I have spent years listening and talking to soldiers, friends, comrades in arms, signal men, victims, child soldiers, men and women, who worked tirelessly to bring Museveni to power.
I once sat up into the wee hours as a princess narrated her contribution to the struggle that brought M7 to power. How her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage because of the stress and the travel to deliver vital information. How she never had children after that because her husband died.
I have listened to people narrate how they lost EVERYTHING, loved ones, property, livestock. I have listened to child soldiers tell how they had to grow up and become adults before the age of 10.How so many of them carry scars, invisible scars from what they saw during the Bush war(PTSD, that will never be treated). Then there are the visable scars not from bullet wounds, but scars caused by bugs and vermin, because they would not wash for days if not weeks because they they had to stay on the move.
I heard stories of how a Prince now a King was smuggled into Luwero to rally troops and boost morale because so many Baganda had died and were losing all hope of ever winning against the brutality of Obote’s men. I have heard gruesome stories of what the Bayekera would do to those who refused to join their ranks.
As a little girl I remember my father got into trouble with Obote’s men because he smuggled sucks of kawunga for the Bayekera.
None of those stories though ever prepared me for my mother’s story and by extension MY story.
One Christmas my family and I travelled back to England and we all stayed at my sisters place. It was a typical Christmas, lots of food, board games, matatu, music, everyone taking their turns on the kareoke machine. It was snowing outside and all was well with the world.
Out of the blue, my brother asked Mummy why she feared going back to Uganda so much?
You see, whilst my mother was a very proud Muganda woman and she did everything to transmit her culture, language, music… Not just to us but all her children. Going to Uganda was like kryptonite to her, not because she didnt have the means, but the idea of Uganda was taboo, a scary place where nightmares started and ended for her.
She nearly cried when I decided to go back alone after Uni. She told me all the nightmare scenarios of what could happen to me whilst in Uganda. I ignored them all and went anyway. Uganda and I are unfinished business because I never chose to leave, I was too young, so whilst my little body moved to England, my heart and soul remained in Uganda.
Besides unlike mummy, my memories of Uganda were all happy ones. I had no sad stories to tell, just happy childhood memories of being spoilt rotten on my jajja’s farm. Then spoilt when I was at home with Daddy
Anyway, my mother had created a life for herself in London, raised her children and was kubuusa Bazukulu. So when my brother asked about Uganda, it made her and everyone in the room uncomfortable. For the first time she opened up, she told us about Idi Amin and growing up under his regime, the fear, the dead, the miniskirt rules, which she hated because as she told anyone who cared to know, she had great long legs(entumbwe) and looked lovely in minis.
She took a deep breath and asked if she had ever told us about her last week in Uganda?
Of course she knew she had not, but she continued. Mummy left Uganda in the early 80s. Growing up she was a daddy’s girl, no man could ever match her father, in intelligence, humour or looks according to her. When a man was handsome and good, mummy used to say, “he’s just like my father”. Tall like my father, good-looking like my father kind like my father…. Whilst no pictures of him survived the war, the way she described, him he was a demi-god in her eyes.
He too adored my mother, his first daughter. Their bond was legendary and they shared a special connection. He didn’t call her Nakimuli, but “ekimuli kya Rosa or Mama”. My mother rarely called herself Nakimuli, she ALWAYS called herself Makubuya which was her father’s name. She was that proud of being her father’s daughter
My grandfather Tom Makubuya and his entire family are from Luwero, they had lived there for generations and were related to practically everyone within 20mile radius, if not by blood, then then marriage. My grandfather and his brothers were staunch ‘Bassaja ba Kabaka’ and were known as Abatabazi bakaba. There was my handsome mwami Walusimbi, who loved to bounce me on his knees and tell stories of ba sekabaka and let me touch his soft beard. Then there was jajja Setimba, Jajja Ntege and Jajja Lubwama and they had a little brother jajja Tarsis Nsobya. Although he was a white brother and didn’t live in Luwero.
When the war started, mummy told us, as abaami Abaganda, they refused to leave their land and cattle. So they stayed on guarding their property, hoping the war would not last, The war raged on and sadly they were never able to escape to Kampala when it got very bad. They ALL perished in M7’s war.
The week mummy left Uganda, the war was raging, but she told us there was NO WAY she was leaving Uganda without saying good bye to “Taata wange omulungi” . Under strict instructions from the rest of her family not to dare attempt to go to Luwero. She recounted how she pretended to visit a friend and set off to Luwero to say goodbye to her beloved father.
She explained how no one was heading to Luwero but many were coming from there, with horror stories of what they had seen.
She was driven to a place called “Matugga” where cars would stop because beyond was a no man’s land. She was warmed not to go further but she said she had no choice because her tickets were ready. Mummy told us how she walked for miles and miles with guns firing, she would meet emanciated people, who asked for food head out or the Bushes as she went on.
When she heard soldiers she would hide. She told us how she must have walked for a day and half before she found her fathers town. There was only an old lady left, who recounted how her father had been killed and sadly they left him were he fell and run. He was killed not far from his compound so his body must still be there. She run to her fathers home until and fell to her knees when she she recognised his bones 😭, from the shirt he wore, which she had gifted him years back. He had been eaten by dogs or wild animals and his skull was missing.
She gathered her beloved fathers bones that were left into a gomesi, she carried in her bag and began to dig a grave in the back of what was once their ancestoral home. She had no tools so she used her bare hands and sticks to dig the grave. She said she dug for what seemed like a whole day. When she was done she stood up and realised how small the grave was for a man that was over 6ft tall. So she found earth to make up the size, until she said it measured 6ft.
All the while she was patrified for her life. She cried, prayed for her father and planted flowers she could find in what was once their compand. Heartbroken she said she somehow walked back to Matugga and found her way home to Ebbs. She was on a flight the flowing day. She said she never told a soul about what she went through, but told her siblings their father was dead and had been given a dignified burial.
Mummy never returned to Uganda until I brought her home after her death to lay her next to her beloved father. Mummy hated my love of Ugandan politics and always tried to persuade me to forget it.
Anyone who knew mummy will tell you she was ALWAYS smiling. She never ever once let her secret pain and nightmares affect our childhood. She only told us her ordeal as fully grown adults and she never spoke of it again. She lost ALL her uncles and aunts to whom she was close in Luwero, but most of all she lost HER BELOVED father.
She hated War, guns, harsh words and any form of violence. I NEVER once saw mummy exchange words with anyone. She preferred peace. She was a survivor of Museveni’s war and she was traumatised into never speaking of her pain till that day.
Today, when I hear M7 who lost ZERO family in Luwero, whose family was safe in Sweden, lecture Ugandans about “Sacrifice” I want to vomit. When I see the fat, entitled sons and daughters of the people who wiped out my family bleat “M7 pakalast” I’m incensed.
It’s 2021 and M7 has just STOLEN yet another election and did what he claimed took him to the bush. He threatens us with the Bush… He forgets the skulls of our loved ones in Luwero Skulls that lay in unmarked graves. He forgets they were PEOPLE, who had lives and family that loved them. He forgets OUR sacrifice, he forgets BUGANDAs sons and daughter who perished so he can brutalise their grandchildren.
He forgets one thing though, that we are NOT our grandparents, we are cut from the same cloth but carry different scars.
So I hear people ask what next???
It’s simple, KYAGULANYI WON THE ELECTION. If M7 denies him his victory;
Then ALL OPTIONS ARE ON THE TABLE.
If he makes it impossible for us to enjoy the freedom our loved ones were so Barbarically SACRIFICED , then we will do EVERYTHING in our power to see him gone.
Unlike our forebearers who were afraid of guns. We are neither afraid nor ready to cower. Unlike some women, guns don’t scare some of us, we have made it our business to learn how to use them to defend what is ours. We are a peace loving people, but even a sweet housewife can turn into a warrior when left with no choice.
A lens can easily be replaced by a gun and vice versa.
M7 needs to STOP HOLDING UGANDANS HOSTAGE, because he fought. No one sent him to war. M7 not honouring the will of the people, by stealing the 2021 election is PERSONAL. He and Obote killed our loved ones because of a rigged election. Ugandans want a peaceful transition of power and will defend their right to that freedom.
Sometimes you don’t choose your destiny, sometimes your destiny chooses you.
Ugandans want their FREEDOM and want the BUSH MEN GONE.
Story narrated by Yaliana Namubiru