In 1979 Masaka fell to the Tanzanian forces. A group of Uganda’s leading exiles including the late Paulo Muwanga, Samwiri Mugwisa, Israel Mayengo, Robert Ssebunnya among others, held a public rally in the town now city.
Samwiri Mugwisa the then Deputy District Commissioner of Masaka deputizing Israel Mayengo, made the most moving speech. After the destruction of nearly all buildings in the town, which was next to Kampala at independence in 1962, he promised that, walls had been ordered from USA and would be brought soon, after the end of the war, to assemble them to restore what had been destroyed.
One of the buildings was the Town Hall, which housed the head offices of Masaka Municipal Council. This was one of the three buildings built by the Central Government using money, it claimed that it had compensated Buganda for taking over Bulange building after 1966 crisis. Bulange had been named Republic House, and was the Ministry of Defence Headquarters. Others were West Mmengo District Administration block at Mpigi, which is still standing and White House at Bombo. It is NRM Government under President Yoweri Museveni that restored traditional institutions in 1993 and gave them back property like palaces, Bulange and Royal tombs.
Among what was destroyed in Masaka during the war, was also Tropic Inn Hotel under Uganda Hotels. According to War in Uganda , the Legacy of Idi Amin (1982), the Tanzanians did so in order to teach Amin a lesson for the destruction his forces had done in Kagera Salient in October 1978. They also hoped that Ugandans would be angered and turn against him.
In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, President Museveni, who was a leading commander in the Western Axis, said that he had disagreed with Tanzanian commanders in Mbarara, about the destruction, which he states that he failed to get the origins of that order. He also says that when he visited the late Boniface Byanyima and moved around Mbarara, Byanyima too clashed with the Tanzanian commander over the same. and he was with the late Mzee Boniface Byanyima, who openly clashed with the commanders over the same.
In 1981, the Rehabilitation and Development Corporation (RDC) was set up by Obote ll Government to rehabilitate Masaka, Mbarara and Arua town, but until the regime fell on Saturday July 27th 1985 to Tito Okello’s Junta, nothing had been done. RDC was one of the non performing statutory bodies abolished under liberalization policy that started in 1991 before its objective had been achieved.
So despite the massive support DP enjoyed in Greater Masaka where it swept all the parliamentary seats in the controversial 1980 general elections, the people of Masaka were lukewarm in actively supporting the civil war, as they were benefiting from the coffee boom of early eighties. So neither the People’s Resistance Army (PRA) under Yoweri Museveni which attacked Kabamba School of infantry on 6th February 1988, nor Uganda Freedom Movement under the late Lutakome Kayiira, operated in Masaka.
However, after the fall of Obote in 1985, Masaka people of all walks of life, came out to support the liberation struggle by joining the NRM/NRA, and providing food and other supplies and did all the reconnaissance.
Similar attempts by the late Maj. Herbert Itongwa, a mutineer in the mid-nineties, who tried to open up rebel cells, failed. Likewise, the current murders, which preliminary findings point to being an organized crime, possibly of mercenaries paid to cut people to pieces for pay, in order to inflict fear in the population and portray NRM Government as a failure, in protecting life and property, will be short lived.
People learned lessons in the past and are not ready to losing the little they have gained. With government intelligence network, there are significant arrests which have given us some clues, and it is a matter of time before panga men are ditched in the dustbin as the first group under Muhammad Kiddawalime defeated in 2017. Let us join forces regardless of political affiliation. Uganda first, and the rest are secondary.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is a veteran journalist and Deputy City Resident Commissioner Masaka City
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