Written by Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda Prof. GEORGE WILSON KANYEIHAMBA retires in November after an illustrious career that spanned almost three decades and saw him teach at Makerere University, work in Government as a minister and finally on the bench as a justice of the Supreme Court. In this first part of a series of articles about his life, Justice Kenyeihamba tells SSEMUJJU IBRAHIM NGANDA about his role in the struggle to oust President Id Amin Dada in 1979 and how he first met President Museveni. Until 1977, I was not an activist in politics. Although of course as a citizen, I was very much interested and if you read my first book, Constitutional Law and Government in Uganda, I comment on political parties and what they had achieved or failed to achieve. However I became an activist in 1977. First, I went into exile in the UK as a post graduate student in 1971. But while at Makerere, I completed a manuscript [of the book] that was later used as a text book by students of Makerere. In that book, I think on page 262, I stated that the military are unfit to govern because the kind of training they receive is intended to keep them in the barracks and on the battle ground and not in cabinet seats. Now, a colleague, whom I shall not name, reviewed the manuscript we were using at Makerere as a monogram for students, and said that Makerere don believes that the military are unfit to govern. And this was publicized in the then Uganda Argus. Soldiers started looking for me saying; who is this Kanyeihamba who thinks that the military are not fit to govern? We want to interview him and see why he held that view? The much lamented Principal of Makerere then, Frank Kalimuzo, was alerted by soldiers that; one of your lecturers is wanted by the army. So, he called me. Actually it was very interesting, I was teaching. It was a Thursday, in September of 1971. His secretary came and said; the principal wants you. I said, I am about to finish. It was a quarter to 4pm when my lecture was ending. Then the secretary said, no, he wants you now. So I rushed to his office. He said, dont ask me questions; leave now. Go to your residence, pack a few things, leave everything as it is, leave your car there, come with your wife and daughter and we shall take you to the airport. [If] Anybody asks you; say you have been given a ticket to go to Nairobi for a weekend shopping. So that is what I did. I didnt tell my wife, I didnt want to panic her. But for me I guessed something was terribly wrong. So within half an hour, Kalimuzo came with an official from Makerere and they accompanied me to the airport. What saved me was that although they had heard the name; Kanyeihamba, they could not put a face to me yet. We passed through well with Kalimuzo accompanying me. I had a return ticket to Nairobi, otherwise they would have been suspicious. So, we traveled. I didnt feel comfortable until we crossed to the Kenya border. And when I arrived there, there was a one way ticket with my family to the UK. I flew to the UK. Kalimuzo had arranged with a former vice chancellor of Warwick University to admit me. I was admitted as a visiting fellow and a researcher in LLM. We lived there until I got a job in Cardiff, then eventually I came back. Later on Kalimuzo rang to say the reason they had hurried to remove me was that I was wanted; I could surely have been killed. They wanted me to run out of the country. He said I was a young man and I should not face the political challenges. That is how he saved my life. But ultimately I gather that he himself was warned; that the regime was after him but he said; I have done nothing wrong to run away from my country and therefore I will go and explain to the President (Amin). Of course we never saw him again. He was killed in cold blood! I stayed in the UK; I was teaching. I was one of the few Ugandans in exile with jobs and eventually I became senior lecturer in several universities. Fighting Amin In 1977, some ministers, Oryem who had been Inspector General of Police and the, [Archbishop] Luwum were killed allegedly in an accident while trying to escape. The Ugandan community in the UK was incensed. Those of us who had been silent said it doesnt matter whether you are silent or not, your people are going to be killed. We must as well go and fight. So, a few of us came up in the open. I remember people like Simon Kabuzi, Topher Twesigye, people like the late Omolo Otiti and a few others. We met and founded the Uganda Group for Human Rights to publicize the atrocities that were being committed against our people in Uganda and to do other things like join hands with other groups that were fighting Amin. We were announced by the British press as having formed the Uganda Human Rights Group to publicize the atrocities in Uganda. As a result I got a call and several of my colleagues including Topher from obviously the regime. My call supposedly came from Nairobi and said, we understand you have founded a group which is opposed to the Ugandan government; you must disband at once. If you dont, your relatives will be killed. That is where they made a mistake. By that time I didnt have a mother or father, they had died. To say that they were going to kill my mother and father who were already dead; They didnt even have information about me. Those threats more- or-less encouraged us to become very vocal. We founded a publication which listed people who had been killed in Uganda and how the regime was terrorizing people. Then we joined other groups. Eventually, for me I became a supporter of the Museveni Group (FRONASA). I was contacted by Ruhakana Rugunda in London and then they sent me the Groups symbols and constitution. Then we met with people like Kayiira (Andrew), with Muwanga (Paulo) who was in Scandinavia, all those networks, we met and started saying we are joining the struggle to liberate our country. Eventually we interested the Tanzanians. One of the people who was very keen to assist us was the Tanzanian High Commissioner in London. People were also working in East Africa. People like Prof. Yashi Tandon, Prof. Dan Nabudere at the University of Dar es Salaam and that is how the Moshi Conference emerged. The Tanzanians were for it and they were looking for a symbolic leader. People should not tell you, and some books have said so, that [Prof. Yusuf] Lule was a compromise candidate. He was not, he was chosen for us by the Tanzaniansby [former President Julius] Nyerere long before we went to Moshi. Kayiira and I went to see the Tanzanian High Commissioner; he took us to Lule. He said he has been selected to spearhead the new Movement. Lule was in UK with me and I remember he had been my principal at Makerere. He is the one who had interviewed me and appointed me a lecturer. By the time I left Makerere I was a senior lecturer with Prof. Joseph Kakooza. So we communicated with the network of Ugandan exiles and fighters against Id Amin. There were a number of groups. We met Museveni at Moshi. By that time he had a fighting group called FRONASA and some people including those in Nairobi opposed the Moshi Conference because most of them supported [late President] Obotes return. They thought that (Moshi) would divert [Obotes return as president.] But Nyerere wanted an umbrella group. Remember at that time, Amin had attacked the Kagera (October/November 1978), Tanzania was actually now fighting Amin. Some of the Arab countries, especially Libya, had threatened that if Nyerere did not stop fighting Amin, they could invade Tanzania. So, we met in Tanzania. The [immediate] former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, was foreign affairs minister and helped us a great deal. We met at a pre-conference meeting in Kenya. The Kenyans threatened us with arrest and we had to go underground. In Kenya, our host was the [Tarsis] Kabwegyeres group and we elected him to be the chairman of the Steering Committee to prepare for Moshi. He did well at that time. We, meaning the groups; Kayiiras group in America, Uganda Group for Human Rights in the UK; we had identified Musevenis group FRONASA and others such as UPC, DP, CP and had decided that each should be represented by two delegates at the Moshi Conference and we should have two observers. We turned out to be about 24 groups. We were represented by two delegates and two observers. We gave the information to Tanzania. Tanzania was happy with that arrangement. But UPC and other fighting groups objected to that because first of all UPC had the majority of exiles in Tanzania. They wanted that every Ugandan should attend. Knowing that if every Ugandan attended, they would outnumber us, and out vote us, we resisted it. One of the most interesting incidents is that when we went to Moshi, Kayiira, myself, Tandon, late Omwony Ojwok, Kabwegyere were the people to vet credentials of each group and who should be admitted. We were confronted by I think the late Oteng, he was representing UPC; Luwuliza Kirunda representing UPC and I remember our ambassador to India, Patel. They turned up with a huge group saying they must be admitted. They were trying to over overwhelm us but we refused. I said, identify two people. Tanzania was on our side. Tanzania said, you cannot disrupt this meeting. These rules were made in Kenya and they have to apply. So, the UPC went outside and suddenly other groups mushroomed at that conference; UPC Youth Wing, UPC Women League and so forth. The Tanzanians allowed them in and UPC must have been represented by a dozen or more groups which they just created for the purpose of the meeting. We accepted and went in. Initially, as I told you, Kabwegyere should have chaired the meeting but he was very academic. He started arguing with UPC whose other aim was to disrupt the meeting. They started disrupting; Kabwegyere would answer every question in a political scientists manner. Then we realized that we were not going to go anywhere. Among the delegates there was the experienced former chairman of UDC, Semei Nyanzi, if you remember. Although he had a Kiganda name, he was an Acholi. Edward Rugumayo was there, Omwony Ojwok and others. We whispered among ourselves and said, no let us have another chairman. So while Kabwegyere was arguing with UPC, I think it was Rugumayo who put up his hand and said, Mr. Chairman I nominate Semei Nyanzi to be the chairman of this meeting. I think Kabwegyere must have been shocked because you are in a middle of a sentence as a chairman and somebody is nominating [another person]. So there was consensus on Semei Nyanzi becoming chairman. That is how Kabwegyere vacated the chair and Semei Nyanzi became the Chairman. He conducted it very well and ultimately we elected the committee to run the affairs. Our view was that it was going to be a protracted war and it would take a long time. Museveni represented his group and again contrary to books, Museveni was not very influential at that meeting. I remember him mentioning that, you dont disturb the military, because we are doing the job in the field. By the way very few people listened to him. Very few people knew what he would become in future. He was just, a military man. That is why, as a compromise, he became deputy to Muwanga who was Chairman of the Military Commission. Many of us were not only academic but we were not experienced in how matters are run. We never thought that the Military Commission was very, very important. UPC was aware. I dont think President Museveni knew how important it was going to be, but UPC knew. There was a consensus reached with the Tanzanians that Prof. Yusuf Lule should be the chairman and we should elect him by acclamation [to head] whatever group we formed to fight Amin. That group became UNLF (Uganda National Liberation Front). There was consensus. I, the late Grace Ibingira and I think Prof. Ssempebwa drafted the constitution. I was the chairman of the drafting committee. So we drafted the UNLF constitution under which we would have a chairman, vice chairman, a bureau to run the organization, a Military Commission, Diplomatic and Administrative Commission. So, as we were discussing, UPC met. They were more experienced in politics than we were. They knew Tanzania and others wanted Lule to be chairman. And I am sure they were aware [that] if they brought another name, they would be defeated. But they had zeroed on the Military Commission. We didnt know the importance of it. So, we went to the meeting. I remember Muwanga came wearing military uniform on the day we were going to elect our bureau. The late [former Archbishop, Yona] Okoth who was a UPC diehard came in his regalia as bishop [of Bukedi]. When we went to the meeting and the new chairman, Semei Nyanzi, asked for nominations [for chairman of UNLF], the bishop stood up in his bishop dress and we thought he was going to nominate Lule. He said, I nominate the man who has fought for our country; who as I speak now he has come in this room in uniform. We didnt know what he meant. Blah, blab, blah, he went on and then said, I nominate Paulo Muwanga to be the chairman of UNLF. The meeting went in disarray, nobody expected that name (laughter). Then he was immediately seconded by another UPC. I remember the late Sebaggala almost cried and said; This man (Muwanga) was a right hand man of Obote, terrorizing Uganda. How can he be the chairman of this group?" Eventually, belatedly, someone nominated Lule. Now Semei as I said was very experienced in chairing these meetings. He said, now since there are two [nominees], I want you people to go and negotiate behind the scenes so that we must show the Tanzanians and the world that we are united. And if we fight over two candidates on the floor, it will not look good. Please you adjourn and when you come back, we will resolve whether one candidate or more. So, we adjourned. Now, I hope he will not mind being mentioned; among those who were staunch supporters of Lule was Martin Aliker. He was in the conference. When we resumed, chairman Nyanzi asked whether there was any compromise candidate. Martin Aliker shot up; he is still alive I am sure he will not mind being mentioned. He said, while you people were consulting, for us we contacted State House in Dar es Salaam and they told us to tell you that if you elect Muwanga, they will ask you to leave Tanzania and go and play your silly game somewhere else . So, that is the position we are in, if you elect Muwanga, we are going to be deported from Tanzania, they will take us to a country of our choice where we can play our games. However, if you elect Lule, they will call us to State House to form a government in exile (prolonged laughter). I have asked him since then whether that was really true but he always smiles. I dont know whether he was playing politics. But that had a calming effect because we were really agitated. So, eventually UPC revealed their card, which we didnt know and even at that time, One of them, I dont remember whether it was Luwuliza, said, As a matter of compromise, we shall withdraw our candidate so that we can elect Lule as chairman by acclamation. However, we are asking that our own candidate who was going to be the President of Uganda should, as a consolation, be supported unopposed as chairman of the Military Commission. That is exactly what happened (laugher). Little did we know the importance of that decision. Then again we said since Yoweri Museveni was a fighter and was leading this group (FRONASA), let him be his deputy. That is how he [Museveni] became Muwangas deputy. Then we left that place (Tanzania).