BY AHMED KATEREGGA MUSAAZI
On Sunday April 11th 2021, shall be 42 years since the fall of Kampala, Uganda’s commercial and political capital to Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) and Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
It marked the end of Idi Amin’s one man’s dictatorship, which had started on January 25th 1971 after overthrowing Milton Obote’s one party dictatorship that had led Uganda since independence on October 9th 1962.
Amin’s regime was one man’s show because according to the army proclamation and later Legal Notice No.1 of 1971, cabinet was suspended and parliament was resolved and all executive and legislative powers were vested in him as a Military Head of State who subsequently assumed the title of President.
Yet, Obote’s was a one party dictatorship because he did not dissolve parliament in 1966 but extended its term for further five years instead of holding elections in 1967 and in 1969 he banned all political parties except his own UPC.
One of the events for this Sunday is the maiden state visit of the new President of the United Republic of Tanzania Samia Suluhu Hassan, who will be President Yoweri Museveni’s guest at State House Entebbe, to among other things, to witness the signing of the oil pipeline investment deal.
The function had been initially scheduled for 22nd March before President Joseph John Pombe Magufuri died and according to President Yoweri Museveni when he visited the Tanzanian Embassy in Kampala, to pay condolences, it was intended to mark the fall of Mbarara to TPDF fighting side by side with UNLA. President Museveni a Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) guerilla leader, had led the Western Axis that liberated South Western Uganda and West Nile. The Central Axis had been under the command of Tito Okello and Oyite Ojok with Paul Muwanga as the Civil Administrator. The overall commander was Gen. David Msuguri, then, the Chief of Defence Forces of TPDF.
In 1980, April 11th was marked as a liberation day and public holiday. So was the day the Moshi Unity Conference was held on March 24th 1979. As school goers, we had to remain home to mark the days. However, in UPC 1980 general elections manifesto, it was to be marked at National Heroes’ Day. But after rigging itself to power, UPC President Milton Obote changed his mind and it remained marked as liberation day, and shifted the hero’s day to May 27th, he came back in 1980 from exile.
After National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/NRA) victory in 1986, liberation day shifted from April 11th to January 26th the day Kampala fell from Tito Okello’s Military Junta and there were suggestions that even the national independence day 0ctober 9th should not be marked a national day as it was meaningless after Milton Obote abolished the 1962 Independence Constitution and imposed his own 1966 Pigeon- hole constitution and later 1967 republican constitution, which among other things abolished kingdoms and federal states and over centralized power in an imperial presidency.
However, it remained a national day and President Yoweri Museveni has presided over the silver jubilee celebrations in 1987, 50 years Golden Jubilee in 2012, awarding medals including the Gold Independence Medal he awarded first to all former heads of state and government; Sir Edward Muteesa ll, Ben Kiwanuka, Milton Obote, Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, presidential commission; the late justices; Wacha Olwol, Joseph Musoke and Nyamuconco; And Tito Okello, except Idi Amin and Paulo Muwanga who was Military Commission Chairperson.
There was an attempt to include April 11th among the national days as had been demanded by Tanzania however, given the fact that UNLF/UNLA never led Ugandans to the promised land due to infighting inside UNLF camp that say the late Yusuf Lule, who replaced Idi Amin, as President, to lead for only 68 days, when he was also 68 years of age, replaced by Godfrey Binaisa who led for only 11 months, bringing in umbrella politics, the precursor of the mass broad based movement system, and a Military Council that rigged election in favor of UPC that sparked off the five year bush war spearheaded by now President Yoweri Museveni, it could not.
Indeed, Uganda and Tanzania agreed to mark the day jointly. Some conferences were organized by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Foundation led by its CEO Salim Ahmed Salim, at Kampala Serena Hotel and one of the main speakers was Gen. Msuguri who called for observation of the day.
A source told me that, while the day could be celebrated in some parts of Uganda as a liberation day, it was a doom’s day in West Nile, and for national reconciliation, it was not declared a public holiday.
This is similar to a Victory Day Baganda Christians used to celebrate. The day they deposed Kabaka Nuuhu Kalema, a Muslim, and run away to Kijungute in Singo where he died of Small Pox, and reinstalled Kabaka Mwanga ll, with the help of the Traditionalists. After Sir Edward Muteesa ll returned from the first exile on October 17th 1955, his uncle Prince Badru Wassajja Kakungulu, suggested to him that the day was divisive and its celebration be stopped and Muteesa obliged, again for national reconciliation.
Among the national medals that are awarded in Uganda, is the Kagera medal which is awarded to those that shed blood in the 1979 war and the late Oyite Ojok, is among the officers that have received it posthumously.
However, there are three lessons to learn from April 11th. One is that Ugandans who celebrated the rise of Amin in 1971, celebrated his fall in 1979 due to his and his regime’s excesses. Secondly, there is no doubt that on that day, Uganda was defeated by Tanzania in a war. The former was defeated partly because it was not a free and democratic society. The government was almost a one man’s show. Thirdly, a foreign power cannot liberate a country, it only fights for its interests, hence there was a need for a people’s protracted war that totally liberated the country. Baganda say: Omuggo oguli ewa munno tegugoba ngo (a stick cannot be borrowed from a neighbor to fight a leopard) and that Maqzzi masabe tegaloga nyonta (foreign aid cannot be a solution). We should strive to ensure that Uganda is ever free and democratic. Even when we belong to the Opposition, we should never connive with any foreigners against our country. They pretend to be helping us in liberation yet they have their own agenda. Let us sing with Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah; Forward ever, backward never.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is a veteran journalist and a Communications Assistant with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.
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