviting me out ” to enjoy” with him. Charles Lwanga was my brother-in-law and a brother to Halima Namakula, the singer. Halima came to my residence and told me that Charles had been short dead by the members of the State Research Bureau. I immediately went to the SRB Headquarters, Nakasero and told the Adjutant Lieutenant Jackson Kyalikunda what his people had done to my brother-in-law. He promised to inform the Director of the SRB, Lt. Colonel Francis Itabuka and that they would investigate and bring the ”culprits” to justice. I knew that the ” Law of the Land ” at the time was a firing squad, but I was not concerned with the type of purnishment.
I only wanted to know who had killed not only was he my brother-in-law, but also my sincere friend. Later while on leave in Fort Portal I was infomed by the Acting Adjutant of the General Headquarters, Uganda Armed Forces, Lieutenant Ali Kaunda Vuni that a mutual friend and colleague, Uganda Marines Captain John Mule had been short dead at Kamwookya. The killers were thought to be members of the SRB. Capt. John Mule was also a childhood friend of mine. He was Kakwa, but grew up in Toro and spoke excellent Runyoro/Rutooro. As in Charles Lwanga’s case the killers were never found. I later learned that one of the tactics of war agaist Amin was to discredit his government in every way possible. Amin and his government had to be seen as killers who did not respect human life whatsoever. Some killers were in fact Ugandans who were sent to pose as members of SRB and harrass people or even kill. As the imposters were hard to discover, the Secret Service turned against itself so that they did not trust each other.
Although Kiswahili was the language normally used in the security and defence forces, it was gradually replaced with Kinubi. This brought about a feeling of alienation of the people from other areas of Uganda, but West Nile and Southern Sudan. I escaped assassination several times, but always thought it was mistaken identity, until Brig. General Maliyamugu told me, ” Batakuduupa ngu ofooke musiraamu. Nobu barakutiinisa oyijuke ngu nyowe ndi Mukristo Isaac, nkabalema” ( Don’t be deceived and convert to Islam. Even when you are scared remember I am a Christian Isaac, I defeated them.) After talking to him I realized that the attempts on my life were not ” mistaken identity ”, as I had thought.
Some days later, I encountered Major Farouk Minawa in the Republic House. Although we were engaged in a friendly talk with other officers, the Major was suddenly hostile to me, an act that surprised me. I had to think fast how to get out of trouble. I kept quiet for a while and then told him that I have been thinking about converting to Islam, but did not know what to do about it. He looked at me with a broad smile, but somehow as though he had misunderstood what I had just said. I repeated what I had said, but this time confirming that I was converting to Islam. He jumped up and lifted me as he danced around with me saying repeatedly ” Allah Akbar……”. After a while he rushed out of the building saying that he was going to inform the President. Later that evening of 1976 Radio Uganda and UTV announced that I had converted to Islam. The following day President Amin called our office. He was asking for Captain Ali Bamuze ( now Lt.General retired.) He asked whom he was talking to and when I mentioned my name, he laughed almost uncontrollably, as he congratulated me. That saved my life and gave me a possibility to investigate what was actually going on. I realized that the regime was weak and that Amin had a paranoia, so that he trusted nobody and seemed to fear everybody, hence the dreams in which he claimed Allah told him when and how he would die.
” N’azina obulungi ava mu diiro” ( even a good dancer leaves the floor ), so the Baganda saying goes. My hope and wish is that we should be more open here at the Forum so that we can educate each other about what has transpired in our country that has brought us to where we are. The killings went on after the fall of Amin’s government and I am not surprised that the killings continue up to this day. I believe that it is the opennesss and sincerity that will bring an end to the killings and other forms of inhumanity. We must not be deceived to think that all killings are sanctioned by the President or by the Government. In all the chaos we can perhaps agree that it is the mismanagement and neglect of State affairs that is to blame.
I believe that the truth will heal our hearts and I pray for courage for all those who may need it to share what they know that will free us from this never ending-anger.
May God Bless Uganda.
Byaruhanga, Jonny Rubin.