By Keefa Nuwahereza
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has hailed fallen National Resistance Army (NRA) and Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) senior officer Maj. Gen. Kasirye Gwanga for being a very brave soldier who helped the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government to come into power in 1985.
President Museveni revealed this in his latest letter to the Bazukulu (grandchildren) which he wrote on Tuesday, after a very long time, in which he also vowed to deal with Local Defence Unit (LDU) operatives that are reigning terror unto innocent Ugandans.
The letter is reproduced below;
“Letter to countrymen, Countrywomen and the Bazukulu
Countrymen, Countrywomen and especially, the Bazukulu.
I send you greetings, after a long time of absence, occupied by COVID -19. Thanks for listening to the scientists’ advice as to how to avoid this dangerous disease.
As of today, the 14th of July, 2020, Uganda has registered 1,040 cases of COVID-19 but 984 have recovered and there is no death. Praise be to the Almighty God. This success is due to your discipline and seriousness when it comes to listening to the advice of the scientists and doctors.
Other countries have suffered a lot. Up to now, approximately 13 million people have been infected globally and 569,738 thousand have died from COVID- 19
Maintain your discipline. We are working on the 3 areas of the vaccine-development, diagnostics and anti-viral treatment. That is where the long – term answer is. The present recoveries from COVID-19 are on account of the bodies of the victims defeating the disease assisted by the doctors or just by their own immunity. We want to kill the virus directly.
On account of being pre-occupied with the virus, I did not comment directly on the death of Kirunda, the footballer, or Major- General Kasirye – Ggwanga. My media handlers, I am told, sent out some messages. Here, however, is my own account.
I , actually, never heard of Kirunda until when he died. Why? It is because for 16 years, 1971-1986, we, the freedom fighters, were cut off from and we were not concentrating on the pleasure and leisure activities that were going on in Uganda.
Being a footballer myself, I used to avidly follow, not only the news about football in East Africa, but I would follow up all the sports, especially, athletics. I would know all the names such as the boxers, Seruwagi and Tom Kawere. The latter got a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, at Cardiff, in Wales, UK. Sprinters like the Goan from Kenya, Serafino Antao. Footballers like Kadenge of Kenya and David Otti of Uganda.
This, however, was up to 1966 when Uganda entered into the political crisis of un-constitutionalism. Right from that time up to 1986, my antennas for pleasure and leisure were switched off and attention went to the struggle.
I would only pick up a few extra-ordinary performances by East African sports persons such as Kipchoge Keino, with a record for 1500metres in Mexico City, 1968, I think, Akii Bua’s 400 meters hurdles record in the Munich Games, 1972 and a Tanzanian Army Officer, Filbert who won the marathon for one of the Olympic events. Hence, I had never heard of our Kirunda, the footballer.
By copy of this message, I ask the Ministry of Education to compile for me all the exemplary Ugandan sports performers at the African continental level, the commonwealth or the Olympics since 1954 when Etolu, the high jumper, represented Uganda at Perth, Commonwealth Games in Australia. I remember his picture very well. Anybody that won a gold, silver or bronze medal, should be rewarded whether alive or dead. If dead, the family can benefit.
With Kasirye-Ggwanga, I read the interviews he gave with a lot of interest. I, actually, did not know the adventures he went through as a prisoner of war in Tanzania etc.
What I remember, is that he came to see me at Tweyanze in Ngoma sub- county, Nakaseke district. It must have been around August or September, 1983, when we were on the strategic retreat from upper Bulemezi (Semuto- Kapeeka) to lower Bulemezi (Ngoma – Wakyato) following the offensive against us by the UNLA that started early 1983.
He told me that he was connected or in touch with Prince Mutebi, later His Highness Kabaka of Buganda; and he had come to see our capacity. He must have walked quite a bit because Tweyanze is 100 miles plus from Kampala. He departed Tweyanze after a few days.
We, then, entered the intense phase where we intensified our active defence measures within the Strategic defence (giving sharp jabs to the opponent while still on the defence) by attacking Masindi on the20th of February, 1984 and Kabamba on the 1st of January, 1985.
We captured a total of 1,410 rifles and quite a bit of ammunition in those attacks. The subsequent battles we fought with UNLA such as those Mateba swamp, Kembogo, Rubona etc, led to the collapse of the UPC Gov’t on the 27th of, July, 1985.
Starting with August,1985, we launched our own strategic counter- offensive by, first, disarming the UNLA units in the Luwero Triangle (Kiboga, Busunju etc) and, then, overrunning Mubende and sweeping to the west of the country (Fort – Portal, Kasese, Kamwengye, Ibanda, Mbarara, Lyantonde, Masaka and building a frontline at Katonga River).
It is at this stage that Kasirye – Ggwanga took the patriotic act of bringing some UFM supporters to the NRA in Masaka. I was in Nairobi for the peace talks that time. We salute his contribution.
In recent times, we have lost a number of other senior army officers: Bell, Erica Mukasa, Victor (formerly in signals) and Nkeera. Unfortunately, I did not know Nkeera personally- considering that the Army is quite large. It was 100,000 strong at one time. I am told that he joined the bush war from Kiwanguzi (Mwanga Unit- Bamugolodde, kamira etc). Bell and Erica Mukasa, definitely, joined us in the bush. Victor, may have joined after the bush war and was in signals for a long time.
This is just to give you a bit of our history. Next time, I will deal with the indiscipline of the LDUs.
Signed The Old man with a hat.
Major General Kasirye Ggwanga (26 August 1952 – 9 June 2020), was a Ugandan military General in the Uganda People’s Defence Force.
He was previously incarcerated as a prisoner of war for 897 days, inside both Uganda and Tanzania. He was a presidential advisor on Buganda Kingdom affairs. He was well respected for his fight towards environmental protection.
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