Pre-Mustard Seed account of Mbale shooting

In its issue of April 12, Sunday Monitor published an article, “How Museveni survived shooting in Mbale Town”.

The article was divided into two parts. The first part was an account of what happened to President Museveni in Mbale in 1973. That account was given by Cuthbert Ofundi (not real name) who the paper describes as an eyewitness.

The second part is the account given in President Museveni’s book, Sowing the Mustard Seed. I should add that President Museveni’s son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, adds more details to his father’s account in his own book Battles of the Uganda Resistance: A Tradition of Maneuver (manoeuvre).
I would like to make some observations on the two accounts of this event at Maluku Estates in Mbale Town as well as on what Museveni has often called the armed struggle. I do make these observations in my capacity as someone who once belonged to the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), the organisation under whose umbrella Museveni and his comrades had gone to Mbale in 1973. I was a member of the Central Committee of Fronasa.

Before the publication of the Mustard Seed, the account that the combatants of Fronasa embraced was very different from that in the Mustard Seed. It was very close to that given by Ofundi.

According to that account, Museveni and his comrades were in Jack Mawumbe Mukhwana’s house. As the house was being surrounded by soldiers, the groups held a quick strategy discussion and agreed that they could manage to persuade the soldiers that they were University of Nairobi students.

Following that, the two comrades went to the door to present their identity cards as well as talk to the soldiers. As they were doing this, Museveni ran from the back of the house pistol ready, shot the soldiers and ran. As Museveni was running away, one of the comrades was reported to have shouted behind him: “Museveni you have killed us.”

I would like to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that the above account tallies a lot with that given by Ofundi.

Just like the Ofundi account, the pre-Mustard Seed account does not have a car full of weapons as the Mustard Seed story. Unlike the Mustard Seed story, it involves the shots in the house which the Mustard Seed does not talk about.

While the Ofundi story talks about shots in the house, it does not explain who was shooting. This is understandable, for all he did hear were shots from the house. From the pre-Mustard Seed account we know the shots were fired by Museveni.

It is curious how the account in the Mustard Seed doesn’t have the shootings in the house. Both the Ofundi and pre-Mustard Seed accounts have the gun shots. The Mustard Seed account also doesn’t mention the soldiers who were shot. Is this a case of trying to hide the shootings that Museveni carried out? Museveni would need to hide this fact because it must have been the shooting dead of the soldier which infuriated his comrades to summarily execute Museveni’s other two comrades.

Museveni’s explanation for this failure, given by Muhoozi, is that Mawumbe’s nephew whom Mawumbe had denied cigarettes betrayed them. Even if this were true, it does not explain the other failures. In fact, it even creates more questions.

On page 55 of the Mustard Seed, we are told of an attempt to launch guerrilla warfare from Mt Elgon without any preparation: “In August 1971, we brought some boys into Uganda and positioned them on Mt Elgon without any arms, in the hope of buying some later.

A boy called Wafula went to the market in Bumbo where he was arrested and talked about his activities.” Subsequent to this, those who had been deployed at the slopes of Mt Elgon were all arrested.

Further on page 75 of the Mustard Seed, we are told: “By the end of the year (1972) we had established several cells throughout the country. Mawumbe Mukhwana led a group in Mbale, Kawuliza Kasadha [led] a group in Busoga, Akena p’Ojok [led] one in Acholi, Zubairi Bakari led the Kampala cell and Joseph Bitwari [led] the one in Kabale.”

“There was a group in Tooro led by Abwoli Malibo and there was another group in Kyambogo led by James Muhabu Karuhanga. The Mbarara group of the Bananukas had been decimated after September 1972. The Tororo group which had been led by Raiti Omongin had also disintegrated…”

I should point out that even by the account of the Mustard Seed itself these guerrilla activities that Museveni had praised so much that they were the answer as opposed to Obote’s reliance on conventional warfare never produced any serious results against Idi Amin. Most of the leaders, by Museveni’s own account, were captured and executed.

The reason for this failure is simple. The kind of guerrilla activities Museveni was talking about requires the situation to be ripe. While Museveni was trying to emulate what took place in Cuba in the late 50s, he was totally unaware that for the Cuban situation to ripen the way it was when Fidel Castro and his group launched the struggle, it had taken 100 years of preparation. Museveni was simply launching his struggle without any preparation.

In any case what eventually happened? It was the conventional warfare in the form of the Tanzanian army and some Ugandans which eventually overthrew Idi Amin. It wasn’t Museveni’s much praised guerrilla warfare.
Museveni’s guerrilla warfare was what in revolutionary language is called aenturism. This means improvisation or experimentation (as in politics or military or foreign affairs) in the absence or in defiance of accepted plans or principles. In Museveni’s case it meant engaging in activities for which the situation is not ripe.

The writer is a leading ideologue of UPC

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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