President Museveni’s much-anticipated trek through the seven districts of Wakiso, Nakaseke, Mityana, Kiboga, Kasandha, Mubende and Kakumiro starts today Saturday.
About 800 Ugandans from all walks of life gathered in Garamba, Wakiso district on Friday ahead of today’s journey.
Trek commander, Brig David Kyomukama Kasura urged trekkers, who include leaders from the corporate world, youth leaders and NRM supporters, to exercise the highest level of discipline, resilience and cleanliness for a successful trek.
“Any acts of indiscipline will be penalized without mercy,” warned Kasura.
The trekkers listened carefully as NRA war combatants recounted battlefield experiences.
Brig Ddiba Sentongo, who has fought in many battles since the early 1980s shed light on NRA combatants’ multiple attempts to capture Kabamba military barracks from Milton Obote’s forces.
He also spoke extensively about the fighters’ deceptive tactics employed to hoodwink the enemy into ambushes.
Trekkers resided in tents at a school in Garamba which is heavily guarded by the military and elite Special Forces.
The presidency yesterday announced that the trek has now been brought forward to January 4 and will take six days as more campsites and routes that the NRA fighters used during the liberation struggle are included.
Sam Katabarwa killing
President Museveni arrived at around 8:00am.
He told trekkers that NRA combatants launched several campaigns for “raising guns” internally as hopes of obtaining arms from external links failed.
Other campaigns included opening the Rwenzori front; increasing the number of fighters and lastly attacking Kampala in 1986.
During these campaigns, according to Museveni, fighters took part in hundreds of battles.
“The walk to Birembo is part of the story. We left here and attacked Kabamba on January 1, 1985. We had planned to attack Kabamba around October. One of our people Sam Katabarwa came from Nairobi,” said Museveni.
“He came with Ivan Koreta and Eriya Kategaya and said they had been approached through Namiti of UPC for peace talks. We had attacked Masindi, Hoima and we were doing well. We were planning to attack Kabamba,” he added.
Katabarwa sought permission from Museveni to talk to Obote’s government in Kampala.
“So we said, why not meet them from somewhere else? But Katabarwa said ‘they (Obote’s forces) can’t do any harm.’ Katabarwa had trained together with Namiti. Everybody who is clever would not kill a messenger. After some pressure I agreed that Katabarwa leaves with Matayo Kyaligonza through Ngoma to go and talk to Paulo Muwanga and Bazillio Okello,” recalled Museveni.
He said the plan to attack Kabamba was known by very few top commanders.
“Katabarwa was going to meet UPC for talks. We decided to postpone the attack on Kabamba. That’s how we moved to Garamba. In case of talks, communication would be easy. We arrived here and waited for Katabarwa to come back. On December 10, 1984, another unit of UNLA came and attacked us. We shifted and stayed in that forest for some days.”
Museveni said, “One morning Kyaligonza comes and says Katabarwa has been killed in Kampala. Idiot. When you hear them talking you think they have sense. The people who sent him are there. Why kill a messenger? That’s when we decided to go for our mission to attack Kabamba. We were attacked in this forest. There was a small school. They killed some people here,” he added.
“We left this place to Masulita. We passed through Baale and then Sebuguzi on December 22, crossed River Mayanja in a group of 1,500. River Mayanja was full.”
The NRA would later strike Kabamba, looting arms, ammunition, food and medicine.
The President who will lead veterans, youth (Bazukulu) and well wishers in a symbolic trek from Garamba in Wakiso district to Birembo in Kibaale district will now camp at 8 sites to celebrate what the presidency described as “freedom fighters’ heroic sacrifices for patriotism.”
The trek code named “Africa Kwetu” has grown to almost 195km.
During breaks at the various campsites, the President and other veterans are expected to address the trekkers about Uganda’s liberation journey with emphasis on the role of various organisations including The Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) and the National Resistance Movement.
The Ministry of Health has deployed various doctors at 8 halt/health-break centres along the route.
According to Mr. David Kayongo representing the Ministry of Health, trekkers are urged to take extra care of their health and hygiene especially during the campsite interactions. “We have put measures in place to handle emergencies and have deployed doctors. We urge the public to take care especially avoiding body contacts since there will be a lot of sweating. People with diabetes of hypertension should be cautious and take it slow,” he said.
The Trek organised by the NRA Archives Unit headed by the President’s Senior Advisor/NRA Alice Kaboyo comes 20 years after President Museveni did the same trek in 1999.
Next year’s trek will culminate into building a historic NRA Museum at Kanyara in Nakaseke district.
Kaboyo described the Africa Kwetu trek as crucial for the education of those Ugandans President Museveni fondly describes as his Bazzukulu.
“The foot-slogging will give them a tiny hint of what the freedom fighters actually endured, while the real-life experiences narrated by the war heroes trekking with the Bazzukulu will complete the epic,” Kaboyo explained.
Various individuals and corporate organisations from around the country are participating in the trek that will involve various war veterans.