Mbabazi: How I Coordinated Kabamba Attack

Former opposition FDC Secretary for publicity, discount Anne Mugisha, view has chronicled her experience during the dramatic 2011 presidential election campaigns.

The race was quite spectacular considering that this was the first time president Museveni’s presidency and democratic credentials were being openly challenged by a fellow NRA historical, insider and army officer.

Besigye quickly turned into a symbol of resistance and bravery as the state moved in to contain him.

The epic moments were recorded by Mugisha, a close ally of Besigye and his wife Winnie Byanyima.

Anne Mugisha, who is currently serving as Chief, Information Support Management the United Nations mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, has for the last few weeks been revealing eye-witness accounts of Besigye’s trials and triumphs during the election season.

Mugisha’s stories are relevant to today’s political climate as the country prepares for the 2016 presidential elections.

In today’s piece, Anne Mugisha recounts the spectacular arrest of then military intelligence chief, Brig Noble Mayombo’s brother, Major Okwir Rabwoni at Entebbe International Airport:

On 20 February 2001, Major Okwir Rabwoni was abducted by the military at Entebbe Airport in full view of the media and members of the diplomatic corps.


His brutal capture and abduction was one of the lowest points of the 2001 presidential election campaign.

The conflicting stories which appeared in the two dailies, New Vision and Monitor about Major Rabwoni’s defection from the EKBTF (Elect Kizza Besigye Tasforce) infuriated the incumbent’s campaign team and government’s coercion machinery was unleashed to make an example of him.

Among those who led the efforts to punish Major Okwir was none other than his own brother, Major Noble Mayombo who at the time was Chief of Military Intelligence.

The night before, it had been decided that Okwir remain with Besigye on the campaign trail because it was inconceivable that anyone would try to arrest or molest him publicly, right? Wrong!

The next morning the candidate and his entourage headed to Entebbe International Airport to catch a flight to north-western Uganda where rallies had been scheduled. I was working at my desk when I received a call from Kizza Besigye.

He sounded out of breath and he asked me to call the press and tell them to hurry up to the V.I.P Lounge at Entebbe Airport where a small battle was underway. I immediately called Andrew Mwenda who managed to get to the lounge in Entebbe and capture part of the ugly scene before it ended.

Soldiers under the command of an army officer, Moses Rwakitarate, had appeared at the lounge and asked Okwir to follow them out of the lounge.

He refused and they decided to physically manhandle him but the EKBTF members who were at the airport including the candidate were not about to let their campaigner go without a fight.

When he called me, Kizza Besigye (KB) was physically battling soldiers. He had a couple of men and three tough women on his side and they were grabbing at any item and throwing it at the soldiers. Phones became flying projectiles as did some high heels and purses.

The soldiers retreated possibly in shock at the determination of this small group which had surrounded Okwir to stop his arbitrary arrest.

I heard the fracas over the phone and begged KB not to participate in the fight as my mind played out the publicity angle and how it would damage him as a candidate.

He said “If I was not participating they would have taken him already.” The call ended mid sentence and I wondered if that phone too had become a flying missile.

At some point during this drama the Norwegian Ambassador and the Secretary General of the East African Community Francis Muthaura, arrived at the V.I.P lounge on their way to catch a flight and they were shocked at what they encountered. Kizza Besigye spotted them and shouted, “Come and see how we are consolidating our democracy!”

After some aborted attempts to forcibly capture Okwir, the soldiers were reinforced with higher command when Col. Kasirye Ggwanga appeared on the scene asking, “Whodunnit?” They moved in for the final assault, Kizza Besigye was thrown on his back and a soldier held him down with his knee pressed in the candidate’s belly. Okwir was pulled away and taken forcibly from the team.

Human rights

The flight to Adjumani did not happen.

This is how the rights advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, reported the incident back then in their report; ‘UGANDA: Not a Level Playing Field:’

‘Maj. Rabwoni Okwir, the head of Dr. Besigye’s youth desk was violently detained without charge at Entebbe Airport on February 20. Military police and armed men made the arrest in civilian clothes after a four-and-a-half-hour stand-off between Okwir’s supporters and security agents in the VIP lounge.

Okwir was beaten and carried away by soldiers who threw him into the back of a pick-up truck, hit him with rifle butts, and sat on him as they drove away. He sustained injuries to his ribs.

The security personnel said they had strict orders to take Okwir to Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) headquarters.

Okwir was taken to CMI, where he was stripped to his trousers and then interrogated by seven military intelligence officers for six hours, among other things about the political opposition’s internal dynamics as well as its funding sources. They threatened him, but did not physically abuse him.

The following day he was released on condition that he wrote a statement disavowing the opposition. He read a statement to the press at parliament that night saying that he had withdrawn from Dr. Besigye’s task force.

He said he had not been tortured or in any way intimidated. No questions were allowed at the press conference which only plain-clothed security personnel and a few MPs attended.

As he left Mr. Okwir told a journalist from the Monitor newspaper that he was feeling ill and was going home to rest. “I am going home; I have pain all over my body.”

Okwir was never charged, although the army subsequently claimed that he was detained in his own interest to protect him from a plot by Dr. Besigye to kill him and blame it on the government. He has since left Uganda for medical treatment.”

I sat in James Musinguzi’s living room in Mbuya, with a few members of the Task Force. There was anger, rage and disbelief in the air but no one seemed to be able to find the words to express it so we sat quietly and fumed inside as we waited for a much publicized television statement that was to be made by the Head of State on the arrest of Okwir Rabwoni.

By and by the President appeared on the screen and James Musinguzi got out of his chair and moved to sit behind the television. We looked at him curiously and he said, “I will listen to him but I do not have to look at him.”

I kind of understood how he felt. The President made a statement in which he basically said Okwir Rabwoni had been arrested to save him from the opposition which was planning to abduct him and harm him. I did not need to hear or remember any more than that so I grabbed my car keys and returned to my apartment.

Okwir was never charged with any offence in any court of law. He was sent off to exile in the United Kingdom where he remained for many years.

He returned quietly to the country and is still an activist but he keeps a low profile away from the glare of unwarranted publicity.
Our Reporter

Tooro kingdom Prime Minister Hon. Stephen Kaliba has resigned his post and declared that he will be contesting for the Fort Portal municipality MP seat.

On his Facebook page, more about Kaliba posted that he has officially completed his term in office as Tooro Kingdom premier.

He thanked the people of Tooro, members of the supreme council and the entire people of Tooro for giving him the opportunity to serve the kingdom wholeheartedly.

Kaliba declared that he is now ready to contest for the Fort portal MP seat and ensured the people of the municipality that they will get the deserved services.

However internal kingdom sources reveal to our reporter that Kaliba did not resign but was fired by King Oyo.

Sources also intimate that Kaliba was sacked on the orders of president Museveni because of using the spears and swords (amacuumu nebitara) to disorganize and cause chaos in the kingdom and attack the president.

Mid May last year, the “amacumu nebitara” trekked from Mucwa kingdom headquarters to parliament to present their petition to the Speaker of Parliament.

They were protesting government’s failure to return the kingdom assets that were taken during president Obote’s regime when he abolished the kingdoms. Since that time the “amacuumu” have been violently demanding for the properties.

Hon.Kaliba who has served Tooro kingdom for two years was defeated by Hon.Alex Ruhunda now MP Fort Portal Municipality during the 2011 general elections.

Majority of the candidates who lost in the 2011 general elections were appointed as RDC’s and deputy RDC’s while others were offered jobs in Government but Kaliba was left out prompting King Oyo to appoint him Premier.

During his visit in Tooro, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo described Hon.Stephen Kaliba as political failure. He said he was mobilizing the “amacumu” to disorganize the government and kingdom after failing politics.
In a bid to step up national security, clinic Police on Monday commenced training for three thousand constables at Kabalye Police Training School

According to Police spokesperson Fred Enanga, these officers will attend a course spanning nine to twelve months and are hoped to help the force in bridging the manpower gap.

He further revealed that the exercise will include cadets from South Sudan, who will be trained in a number of skills and techniques in fulfillment of a bilateral agreement which was signed by Uganda and the neighboring country.

Enanga added that the South Sudanese officers came after Uganda has finalized training Police officers from Rwanda as well as reviewing the training of Somalis Police officers.
In what appears a move to elucidate his role in the NRA guerrilla struggle that saw President Museveni take power in 1986, and former Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Amama Mbabazi has claimed having coordinated the historic attack on Kabamba barracks.

Mbabazi is contemplating standing for president in 2016. However, pill his role in the NRA struggle seems not to have been properly brought to the fore.

In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, Museveni does not talk of Mbabazi having carried out a reconnaissance mission before the NRA guerrillas struck Kabamba.

But Mbabazi explains in his latest social media update how he coordinated one of the most daring surprise offensives executed by the rebel outfit.

“The fraudulent elections of December 1980 saw former president, Milton Obote once again come to power. I and many others saw this election as an early warning sign of the new regime’s anti-democratic tendencies and it’s this singular event that birthed the NRA and NRM,” recounts Mbabazi, who is also writing a book about his struggles.

“On February 5th, 1981, I (together with the late Sam Magara and the late Akanga Byaruhanga) led a reconnaissance mission to prepare for the events the NRA had planned for February 6th,” said Mbabazi.

“On that day NRA fighters attacked Kabamba Barracks and obtained additional guns for the guerrilla war that was to ensue. Remarkably, this would be the second liberation war to be fought in Uganda in under a decade. The raid on Kabamba meant that the environment would become even more dangerous for Ugandans and for my family,” he added.

Kabamba is a sacred symbol of the NRA revolution considering that an attack on the facility by Museveni’s guerrillas on February 6, 1981 marked the beginning of a protracted struggle that would later topple the dictatorships of Milton Obote and later Idi Amin.

Mbabazi narrated that very soon after the events of February 6th, his home was raided by Obote’s soldiers and his children held hostage at gun-point for four days.

“Neither my wife nor I were at home. At the time, I was working in Kampala under concealment and mobilising NRA soldiers to go the bush. Jacqueline, upon hearing the news that Obote’s soldiers had surrounded comrade Enid Kanyengyeyo’s home across the street, had fled to James Musinguzi Garuga’s house nearby with Eriya Kategaya in tow,” said Mbabazi.

“It was this raid on my home, coupled with other events, that forced my family into exile. First, the family went to Nairobi (mid 1981) and eventually Sweden (1983). In Nairobi, we started the External Wing which coordinated the activities of NRM/NRA outside Uganda and in the rest of the world.”

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