By Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi
By 08.00 am on Sunday February 06th 2022, l and Masaka City Deputy Internal Security Officer, Molly Happy Biira, were at Kasijjagirwa barracks, home of Mechanized Brigade of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, to attend cerebrations marking 41st anniversary of ‘Tarehe Sita’ -6th February 1981, when President Yoweri Museveni commanded 36 Ugandans with 27 guns to attack Kabamba School of Infantry, which triggered off the five year bush war.
As we were leaving the barracks for Masaka Liberation Square, l told Molly that Kasijjagirwa is historical as it was the hill of Prince Nkooleera, one of the sons of Omukama Wunyi 1 of Bunyoro and before the barracks was constructed in the sixties, and it was a traditional site of Nkooleera lineage.
Although Wunyi’s Capital was at Kibulala in present day Kiboga District in North Singo where is his royal tomb lies and where Kabaka Kimera of Buganda was born and groomed as a step son and grand nephew of Wunyi, the latter had a palace at Mukoko near Bukulula along present Masaka-Mbarara highway.
His other son, Pookino, was the traditional Saza Chief of Buddu with a Capital at Nattita near Villa Maria Catholic parish. Pookinoship was initially hereditary but though the lineage is still there, the Saza office shifted to Masaka which is now known as Saza hill.
(Wunyi’s first son was Kateregga Luguma at Bukakkata along the shores of Lake Victoria, my own ancestor and founder of lineage).
At the Liberation Square, after the address by Brig. Deus Sandé the Brigade Commander, l also addressed officers and men of UPDF, Uganda Police Force , Uganda Prisons Service and Reserve Force and l flagged them off for the march.
I then recalled that the ground was named Liberation Square by the Wakombozi -an invading force in the 1979 war made up of Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) and Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), as it was the venue from where their leaders addressed wanainchi after the fall of Masaka at the peak the war.
However, as the late Comrade Chango Macho phrased, in 1979, a one snake (Amin) was replaced with another snake (Obote) which prompted a second liberation struggle that kicked off on February 6th, 1981.
At a rally in Masaka, one of Uganda’s leading exiles, Samwiri Mugwisa who later became District Commissioner Rakai District and Minister of Agriculture, promised that all the buildings that had been destroyed in the war would be soon restored with walls that had had been ordered from USA and would be assembled on site.
Some of the magnificent structures destroyed during the 1979 war included the Town Hall Building which served as headquarters of Masaka Municipality and Tropic Inn Hotel which was by then managed under Uganda Hotels.
In order to make Mugwisa’s dream true, Rehabilitation and Development Corporation (RDC) was set up by Obote II Government in 1981 for rehabilitation of Masaka, Mbarara and Arua towns which were destroyed during the war. However, all that remained on paper until the Obote II government was overthrown in 1985.
However, at the same Liberation Square, the National Resistance Movement Interim Chairperson (then) and Chairman of National Resistance Army High Command, Yoweri Museveni, stood and pledged to ensure the return of Masaka’s lost glory. This was at end of 1985 during the Katonga battles with the then government forces under the Okellos.
To a reasonable extent, this promise has been fulfilled albeit some extra work needs to be done, and it is being done.
Today, Masaka is a City with a democratically elected leadership as the first NRM 10 now 15 point program, emphasized democracy.
Masaka City Council, with assistance from the Central Ugandan government and the World Bank have been in the process of implementing major road and street improvements, as part of the Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) program. Several buildings have sprung up and last year, the city had a working budget of USh73 billion (approx. US$21 million), and it’s prospects are very bright.
One journalist asked me whether Bannamasaka played a role in the liberation struggle. My answer was yes and l cited what the President wrote in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed (1996) that on his way to Kabamba from Kampala, his vehicle had a tyre puncture at Bukalasa Seminary and he had no spare tyre except to walk to Masaka town where he got a vehicle from Mzee Rugyendo, (a Town Clerk then) which he used to proceed.
In 1985, Lwengo was the tactical Headquarters of NRA and Greater Masaka fully participated in terms of manpower and mobilizing resources.
A the event, Brig. Sande also noted that the five year bush war took a short period because NRA (now UPDF) fought side by side with the wanainchi and it has remained a people’s army.
UPDF is pro-people army and in addition to strict discipline, it also plays a social responsibility role including participating in “Bulungi bwa nsi activities” and medical services in commemoration of Liberation Day. This noble work started in Masaka District last year, and this time in Ssembabule, Rakai and Lyantonde. Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) that has boosted agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming, Luwero Industries, the Engineering Brigade that is playing a pivotal in construction, among others, are all developmental programmes undertaken by UPDF.
Whereas the National cerebrations were in Mbale District where the Commander In Chief awarded medals for some officers and men of UPDF, police and prisons distinguished service, the event in Masaka was a colorful one.
The march excited many Masaka citizens some of whom climbed on top of their buildings to watch while others joined in.
However what made headlines was the lifting of curfew on boda-boda operators as the national economy is fully opened in a post-Covid lock down.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is a veteran journalist and a Deputy Resident City Commissioner Masaka City.
His contact 256-756/772-836537 Email: [email protected]