FDC Vice President and Kyadondo East Member of Parliament,
SAM KALEGA NJUBA, went to exile in Kenya
when the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni
launched a guerilla campaign with an attack on Kabamba Military
Training School in 1981.
Njuba was then Secretary for Legal Affairs in the defunct
Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), which was led by President
In My Life in Exile this week, Njuba tells MICHAEL
MUBANGIZI why he shunned a fellow Muganda, Dr.
Andrew Kayiira who was heading another guerilla Movement,
Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM), and instead backed Yoweri
Museveni, who hails from Ankole. Njuba also recalls how
they were promised money for the struggle and instead received
a box full of stones.
I think there are two types of exiles; economic exile for
those people who think that there are greener pastures in
Europe, America, Japan…and political exile where there
is no happiness because you are forced to leave your country.
Mine was political exile. I had the capacity to work as
an advocate and earn a living. But I spent close to four
years in Nairobi without work because Ugandans weren’t
allowed to practice law in Kenya.
I left my wife, children behind and lived as a pauper all
those years in Nairobi. As I told you in ‘My Prison
Life’ series in The Weekly Observer, I had been arrested
and detained in Luzira Prison in September 1979. I was again
arrested at the City Square (now Constitution Square) under
the interim administration of the late Paulo Muwanga in1980.
When I left prison, I joined Uganda Patriotic Movement
(UPM). I stood as a candidate for Mpigi East, as it was
known then, in the 1980 general elections. We (UPM members)
had said before the elections that we would fight if the
polls were rigged.
After the elections were rigged, we had to rethink our position.
UPM members, including people like Museveni, Ruhakana Rugunda,
Matia Kasaijja, Eriya Kategaya and Amama Mbabazi vowed to
fight and we were determined to look for leadership.
I was Secretary for Legal Affairs in UPM, although Kirunda
Kivejinja doesn’t recognise it in his book (Uganda:
The crisis of confidence).
After the attack on Kabamba [on February 6, 1981], my house
I was close to Museveni, so when he went to the bush, it
was natural that I had to be arrested.
The party did not start the war as such, but those who
were fed up and disagreed with the results went to the bush.
Paulo Muwanga’s government sent a battalion of soldiers
to Kawuku (Entebbe Road) where I was staying. They missed
my house and attacked my neighbour’s. They started
shooting to blow up my house. All my people scattered and
everything was in a mess.
My wife wasn’t there during the attack but my mother
was there; and that was the last time I saw her. She died
when I was away.
I was having lunch in town when somebody told me that my
house had been attacked. Their motive was to suppress the
opposition. As I have said, the party (UPM) did not go to
the bush. It was individuals like Museveni who went and
attacked Kabamba without our knowledge. At least me and
my wife (Gertrude Njuba) weren’t informed.
Even people like Bidandi Ssali who was our Secretary General
disagreed with the approach and did not go to the bush.
As I moved from town, I noticed that the late Wycliffe Kazoora’s
(former Rushenyi County MP) house in Makindye had also been
I think some other houses in Naguru and Luzira were also
After the Kabamba attack, I stayed in various places, like
in Nangabo. I even stayed in my mother’s house. Then
somebody advised that I would be arrested if I remained
So I kept moving from house to house, place to place. I
later went to see Museveni in the bush, at Matugga, and
I told him about my plight.
He told me to go to Nairobi and stay away for about six
months because I was going to be arrested.
There were no preparations for the flight because as they
say in Luganda, akukogoba ya kuwa ekkubo (he who chases
you, shows you the direction).
I took a taxi to Jinja where I met my friend Moses Kintu
(late former NRM minister). I stayed with a friend who was
close to government and worked with Nile Breweries for one
night before taking off. We drove around the road blocks
to Busia where we took a boat to Nairobi.
I couldn’t have gone with my family. My wife continued
with the struggle in Kampala until she went to the bush.
Faced with a problem, you have to first save yourself. Besides,
nobody was hunting my children, so I had to secure myself
first. My kids were young and all of them were in boarding
When Amin arrested people, he would come for the individual,
kill or kidnap him, but when the ‘liberators’
(UNLF/TPDF) came; they were blowing up people’s houses!
Museveni, Muwanga were blowing up houses and that is what
I basically said to Museveni in June 1979 at a press conference.
They were blowing houses using guns when children were there.
I said in 1979 that these people were going to be worse
Active in Nairobi
In Nairobi, I met my friend Joseph Katende with whom I stayed
for a few days. I also met Amama Mbabazi (now Minister for
Security), Ruhakana Rugunda (now Minister of Internal Affairs)
who had already settled there. They were personal friends,
I knew them very well and they were happy to receive me.
We joined hands and started working on the struggle.
It wasn’t like going to office. It was a campaign
involving approaching people, Ugandans who were there for
assistance, and talking to them about the correct line in
the struggle. We would talk to intelligence fellows because
we were hunted daily. So we had to make friendship with
them so that they advise us when the going got tough.
We also had to look for money, clothes, and arms but I
can’t tell you who was doing what. We would at times
move to Mombasa; one time we went to Libya with Museveni
and Mathew Rukikaire. Rukikaire was the chairman of the
External Committee and I was secretary.
The struggle wasn’t political, it was military but
we did not just get guns. We tried all options. Of course
it was obvious DP had won the election, not we (in UPM).
We in UPM did not go into that election for a win. We knew
we were young and people were telling us, “you have
brilliant ideas, but you are young.”
Some of us knew that DP and Baganda did not have the capacity
[to lead] compared to Museveni who had been in the struggle.
He also had the experience and many contacts. But we were
fighting to restore democracy, not necessarily to take power.
You see we had lost eight years in the Amin liberation war
and some of us were not prepared to waste more years.
Some people expected that as a Muganda I had to work with
Kayiira even when Museveni was good.
Kayiira had many weaknesses, but I do not want to talk
about him because he is dead. However, he was determined
to liberate this country. Kayiira was already in Nairobi
by the time we started the struggle. He went to Nairobi
when Lule was overthrown.
I remember going with my wife to link up with them and
see what they were doing. I realised that they were not
taking us anywhere. My wife stayed for a while, but later
she joined the bush. My brother and sister kept some of
my children, but the youngest went to a certain bishop in
Mityana. I used to raise some little money, which I would
send home to help.
Eventually I took three of them out; they would come and
see me in Nairobi and the go back.
It wasn’t easy sending money for children and the
struggle because people who did the task did not want to
be exposed; and there were no mobile phones. So there were
a few disappointments. I know of people who gave us a box
allegedly full of money but when we reached where we were
supposed to open it from, there were stones!
By the time I went into exile, I was chairman of the Uganda
Law Society but I couldn’t be employed in Nairobi
except as a law clerk which I refused. That was a [lowly]
job. I had been a lecturer at Makerere University, my counterparts
in Kenya were senior lecturers in Nairobi!
Some people in Nairobi who had been my classmates were in
the High Court and for me because I wanted to live, I should
work as a law clerk! I think it was below my status.
But I tried many things in business. I could import some
things to Kenya wherever I went abroad. Eventually I had
to sell my house here to raise money for the struggle. We
also had to raise money to bribe spies.
We had to take people to Libya for training and other countries
that I won’t name. There were many people in the struggle
but many are still in the army, I won’t name them.
I am telling you Libya because Libya has been in the news,
but people like Julius Nyerere also helped us. So there
were some dealings with Tanzania and some other countries.
Many people who came to Nairobi wanted to go and join those
in the bush.
At that time Kizza Besigye was in Nairobi. He had run away
from Uganda after being imprisoned. An arrangement was made
for him to travel back and join the bush.
And there were many people in that category- people who
had run away but did not know how to go to the bush. It
was easier for them to go to Nairobi and then to the bush
than going to Luwero directly. Many people were willing
to join but they did not know how to go about it. You had
to get the right contact because not all that glitters is
Some people came to you and talked to you well when their
agenda was different. Others saw you properly dressed and
thought you had a lot of money, so they would come to swindle
or spy on you. So you don’t take all they tell you
as Gospel truth.
About cohesion, I think our group was united. There was
some discrimination based on ethnicity, colour but we could
ignore it. Some people would come to me and ask, “Why
do you work with Museveni and not Kayiira?” But me
I am above those as I have already told you.
Anyway, I later went to Papua New Guinea where I was lecturing
in a university. I was there with people like James Wapakhabulo,
Dr. Samson Kisekka and Prof. Gilbert Bukenya.
Tito takes over
News of the takeover by Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa found me
in Papua New Guinea. I was teaching when students came to
my room and said, “Teacher, Idi Amin has gone back
I said that couldn’t be because I was following events.
Eventually I learnt that Gen. Tito Okello had taken over.
Later I went to Nairobi to check what was happening. That
is when Lutwa’s government was holding peace talks
with the NRA.
In fact, it was me who recommended that the late Abu Mayanja
be put on the negotiating table. Mayanja was a good bargainer
and had experience. He was a lawyer, we had worked with
him in Nairobi; he was our supporter. He was one of those
who negotiated for independence (in 1962).
From the peace talks I went back to Papua New Guinea to
terminate my contract; let my students do their exams and
resign before coming back.
I am not like a mad person who just runs away.
I had to explain to them [university] that I wanted to
I could see the writing on the wall. He (Tito Okello) was
illiterate; I think people like Olara Otunnu were helping
him. If it was Otunnu who had taken over, he would have
I remember in one of his speeches, Tito Okello said, “Exile
is bad, when you go to exile and you are a young man, you
grow old; if you go to exile and you are an old man, you
Secondly, their camp was divided. It was an internal coup
within Obote’s army. They had taken over Obote’s
government which was already split. We knew it would collapse
You see Amin, didn’t have a war to fight in the first
place. He had an established united army. He came in a popular
manner; people were celebrating initially. But Okello was
overthrowing his master (Obote). The army was divided between
him (Okello) and Obote.
When Tito Okello was finally ousted, I heard the news on
BBC; but we were also in contact with people here.
Oyite Ojok dies
[Asked if the takeover by the Okellos robbed NRM of victory]-
We knew it was the next step to our victory. We knew Okello
It was like the death of former army Chief of Staff, Maj.
Gen. Oyite Ojok. Of course nobody wants someone to die but
his death increased the speed of our struggle. Ojok was
the planner of our rivals in the UNLF, so his death created
a gap. Anything that hits your enemy is unfortunately welcome.
It is a contradictory term.
[Asked about allegations that NRA soldiers shot the plane
in which Oyite Ojok died]- Yes and no. Of course because
he was planning to attack us, you can say it was NRA. Others
say it was an inside job. But according to my information
it was not us.
I came after the January 1986 liberation war.
Dr. Sam Kisekka organised some party officials and we came
on the same plane. By then Museveni had announced that I
was a Minister of State for Constitutional Affairs.
We came with Kisekka who had also been made Prime Minister;
a woman called Black and Besweri Mulondo, and about eight
Kisekka was very much in the struggle, very hard working
and time conscious. He would tell you to meet at 9:00 o’clock
and he would be on the door at that time. He used to organise
meetings, coordinate us from Nairobi and Kampala.
There was a time I remained with him and Mathew Rukikaire
in Nairobi. The rest, like Mbabazi and Rugunda had gone
to Sweden. Some of us were prepared to die, so if you say
that it was cowards who went to exile; you are entitled
to your view. We went there to fight dictatorship. We couldn’t
all hold guns.
We needed to have people on the battlefield and others
to solicit money to buy drugs, food and do political work.
Some of our people went out to persuade our economic refugees.
These would contribute; they used to give us money. But
there are people who stayed in Kampala aiding the war.
In fact, there are many people who helped the struggle
but will never be mentioned because they don’t want.
Some are religious men, like bishops, business people and
ordinary citizens. There are real historicals whose names
don’t appear anywhere.
Home is best
There is nothing good about exile. You leave your country,
home, children and work to become a dependant. Even when
I got a job later in exile, still home was best.
You lose everything at home - my ranch, house were all
destroyed. When we came back, we had to start like somebody
graduating from university because we weren’t given
anything for resettlement.
My mother also died when I was in exile. My father died
when I was two years, so she made me who I am. I would have
loved to be by her side when she was sick, and even bury
But I only got information that she had died. So I don’t
see anything good about exile and I have always discouraged
my friends who want to go and live in America, Britain…
The weather out there is of course also bad.
I learnt that integrity, commitment and honesty must be
maintained if we are to establish democracy, and we must
be committed to that. So you must have the will to persist
in the struggle.
So there are moments when we would say, ‘may be I
should give up’ and some people went ahead and left
the struggle. But there is nothing that comes easy.
The problem we have today is that people went into these
things with a hidden agenda that they did not tell us. Today
I believe that in going to the bush, President Museveni
did not want democracy [restored] in this country. All he
wanted was to get power and concentrate power in his hands.
I was with him in the struggle and we parted nine years
after he had taken over power. What I saw then and what
I have been seeing is that he fooled us. He wanted power
not democracy. Working with him I learnt that he never wanted
anything to be done without his knowledge.
He amended the Constitution to achieve that.
He wanted to be an emperor; he wanted to have power. He
is struggling to stay president. However, I don’t
regret having participated in the struggle. I don’t
regret having liberated this country. My only regret is
that we entrusted the struggle in people that did not want