By Ikondere Matthew
On the 14th November, 1999, the late Lt Col Reuben Ikondere, the Commander of the UPDF troops in Bunia, Eastern Congo was killed by Mai Mai militia-men. The courageous General Jorum Mugume braved the tragic and emotional storm to break the sad news to the family. Today marks exactly twenty (20) years since he left the world to be with the Lord. Ikondere was one of the 27 armed fighters that attacked Kabamba on the 6th of February 1981, which marked the beginning of the liberation struggle that saw the final overthrow of dictatorship in Uganda. In January 1986, Afande Ikondere commanded a company of the 7th Battalion of NRA under Matayo Kyaligonza. His company captured Makindye and Mbuya before proceeding onto the Eastern route. When military ranks were regularized, Ikondere was made a Major, In-Charge of the 39th Battalion in the North. In 1989, when the 7th Division was created, he served as the Operations Commander under Colonel Peter Kerim. In 1991, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In 1992, he served as the Deputy Commander to Col Sam Wasswa in the 4th Division, in the North. The Commander In Chief there after appointed him deputy commander in the 2nd Division in Western Uganda. William Pike in his book “Combatants; A memoir of the Bush war and the Press in Uganda, described Afande Ikondere, when he met him, at the time Commanding Officer of 322 Brigade, as a small man with a lively, humorous face. Emmy Allio, in his obituary “The Trumpet has stopped blowing” remarked that Commander Ikondere made greater noise than three trumpets at a go.
It was tragic that after 20 years of successful battles, Ikondere could die in cold blood in the hands of a rag-tag marauding militia group, the Mai Mai. Afande Ikondere had a strong conviction, believed in Pan-Africanism, was a good cadre and always willing to be disciplined. Ikondere’s contribution to serve his country had never wavered since he joined the armed forces in 1979. The Life of a Great Freedom fighter is a life dedicated to others. Ikondere sacrificed his life so that others can enjoy peace.
Afande Ikondere was a social person whom colleagues referred to as a fearless and committed officer. Brig Gen Julius Chihandae said; “Before battle engagements, we often had to caution him against over-confidence. During the attack on Kabamba in 1981, “Ikondere swept through Kabamba barracks.
It was as if nobody was firing at him. He was advancing slightly ahead of the squad he had been assigned to and swiftly responded to whatever customer turned up. This act made him more prominent than his junior rank at the time, and height. Ikondere according to his comrades made sure he fulfilled his responsibilities as much as he never tolerated those who failed in theirs. He was so particular against bureaucratic delays that he couldn’t allow anything that hampered operations or adversely affected troop morale.
According to Sgt Behangana Lauben, who served at the Headquarters of the famous 02 Mobile Infantry Division commanded by LT Col Ikondere says; soldiers under his charge believed in him; he literally could make them do miracles. Behangane remembers Lt Col Ikondere as a resolute effective and efficient commander who achieved whatever he vowed to achieve. Ikondere was an inspiring figure who rose through the ranks, from NCO (NonCommissioned Officer), Junior Officer up to Senior Officer.
He rose to extra fame during his various tours of duty, especially in his command roles at Battalion, Brigade and Division level. He kept his troops under control by means of iron discipline but attached great importance to treating them humanely. This coupled with command ability and good leadership, enabled his forces to get victory in most engagements. Under his command, training at all levels was mandatory.
This ensured that soldiers’ prompt reaction to commands was instant which ensured battle preparedness, a prerequisite for victory at the war front. According to the late Major Ondoga Ori Amaza, if Ikondere had any faults like all human beings do, atleast he was an Angel in one regard; he was always there when his country needed his great hand.
Ikondere died fighting. He and his body guards killed over (40) Mai Mai before they were outnumbered and eventually murdered. The late General Kazini, who was the UPDF Chief of Staff at the time, remarked and said, if he was a member of the clergy, he would include Lt Col Ikondere on the list of saints. Democracy is about peace and he died defending it. In a New Vision article authored by Grace Matsiko, he remarked and said; just like the sound of a trumpet, Reuben Ikondere’s reputation crossed frontiers but blew out the much acclaimed soldiers life”. Ikondere commanded the NRA’s 39th Battalion and 314 Brigade in Gulu when he helped crush the Alice Lakwena rebellion in the late 80’s. Fellow commanders described Ikondere as a serious combatant and fighter.
He was in the fighting element (Infantry) throughout his military career. Afande Ikondere lived half of his life time on the front line. He was always deployed on war fronts to fight insurgents, leaving little time for the family. Marvin, the first born was eight (8), Morris, six (6), I was four (4) and Melissa was two (2) years old when he passed on. Nonetheless, the little time he had with us was special. He loved and cared for his family.
He left behind a capable wife, our mother, who raised us single handedly. We all are what we are because of her strength, courage, wisdom and her continuous support to get the best out of us. Words shall never be enough to appreciate what a wonderful mother she has been to us. The Late LT Col Ikondere’s indiscriminate love and affection for all stays as a legacy and a torch to all those who loved him. Whenever duty called, LT Col Ikondere’s answer was always, “WILCO!” till he fell on duty. Continue to Rest in Peace, our Hero, Warrior, Combatant, and Father. Tuna kumbuka Afande. We will continue to stand strong in your name and legacy.