UGANDA: History of goons, thugs, thieves of the Museveni mafia state
By Faustin Mugabe (DAILY MONITOR)
Since independence, politics of banditry has ruled Uganda at different times. Although the difference is that in the 1960s individual officers of the armed forces were not used by politicians or government officers for personal gain as was the case from 1980 to ‘85 during the second Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) regime led by former president Milton Obote.
One of the reasons the National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels led by Yoweri Museveni was endeared to the masses was because of their discipline.
Obote calls Museveni a bandit
When Museveni and his fighters went to the bush in February 1981, Obote called them bandits. But by end of 1982, Ugandans had started calling the UPC government bandits because of their perceived ill treatment of the civilians.
And by the end of 1983, the UPC government was divided and the centre could not hold. In an attempt to consolidate the party, Obote resorted to crude methods such as intimidation of the Opposition as well as forceful conversion to UPC, among other ills.
Because the masses had resented and opposed UPC, the regime resorted to the power of the gun to silence, intimidate and convert people.
As such, UPC leaders, especially the UPC Youth Wingers, obtained absolute power to arrest, prosecute and imprison culprits who were usually suspected to be NRA rebels or their collaborators, and the Opposition who were usually Democratic Party (DP) members.
Some had military training in order to be well equipped to counter the insurgency raging in the country.
They also used militias such as People Defence Force (militia largely recruited from Acholi and Lango), aka the Peoples Militia, UPC Secretariat (Uganda House) on Kampala Road, the ‘Rwakasisi Boys’ mainly from south-western Uganda, Nile Mansion Bosses and the little known Presidential Intelligence Unit (PIU) led by Chris Rwakasisi.
During the second UPC era, there were militias deployed throughout the country to defend, protect and keep Obote in power.
For instance, Ms Alice Nassali Kiseegu was in 1983 promoted from parish chief to sub-county chief of Kiringente, Mpigi District, after her group conducted an operation in which nearly 100 suspected guerrillas were executed. Night Kulabako was also promoted to Katabi sub-county chief in Entebbe after a similar operation.
In Buganda sub-region, the perhaps the most notorious UPC militia was Edward Kabira’s in Mpigi District. Kabira was the UPC chairman Mpigi South East Constituency.
He worked with the infamous Sgt Maj Sokolo, commandant of a military unit in Mpigi. Kabira was so powerful and well-connected that he would don military uniform and lead UNLA soldiers in operations in Kasanje and Nakawuka areas in Mpigi.
About thrice, Paul Ssemogerere in his capacity as the Leader of Opposition wrote to president Obote asking him to prevail over Kabira and his close accomplice Luzimbo-Nyindozaminya, the UPC chairman and also the Nakawuka Parish chief, in vain.
Bildad Muwonge, then UPC chairman Mukono District, was another notorious militia commander. He is remembered for attempting to convert people to UPC forcefully.
On March 10, 1982, Muwonge held a village meeting and told the people that they should embrace UPC and when people murmured in protest, he threatened to label them NRA guerrillas.
His action prompted Kiwanuka Musisi, the Mukono South East MP, to write to him a protest letter. The letter dated April 13, 1982, reminded Muwonge that his acts were illegal.
In the early 1980s, residents of Bushenyi and Mbarara districts who did not possess UPC cards hated to hear the name John Nganwa, aka John Black Simba.
As a militia leader commanding an operation against members of the Opposition or suspected NRA rebels and their collaborators, Nganwa would do anything to apprehend his suspects.
He would extort, torture or execute suspects depending on his mood. And majority of his victims were Rwandans who lived in south-western Uganda in the early 1980s.
It was Ngamwa who commanded the September 1982 expulsion of Rwandan refugees from the Orukinga camp, Mbarara, Bushenyi, Rukungiri, Rakai and Masaka districts.
Nganwa, born in Bushenyi, was supported by the Police Special Force, local administrative police, UPC local chiefs as well as some Cabinet ministers.
The group killed and looted property from Rwandans and forced them to go back to their country. It is estimated that at least 15,000 Rwandans were forced out of Uganda in an operation that lasted three weeks.
Goons under NRM
Who knew that the NRM government under President Museveni who in 1981 went to Luweero to fight impunity, would support gangs such as Boda Boda 2010? The notorious group has powers to influence actions of the Uganda police or even usurp its operational powers at times.
Boda Boda 2010, a Kampala commercial motorcycle association led by Abdallah Kitatta, had for years brutalised innocent Ugandans just as the UPC Youth Wingers did in the 1980s.
Upon Kittata’s arrest, many boda boda riders in Kampala celebrated and torched the Boda Boda 2010 offices.
Birth of Boda Boda 2010
On March 7, 2010, police chief Kale Kayihura called a meeting of riders to talk about the management of boda bodas in Kampala and its surrounding areas. Mr Abdullah Kitatta, then a popular local NRM leader in Rubaga Division, and Mr Godfrey Kasiita, the head of security at St Balikuddembe Market, told Gen Kayihura how leaders of Kuboca dressed in yellow T-shirts had tarnished the image of the ruling NRM government by extorting money from unsuspected riders.
Gen Kayihura ordered the then Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Andrew Sorowen and Kampala Metropolitan South Police commander Moses Kafeero to close all offices of boda boda groups in the city.
Mr Kitatta was elected the patron and Mr Antansi Kafeero, the chairman of Kampala Central. This is how Boda Boda 2010 emerged and it paid allegiance to police and NRM.