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August 23, 2007
Kanyeihamba disguised as houseboy into exile

Supreme Court Judge GEORGE WILLIAM KANYEIHAMBA has served in all the three arms of government in different regimes as a minister, legislator and now judge. He participated in political campaigns that saw the overthrow of former presidents Idi Amin and Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa. He has lived in exile twice.
In the first part of our new series, My Life in Exile, this week, he tells MICHAEL MUBANGIZI and SSEMUJJU IBRAHIM NGANDA how Dr. Martin Aliker, now senior presidential advisor, denied Paulo Muwanga a chance to become Uganda’s president after Amin.
He also narrates how Dr. Andrew Kayiira played an influential role in organising the Moshi Conference that picked Prof. Yusuf Lule to lead Uganda in 1979.
The judge further relives events surrounding his dramatic flights to exile on two occasions; in one of them disguised as a houseboy to be able to leave Kampala for Kenya unnoticed. His cover was blown though; the officer manning the roadblock in Jinja recognised him but just let him pass.

I was born and brought up in what was then called Kigezi district. I grew up in a place called Mpungu, Hamurwa, Rubanda County, in Kabale district. My parents - Zakaria Barorora and Mariamu Kyenda were peasants. I studied at Hamurwa Church of Uganda Nursery, which was near my home.

I then went to Nyaruhanga Primary School up to Primary Four. I then went to Nyakatare Primary School because Nyaruhanga’s last class was P.4. I stayed at Nyakatare until I completed my primary education.

From Nyakatare, I went to Kigezi High School. Until Kigezi High School, my late brothers Charles Ngambeki and Blasio Katimbiri had been responsible for my school fees and scholastic materials.

At Kigezi High School, my parents had to sell part of their land to raise my school fees and meet my other school obligations.
I sat for my Junior Leaving Examinations at Kigezi High School and was one of the best students in the country.

Consequently, I was awarded two scholarships; one from the Central Government and the other from the Madhivani Sugar Corporation.
The first was attainable at King’s College Budo, the other at Busoga College Mwiri. I chose Mwiri because many Kigezi pupils whom I admired, like Nathan Bisamunyu and Dr. James Kahirimbanyi, had studied at Mwiri.

My academic performance continued to be noticed and admired by teachers and in 1958, I was one of the few students in S.5 who were allowed to sit with S.6 students doing the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate (equivalent to O-Level). Among the S.5 students who sat for that examination, I was the only one who got a first grade.

Becoming a lawyer
Following the publication of the results, the local government of Kigezi district identified me and resolved to send me to the United Kingdom to study law. Their decision was challenged by the district commissioner who was an expatriate.

He reckoned that money spent on educating lawyers was wasted because he and the colonial government regarded lawyers as useless trouble makers who joined agitators for independence and other benefits for the natives.

However, the district council led by Kosiya Kikira (RIP) and supported by people like Canon John Bikaganga and John Wycliffe Rwamafa -all deceased - appealed to the Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen, who overruled the district commissioner. Cohen was one of the most enlightened colonial administrators.

The reason the Kigezi district local government wished me to become a lawyer was that they had heard that Ankole district, their neighbour, had a special lawyer John Wycliffe Kazoora who took care of all their legal problems. So they wanted me to be their Kazoora.

But I had also always wanted to study law and become a magistrate, although I was better at science subjects. I had a relative - a chief - and I did not like the way he handled cases and litigants before him. He was a Muluka chief.

The Baluka, assisted by Batongole, used to try cases. I suppose he was kind of an ‘honest’ man but he also liked to receive litigants’ gratifications. A litigant would come to him and say, “I have a case before you. I am willing to give you a goat if you do your best for me in this case.” He would receive the goat.

Later, the litigant’s opponent would also come and offer either a cow or chicken and request the chief of the same favour! He would also get the promise that the chief would do the best for him. Together with the Batongole, he would preside over the case and listen to submissions of both parties.

Before hand, he would have arranged with one of his children or nephews that at a critical moment, they should come and call him because of an emergency at home.

He would wait until it was time to give the verdict, then he would signal the boy or girl who would come to call him about the [imaginary] emergency at home.

He would be excused and invite one of the Batongole chiefs to proceed with the case. They would proceed and announce the verdict on merit.
Thereafter, he would explain to the losing party that he was called away on an emergency and that is why he could not personally participate in the decision about the case, and of course the winner would thank him for a job well done. That compelled me to decide on law in anticipation that I would do justice differently from my chief.
In any event, the appeal by the Kigezi local council to the Governor was heard and allowed and I proceeded to UK and did my A-Level studies and examinations at Norwich City College in East Anglia. I subsequently did my LL.B (law) degree at London University.

Joining politics
The only political party I have ever belonged to is the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Until then, I was an academic detached from partisan politics, although I was inherently sympathetic to UPC.

However, in my writing and speeches, I commented on politics as my book, Constitutional Law and Government in Uganda (1975) shows.
Although I was sympathetic to UPC, I was also expected to support it. Because of our upbringing in Kigezi, if you were a Protestant Christian, you were assumed to identify with UPC, and if you were Catholic, you were expected to identify with DP.

Besides, Obote was initially an exciting nationalist who led a liberal UPC while DP was conservative and thus perceived as not being liberal and forward looking by many young people, including myself. Besides, my relative John Rwamafa was also in UPC and a cabinet minister.
It is only when Idi Amin came to power and started harassing, torturing and killing our people and misgoverning the country that I became conscious of the importance of politics, and how each of us, regardless of age, status or education could do something about our governance and protection of our rights.

The exile
The decision for me to go into exile was made by Frank Kalimuzo who was then Vice Chancellor of Makerere University in 1971.
(By this time Kanyeihamba was a lecturer at Makerere University).
I precisely remember the room and the day of the week and time when he advised me strongly to leave Makerere University and Uganda.

I was in the middle of a lecture on a Thursday, September 1971 at 3.45 p.m. when the Vice Chancellor’s secretary burst into the room and whispered to me that the Vice Chancellor wanted me urgently.
When I told her that I was about to finish because my lecture would end at 4.00p.m., she literally shouted, ‘he wants you now.’ From her voice, I knew it was something very urgent, so I hurriedly closed my lecture and rushed to Kalimuzo’s office.

In an agitated manner, he told me, “Go home now, pack your things, tell your

wife nothing except that you are going for a weekend to Nairobi. That a friend has surprised you with a return ticket for you, your wife and daughter. Don’t say anything except that you are going away for a long weekend and will be returning. Don’t touch your car. We shall come in the next 30 minutes and take you to the airport. Hurry now.” So they came to Kololo on Prince Charles drive where I lived and accompanied me to the airport.

Attacking soldiers
The reason why Kalimuzo had been concerned about my welfare is because shortly before that, I had completed a manuscript of my book -Constitutional Law and Government in Uganda
(published in 1975).

In the book, I had stated among other things that soldiers are unfit to govern a country because the kind of training they receive is intended to keep them fit for war and barracks and not cabinet offices.
One professor had reviewed the manuscript, which was being used by students as a text book and disclosed that Kanyeihamba thinks that soldiers are unfit to govern.

Kalimuzo had heard rumours among army generals that one of his lecturers, that is me, was urgently needed by security forces because he had written treasonable words in a book in which he belittled the importance of the army. By that time, the Amin regime had started its carnage of torture, murder and disappearances.

Frank Kalimuzo was one of the great civil servants Uganda has ever had. We both came from the western region; he from Kisoro and I from Rubanda which is next door to Kisoro, and we were personal friends. He was one of the people I admired. Besides, we were very few people who were educated and this brought us closer and in each other’s camp.

Kalimuzo’s plan worked. My wife, daughter, Sarah Nyakwezi, then aged five years and I reached the airport and I did not feel safe until the plane was airborne, heading for Nairobi. After arriving in Nairobi, I found a message to telephone someone and it was disclosed that there was a one-way air ticket for each [member] of my family to UK.
At the time we fled Uganda, we had only one child, Sarah, but while in UK we were blessed with a son, Joel, and another daughter, Ruth. They are now all grown adults and gainfully employed.

At the time of the military coup in January 1971, I resided at 3A Prince Charles Drive, Kololo, not far from Idi Amin’s residence, which I believe was number 7, which later became the Command Post on the same Prince Drive. While Amin was killing people, most of us in exile initially kept quiet because it was rumoured that if we openly opposed him, he would murder members of our families and relatives who were still in Uganda.

In 1977, the Amin regime assassinated the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Janani Luwum and two cabinet ministers; Erinayo Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi. We in the UK decided to come out openly and oppose Amin and his regime, regardless of the consequences. Many Ugandans scattered in exile in many parts of the world started forming groups to oppose Amin and his regime.

In any event, we had realised by then that whether you opposed him or kept silent, none of your relatives or friends were secure from his murderous hordes of security forces.

Rights group
As Uganda exiles in United Kingdom, we founded the Uganda Group for Human Rights with people like Simon Kabuuzi, Ernest Rusiita, the late Paul Otiti, Topher Twesigye, Ambassador Joseph Tomusange, and Rev. Dan Kajjumba.

The group was non-sectarian, non-political and non-military. It was mainly humanitarian and it embraced every Ugandan in exile regardless of their background, tribe, religion or education. However, individual members were free and indeed did work with other types of opposition groups whether political or military.

From 1977 to 1979, the Group communicated and collaborated with other organisations which were opposed to the Idi Amin regime throughout all the continents. For instance, in southern Africa, we communicated and collaborated with the UPC and DP groups there.

We exchanged views with people who were in East Africa led by the likes of now president Museveni, Prof. Yash Tandon, Prof. Edward Rugumayo, Omwony Ojwok of Dar-es-Salaam University, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere of Nairobi University, and Dr. Andrew Kayiira of the United States. There were other groups in Germany, Scandinavia, France and elsewhere with whom we freely exchanged views about how to remove tyranny from Uganda.

Giving scholarships
The Uganda Group also catered for the needs and educational interests of Ugandans in Europe generally, and UK in particular. It found university places and persuaded the British government to set up a scholarship scheme for hundreds of Ugandans who were stranded or destitute in diverse places.

The Scholarship Committee was chaired by the late De Bunsen, at one time Principal of the then Makerere University. I, Prof. Birmingham and Dr. Dennis Pain were members of this important educational facility. We counseled Ugandan refugees on how to get travel documents and visas. We also published a magazine called Umoja (Unity) and gave information about people who had been killed or made to disappear.
We sponsored articles from knowledgeable people. In fact, we became the biggest propaganda machine against Amin and later against Obote and his government as well.

Our magazine became a popular publication demanded by many people who wished to know more about what was happening in our country. We fundraised to assist stranded people and those who were in actual combat against the forces of tyranny in the Uganda. In fact, at one time, especially during the Amin regime, we were the de facto embassy because anyone who wished to know anything about Uganda came to us for accurate information.

By the time the regimes in Uganda became shaky, many of their ministers and public servants met us in secret in diverse places of Europe, Asia, America and Africa, and freely briefed us on what was happening and how these regimes could be toppled. Without mentioning names, there were courageous Ugandans who would travel to countries bordering Uganda in order to give us information and the latest news about the regimes. We would pass on that information to the fighting guerrilla groups and other opponents of the regimes.

Working with Kayiira
One of the most influential personalities in bringing about the Moshi Conference was the late Dr. Andrew Kayiira. At the time, Kayiira was a professor of criminology and leader of one of the biggest anti-Amin factions in the U.S.A. After the meeting in Nairobi, he and I and other opposition leaders in eastern and southern Africa remained in constant communication, organising and planning a unity conference for east and southern African Ugandan refugees.

Matters came to a head when Prof. Yusuf Lule later to become the first post-Amin President of Uganda contacted and informed me that the Tanzanians were seriously and urgently advising that a unity meeting of Ugandans should be brought forward and that they had named Moshi as the most ideal venue.

I summoned Dr. Andrew Kayiira from the United States who joined me in the United Kingdom, we discussed strategies with Prof. Lule and the then Tanzania ambassador in London, who contacted his government.
I particularly had good relations with the Kayiira group. Nobody has written about Kayiira’s contribution. People like Kayiira, myself, Yash Tandon, Omwony Ojwok and Tarsis Kabwegyere were instrumental in ensuring that the Moshi Unity Conference took place.

Without the likes of Kayiira, Moshi wouldn’t have taken place because many people were opposed to it.
There were people, especially the military ones, who thought that Moshi would dilute the efforts of the fighting groups. The UPC led by [Paulo] Muwanga was one of them.
Initially, Yoweri Museveni wasn’t very keen about it, but he eventually embraced the idea.

Towards the end of 1978, most Ugandan opposition groups had come to the conclusion that the only way Idi Amin could be removed from power was if they all united under one umbrella group to fight him.
Every group, wherever they were, were contacted and their representatives were summoned to meet in Nairobi in December 1978. We attended the meeting with others and plotted the overthrow of Idi Amin. We realised that we needed outside assistance, materially, politically and militarily.

We formed a coordination committee headed by Prof. Kabwegyere and myself, Kayiira, Tandon, representatives of Museveni’s military group called FRONASA, among others.
Thereafter, we contacted and negotiated with Tanzanian authorities and other friendly governments to assist us in the removal of Idi Amin from power.

By that time, Idi Amin had made one of his worst mistakes when he attacked the Kagera Salient of Tanzania.
The Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) who repulsed the Amin fighters from the area were forced to be at war with the Amin’s regime. The Tanzanians assisted Ugandan exiles and fighting forces within Uganda to come together and found one body against the regime.

By that time what started as skirmishes of exiles against the Amin army had turned into full scale battles of the war against Idi Amin.

Moshi Conference
Our contacts with other groups paid off for when the Tanzanian government decided that Idi Amin had to go, they wisely contacted all the Ugandan fighting and opposition groups to meet and plan together against the common enemy.

I contacted Andrew Kayiira who came over to the UK. We went and saw the Tanzanian ambassador in London who agreed that the best way was for all Ugandan groups from all over the world opposed to Amin to go to Moshi and form an umbrella organisation that would fight and attract support from world leaders.

I also recall that during our anti Amin campaigns in the UK, we organised a worldwide vigil and the late Archbishop of Canterbury led with a prayer:

“Lord, open the heart of Idi Amin to spare your people of Uganda from his torturous and murderous ways and if he cannot be moved, please Lord, let him go.”

As if to answer his Grace’s prayer, God led the combined [force of] TPDF and Uganda liberation movements to defeat and force Idi Amin out of office, and out of Uganda literally within weeks of the Archbishop’s prayer.

Kivengere’s work
During the liberation struggles, one of our greatest supporters was Bishop Festo Kivengere. As early as 1977, he sponsored a number of us to fly and stay in Lusaka where the likes of Dr. Martin Aliker, Museveni, Prince John Barigye, Adonia Tiberondwa, Eriya Kategaya and I met and founded the short-lived Uganda Liberation Movement.
It was undermined and eventually destroyed by the public denunciations of it by UPC diehards and by bad leadership and mismanagement.

When the idea of the Moshi Conference materialised, Bishop Kivengere’s Foundation sponsored and facilitated a number of liberation and humanitarian groups, which we had identified as essential to attend. He sponsored me and my delegation, and observers from our London group.

I led that delegation and it included the late Paul Otiti, Sam Sebagereka and Paul Wangoola. We later learned that Bishop Kivengere was one of the forceful influences for the Moshi Conference and identified individuals who should attend, including Dr. Martin Aliker and the late Semei Nyanzi.

Nyanzi was destined to chair the Moshi Conference after Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere whom we had originally elected to do so had failed to control the delaying and disrupting antics of some of the UPC delegates.

Bishop Kivengere attended the Moshi Conference as a non-speaking observer but behind the scenes his counsel to many of us and to Yusuf Lule and the Tanzanian authorities was invaluable. Bishop Kivengere prayed and blessed all the delegations. He was impartial and very kind to all of us, as well as reconciliatory.

There was also Bishop Yona Okoth. Bishop Yona Okoth was very political and partisan in support of the UPC delegations at the conference. I use the phrase UPC delegations advisedly because when we insisted that only recognised groups could be represented and vote in the Moshi Conference, that each would have two delegates and two observers at the conference, the UPC abandoned its previous insistence that any Ugandan citizen who happened to be around Moshi should be allowed to attend and vote in their individual capacities.

However, within a few hours, UPC had, like a prehistoric reptile with tentacles, divided itself into so many groups, such as UPC Women’s Wing, UPC Youth League, UPC Veterans Group, Zambia UPC branch!
Notwithstanding this multiple factor, all the other remaining group representatives still overwhelmingly outnumbered those of the UPC that had mushroomed within hours of the accreditation process at the conference.


To be continued next week


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