The Mbarara Massacre: Part 1 Dear fellow Ugandans and all readers, please bear with our slow updates, due to some changes we are still reorganizing a few things so we can survive and continue to bring you news. Today we bring you this tragic history which can help us reflect and avoid past mistakes that cause our land to be soaked in innocent blood. Uganda is a small country made up of people from different religions and tribes and backgrounds. In reality we are all similar, but bad leaders have taken advantage and played upon our geuine variations, making our short political history as a nation among the most violent and bloodiest in this region. For over 35 years now, thousands upon tens of thousands Ugandans have been killed for no other reason than being born in a certain earea, tribe, or belonging to a religion. President Museveni's regime which captured power on the promise of fighting sectarianism and backwardness has seen the worst time of sectarianism, nepotism and ethnic tensions. More than the shameless theft of huge sums of public money and public wealth, this is the most dangerous legacy which Museveni will leave forever. Our feature article today reminds us of a massacre that took place over 29 years ago. When ethnic or religious tensions are raised, people forget that they are being fooled. In those days, presient Idi Amin was seen as abusing state power by promoting his religion. Some people who could not think beyond that came to see all Muslims as the opressor and enemy. In reality the real criminal were trying to hide behind Islam or the tribe. You know like if a hen is attacked when it has chicks, it blows out its feathers to look very big and fierce. In similar manner, the crooks take cover under the wings of their tribe or religion to make it difficult and complicated to single them out and bring them to justice. The fact is there is no tribe or religion in Uganda which condones theft, where fathers bring up their children saying my child, you steal and become a good robber. No people here in our country say that killing is okay. All our tribes and religions take justice, fairness, truthfulness and hard work to be their cherished values. Everyone wants good education, economic and social development. But we have got this persistent problem of leaders who are crooks and public menaces, they like to hide their evil deeds behind the label of a religion and tribe. And in the end you find people saying those people are thieves and approve of these bad acts. In the 70's, people used to say "Kakwas" or "Nubians" are eating. In the early 80's it was "northerners", now we hear it is "Banyankole" or "Hima". Though in fact 99% of people in the so-called "eating" tribes are as poor and suffering like other impoverished Ugandans. You only have to travel to West Nile, Northern Uganda or the West and South West to see for yourself. The "eating" is not done as a tribe but at a personal and relatives or family basis. Because of people organising along tribal lines and gaining a following from their areas, including abaleebesi and others who just want to survive, it seems like the whole tribe is doing well and supports these activity. And a lot of people believe it, because that is all which they have been exposed to, so you cannot blame them. But in the larger picture, it is just a small clique of people centered around Kampala posing as "we northerners", or "Bahima", "Bahororo" and what have you. But if the question is asked that when did the religion or tribe give you a blessing to go loot and kill in their name, will there be an answer ? No, because these are people who are bent on looting our public property for narrow, selfish and shortsighted interests. Stealing hundreds of acres of public land may be achieved but will you take it with you to the grave? And in fact you will be buried on a very small piece of land if you are lucky, and lose the rest. This is the story of murder, betrayal, suffering and deep injustice, where those in power abandoned their responsibility and looked the other way, or actively encouraged mobs to kill innocent people with impunity. The problem had started years before when the crooks bankrupt leaders in Kampala and elsewhere deceived people in the towns and villages that Muslims are the problem. They set one group against the other, which resulted in massive bloodshed and suffering of innocent Ugandans who knew nothing about what was happening in the cities. The report was prepared over 18 years ago, but the lessons are even more important and relevant today as unprincipled and blind sectarianism has been pumped to frightening levels. It is our hope that we will learn the lessons, and resolve the issues of injustice that still persist from this massacre. We wish to thank Dr Abbas who compiled the original data, Makerere University Muslim Students Association (MUMSA), the people who submitted it to the editor, and all other patriotic Ugandans for not letting this story die from neglect. We owe you a debt of gratitude for your public service to our country. Thank you. A REVIEW OF THE GENOCIDE THAT WAS CALLED LIBERATION INTRODUCTION: It is now coming to thirty years since the end of the war that ousted Idi Amin from the presidency of Uganda. Some people choose to identify this war by the gigantic name of LIBERATION WAR; but as the experience we are about to review will show, absurd is too weak a term to describe this shootout whose major highlight was the victimisation of the innocent. Those who followed issues through The Vicegerent newspaper in 1987 got an idea of what had happened in Bushenyi (Ankole) in 1979. When the Human Rights Commission was setup in 1987, it tried to side-track the issue by hearing evidence on every thing else except the massacre of over sixty Muslims. If Jumba Masagazi had not persisted and forced their hand, the issue may never have been among the concerns of that Commission. However, when they finally addressed themselves to it, it was to pay lip service because hardly it been mentioned and they soon jumped off to other matters without hearing what the major witnesses had to say. They instead decided to emphasise the killing of Muslims at a mosque in Kajara. They propelled the name of Obeid Kamulegeya to prominence in association with the deaths of these Muslims and perhaps sought to imply that when Muslims die, it is a Muslim affair and in this, they were helped by the countrys largely anti-Muslim press. The authorities at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) were not very keen on the issue either; they wanted to forget anything that might put them in disfavour with the NRM government which some of them continually thanked. When the Vicegerent paper attempted to bring up the issue, a number of them were heard complaining that these young boys want to bring us problems. And in another development one of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council officials told the present writer face to face we have more important issues to deal with At that rate, the issue that involved the murder of so many Ugandans steadily degenerating into a state of obscurity and misreported history. However, two organizations have refused to forget the issue; they are the Vicegerent newspaper and the Makerere University Muslim Students Association (MUMSA). We insisted that if we do not cause this issue to be redressed, then we shall soon be worthless. Our grand children would register that when Muslims are killed, it is non-issue. So we decided to visit Bushenyi with two aims: first to reassure the Muslims there that they were not alone in their pain, we were with them. Secondly to collect first-hand information from the survivors of the massacre so that we may confront those who wish to forget it with the real facts. We are therefore not merely interested in raking up unpleasant history that might destabilize peace. We believe the danger lies more in forgetting than remembering, if the peace we seek is to be permanent. To that end, we made two trips to the scene of the 1979 massacres. The first one that took place in September, 1988 was composed of the following: Abasi Kiyimba, Imam Kasozi and Idris Semakula. The second trip took place in February, 1989 and the team was composed of the following: Abasi Kiyimba , Hassan Mwesige , Musa Tonda , Ali Konge Kyeyune and Ali Mwesigwa - - THE FIRST TRIP - - The first trip was mainly a familiarization tour. It introduced us to the people, both of Mbarara and Itendero. We enjoyed the hospitality of the chairman of the Muslim Committee of the area, Dr. AbdulMutwalib. We were able on this occasion to collect the general story and sequence of events from eye-witnesses. We also met among other venerable personalities, Sheikh Abdulmanafi Semakula, Bashir Semakula Serujuge and others. We also passed through Kyazanga in Masaka District where we made the acquaintance of several survivors who had run away from Itendero in the wake of the renewed hostilities against them. In particular we were welcomed and given a first-hand briefing by Hairat Nambi Segululigamba, a Muslim woman mobiliser in the area, and daughter of the great Muslim pioneer in Itendero, Hajji Abdallah Segululigamba, who was among the first victims of the 1979 massacre. THE GENERAL STORY The parish (Muluka) of Itendero is found in Bushenyi District. Islam has been a resident quality of the culture of the people in this part of the world since the close of the last century. For all the past years, Muslims and Christians are known to have lived together peacefully. During Amins time some of the Christians started getting discontented by the fact that the president of the country was a Muslim. They nursed this grudge and threatened that if there was a change in the countries leadership, the Muslim would see them. The trouble that culminated into the murder of more than 60 Muslims started long before the fall of Kampala on the 11th of April 1979. 1. March 1979 By March 1979, the town of Mbarara had fallen into the hands of the invading forces from Tanzania, providing the aggressors in this massacre an opportunity to harass their Muslim neighbours who because of the war situation had been left without a defender. The first incident was that in which four Muslim lives ended in cold-blood. In the village of Mbagwa in Kiziba sub-parish, a hostile group of Protestants attacked and killed Idi Tamukedde Mansur Mutebi (son of Idi Tamukedde) Mustapha Mabuye Abdallah Kyegombe They were all killed in the house of Idd Tamuzadde and their Christian attackers kept guard over it to ensure that they were not buried. For two months, the bodies remained in the house. They were buried in May 1979 after the bold intervention of the then chief Khadhi, the late Sheikh Mulumba. It will be recalled that this period, the president was Yusuf Lule, a man who had converted from Islam, and turned a deaf ear to the outcry of the Muslim community. When on the 23rd May 1979, the Late Sheikh Kassim Mulumba proclaimed over the radio that the Liberation meant nothing to the Muslims, Lule was irritated. He is quoted as saying in response, that reports were extremely exaggerated. In any case, the killers not only went free, but were emboldened by the lack of care from government and did kill again, and again. 2. April 1979 This was the month in which the government of Idd Amin actually fell in Kampala. The harassment of Muslims intensified to nearly the entire district of Ankole. Kagango sub-county was the worst hit. Here Muslims lived in constant fear and experienced intensive harassment. More than 400 Muslims were detained without any charges, being Muslim was their only crime. They were forced to ransom themselves by paying dearly in form of money, cows, goats, sheep, bicycles, radios and other items their persecutors considered valuable. That of their property which their tormentors could not take was destroyed. For example houses were burnt and banana plantations cut down. A number of Muslims were forced to drink alcohol a taboo according to their faith - while others died resisting it. In this month of April five prominent Muslims were murdered. They were: Hajj Abasi Kayemba (former county chief Igara) Ismail Mutangizi (former senior Internal auditor, Ankole district) Haj Amiisi kapalaga (former county Imam, Bunyaruguru) Hajj Hassan Sewanyina (former sub-county Chief Isingiro). These were killed on different days, and apparently according to an organized plan of harassment. All this time no restraining voice from government; the forces of oppression seemed to find justification and approval from this silence, and may be were not mistaken. 2. April 1979 Encouraged by the total helplessness of the Muslims, the Christians intensified their harassment with the following acts of violence: -- Burning houses -- Slashing all banana plantations -- Looting property belonging to Muslims -- Confiscating their land and turning it into grazing ground -- Burning down mosques. The burning of mosques was a fresh development conceived in May as part of the plan to completely exterminate Islam from the area. Among the Mosques burnt down in the county of Sheema were; Kashekuro Kiyungu. Kasana Kyengando Marembo Nyakanyinya Kyamata kihunda Kyamushakara. These were the mosques burnt in only one county of Sheema; otherwise a total of 27 Mosques were burnt down in the whole of Ankole district. Under the intensified house burning campaign of May, the following people lost their homesteads: No. Owner of the house Parish 1 Bashir Semakula Kiziba 2 Abbas Mugoli '' 3 Abdallah Katende '' 4 Dauda Serujunge '' 5 Hamad Katende '' 6 Hassan Hamutambo '' 7 Abbas Nsambu '' 8 Dauda Serunjogi '' 9 Ausi Semwogerere '' 10 Abdu Ishngabashiaja Kiziba 11 Mutwalibu Turyatunga '' 12 Iddi Tamukedde * '' 13 Abdallah Segululigamba * Rwabutura 14 Jafar Kibirige '' 15 Sulaiman Kapere '' 16 Hiziri Byandala '' 17 Rajab Kibadula '' 18 Abduswamad Ntate Kinyungu 19 Habib Maloge '' 20 Imam Zikusoka '' 21 Ishaka Magezi '' 22 Ahmadda Mawanda '' 23 Elias Mugerwa '' 24 Abdu Murema '' 25 Zaid Muwanga '' 26 Umar Mutono Rwengando 27 Haruna Musajjaakawa Nyakabira 28 Noor Mulefu '' 29 Abdunoor Mulele * '' 30 Abdunoor Sebalu '' 31 Abubakar Kadala '' 32 Ismail Balindekawa '' 33 Anat Nankya '' 34 Hajjat Hadijah (Kalijja) '' 35 Hajji Byekwaso Ishaka 36 Idi Bintubizibu Kigarama 37 Musa Mwebe '' 38 Abdu Katarikaawe '' 39 Kasim Barukayo '' 40 Musa Rwabihuro Kagango 41 Muhammad Mbidde '' 42 Abbas Toronwa '' 43 Sulaiman Sengahaki '' 44 Ahmada Kasozi '' 45 Hajji Kasule '' * A number of Muslims whose houses were burnt, like Abdallah Segululigamba, Idd Tamukedde, Abdunoor Mulele, etc were also murdered before, during or after their homes had been attacked. Others only saved lives by running away in time. This list is not exhaustive, houses belonging to Muslims were burnt down in other parts of Ankole e.g. in Kijara and Mbarara town. 2. April 1979 The month of June marked the climax of the atrocities committed against the Muslims of the area. By this time Lules government had been in power for about two months. Nothing had been done to the offenders, so they assumed, and rightly so, to the everlasting grief of their victims, that the same crimes could be committed again with impunity. As if to add fuel to the fire Edward Rurangaranga, a prominent government figure addressed public meetings in the area, in which he would make it clear that the people he was addressing were in two categories: Amins men and the others. The old Sheikh Abdulmanaf quotes Rurangaranga as saying to the non-Muslim members at the gathering that: We have finished the stem (Amin),the branches (Muslims)are yours. With that prompring, the Protestants got even more hostile and right away started by verbally harassing the Muslims. They told them they would get them, sooner or later. A plan was hatched and all the non-Muslims alerted. Some of them were not in favour of the proposed action, so they leaked it to their Muslim friends. But the majority agreed to the plan and waited for an opportunity to implement it. The spark came on Monday 25th June 1979. Fenekansi Kamisha, a Christian was murdered in his house by assailants that have not been identified up to now. The Christians accused Muslims of the murder, and proceeded to execute justice. Kamisha was one of the people that had earlier led mobs of Christians to harass Muslims and collect ransom from them. On the morning of Tuesday 26th June, 1979, a mob of Christians armed with spears, knives and ropes, started rounding up Muslims and tying their hands behind their backs. They said that they were doing it on the orders of Yoweri Museveni the then minister of defence. They were led by Bankutaha, and included Machote, Buchuku, Yoram, Kamugisha, Rweizire, Rwanuma, Kategaya, Nyamugurusi, Eridadi and others. They gathered the Muslims in the home of Abdallah Segululigmba from where they marched them to Rwizi river to be executed one after the other. At the river Muslims were butchered in the most horrifying manner. There was one whose head was cut into three pieces before being finally thrown into the river. Other cases included those whose hands or legs were cut off, then thrown into the river to drown. The Imam Abdallah Segululigamba was mercilessly hacked in the middle with a machete and thrown into the river. The most memorable of these cases of cruelty is the 27 year old Madiya Natende who was seven months pregnant. Her stomach was slashed open with a machete and the fetus crudely ripped out. Needless to say, she died soon thereafter. Madiyas mother watched all this, and she would retell it to the end of her earthly days. She herself survived the execution. As if by a miracle, she jumped into the water before her turn to be butchered came up. We shall never learn the full story of the manners of death and the nature of the suffering that the dead people went through because it co only be told by them. The following were the people who were killed at the river Rwizi in June 1979. No. Names ADULT MALES 1 Abdallah Segluligamba 2 Abubaker Katongole 3 Abdu Ishangabashaija 4 Nashir Semwogerere 5 Ismail Sempa 6 Bruhane Sentende 7 Idris Serujunge 8 Umar Nsamba 9 Hussein Serunjogi ADULT FEMALES 1 Haliima Kinana 2 Hariat Namakula 3 Hadija Namayanja 4 Aisha Kasule 5 Hadija Mukibi 6 Sania Nalubega 7 HaliimaNabatanzi 8 Hadija Nanteza 9 Zuhra Namakula 10 Naira Nabunya 11 Mariam Tibanagwa 12 Bint Juma Nakayenga 13 Mastula Nakato 14 Layusa Bakazibaguma 15 Nafsi Nabatanzi 16 Nuliat Mbabazi 17 Aisha Nalongo 18 Zaituna Namakula 19 Zaina Namakula 20 Aidat Kenyana 21 Amana Nantande 22 Nuliat Kaweesa 23 Hadija Kayinda CHILDREN 1 Nuliat Namakula 2 Abdu Katende 3 Madina Nabukalu 4 Luuba Namakula 5 Zainab Nakayinda 6 Aisha Nantende 7 Madia Namakula 8 Taha Habyalimana 9 Mariam Nabukalu 10 Madina Nakawesa 11 Hamida Nansamba 12 Naziru Nsamba 13 Muzida Nsamba 14 Ibrahim Kabuye 15 Zinab Nabunya 16 Rehema Nakachwa 17 Luub Magala 18 Muzaphar Kabuye 19 Ismail Kato 20 Khamiyat Nabukalu 21 Hadija Nassaka 22 Haliima Nbatanzi 23 Bitijuma Nakayanja Total number murdered: 55 people It cannot be proclaimed that these atrocities in any way took a form of political struggle, or war casualties. It was pure cold blooded murder. Some of the people killed were very old men and women and others very young children. Abubaker Katongole was 80 years old, Segululigamba was 75, Haliima Nbatanzi was 80, Aisha Katendewas 85, Nuliat Nmakula was 2 years, Hamida Nansmab was only 1 and a half and most of the children were generally below 5 years old. It should also be noted that the above list here includes only those people from one county and not all of them were recorded. The names of the rest of the people who died throughout Ankole District are not available to us, though the list is certainly much, much longer. In addition, it was not even possible to recover all the bodies of the people known to have died. For example of the sixty four people we recorded here, only 36 bodies wee recovered from the river in which they were thrown. They were hastily buried in a time of great fear and distress, with intimidation being carried out by government soldiers (the purported liberators), and other government officials whose duty should have been to protect all citizens. It was not possible to burry them in their homes as this was a danger zone; so they were buried in mass graves at Nyamitanga mosque. The survivors fled the area and went to settle in Kyazanga in Masaka District, leaving their land to be occupied by their tormentors 1980-85 This was the time that has come to be referred to as Obote II, when A. M. Obote assumed the presidency for the second time. People like Edward Rurangaranga who had directed the persecution of Muslims assumed offices of responsibility, he was state minister of local government in the Obote II government. And together with him in government were a number of people of ill-will., who had knowledge of these tragic events. For those Muslims who chose to stay in the area, harassment continued; it took the form of psychological harassment, intimidation, denial of participation in public affairs etc. Every year, under the slogan of Bushenyi 1, Bushenyi 2 etc, president Obote and his men gathered in the same district of Bushenyi to mark the date of Obotes return to Uganda on 27 May 1980. For the Muslims of Ankole, this event was a painful reminder of the time when they were deprived of their rights as citizens of this country. Muslim founded primary schools were abandoned, mosques neglected and orphans went without education, food, and clothing. The leaders of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council were busy quarrelling among themselves and seeking the support of non-Muslims in their incessant factional struggles. For all practical purposes, the world seemed to have forgotten these unfortunate people. The events of 1979 were not even history, because at the very least, history is recorded. The question that tormented those of us that bothered to think about them was: Is it possible to forget these people and rest with a free conscience? The answer is NO! It was necessary for us not just to record the general story, but to get the minute details as well.