In the tenth part of our series on politicians who
have endured imprisonment on account of their political
association [or suspicion], MICHAEL MUBANGIZI talks
Former UPC heavy weight MAJ. EDWARD RURANGARANGA
I was born in 1932 to Mariam Kakaikuru and Yacob Ruzindana
in Kajara County, [presently] Ntungamo district.
I grew up as a small boy tending my parent’s goats.
I started school in 1936 but was discontinued in 1938 because
I was young.
I could not go to another school far from my home. Besides,
there was no money. I stayed at home for nine years and
restarted school after 13 years.
There were only two secondary schools in Ankole; Mbarara
High School and Nyamitanga Junior School. For secondary,
I went to Nyakasura School where I was a prefect.
In  when the Kabaka of Buganda was deported, we organised
a sit-down strike. The British had deposed an African king,
there was no way Africans could praise the move.
We did not go to class, have lunch or breakfast. There
was no teargas then. You could show your displeasure. Those
are my political roots. Being a prefect was also political.
To lead others at that level, you had to be politically
I trained as an agricultural instructor at Bukalasa [Agricultural
College] and was posted at Lubaale Agricultural Experimental
Farm in Sheema for two years. I was later transferred to
Kyabugimbi and later Mitooma sub-counties for one year.
There was recruiting at Bukalasa for people to train as
teachers to teach agriculture in schools, so I joined as
a certificate teacher. I thought it would give me accommodation
and a permanent place rather than moving from village to
village as I was doing in agriculture. When I completed
in 1959, I was posted to Kitagata Primary School.
In 1960, there were elections for members of the Ankole
eishengero (kingdom parliament).
People of Kitagata asked me to stand and I was elected.
Only two parties DP and UPC, which I had just joined, participated.
Earlier, MPs in the Legco (legislative council - parliament)
had started a political party, Uganda Peoples Union (UPU)
that I joined in 1952. The leader at the time was Ankole
representative William Wilberforce Rwetsiba.
In the quest for self internal governance, Legco members
in 1959 saw a need to merge the parties to make them stronger
to mobilise Ugandans [for independence].
Uganda National Congress (UNC) and UPU merged on March 9,
1960. I attended the merger meeting in Kampala.
| Rurangaranga today
UPC is born
Both UPU and UNU had the name Uganda, so we agreed that
the new party must have the name ‘Uganda’. UPU
had ‘people’, so we said “The peoples
of Uganda”. The people of Uganda should join to make
a congress. We adopted the word ‘congress’ and
it became Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) or the Congress
of the people of Uganda, under Apollo Milton Obote. Rwetsiba
wasn’t chosen. He was a parliamentary secretary in
the protectorate government. He couldn’t serve the
British government and oppose it by supporting the self-government
cause. So I am a UPC founder member.
Many people who attended the merger meeting are dead. They
include Legco members; Apollo Milton Obote (Lango), George
Magezi (Bunyoro), John Babiiha (Tororo), William Wilberforce
Rwetsiba and Constantine Katiti (Ankole); John Rwamafa (Kigezi),
William Wilberforce Nadiope (Busoga), Peter Olar (Acholi)
and Cuthbert Obwangor (Teso).
I have since been active in UPC. I am currently the UPC
Chairman for Bushenyi district and a member the UPC governing
council, the Central Executive.
Well, you would say we are the people who elected Mama
Miria [Obote] as party leader, but I will explain. On the
executive committee, sometimes decisions that you don’t
like are made, but they bind you under collective responsibility.
So when you say we elected Mama Miria, it’s true.
Opposing Miria Obote
I was part of the [electorate] but I did not give her (Miria)
my vote. I voted Patrick Mwondha. But since she was elected,
I respect her. You can’t have two party presidents
at a time.
She was not only a wife outside UPC party organs but a
woman who had been away from Uganda for the last 30 years.
She had not acquainted herself with problems Ugandans experienced
and did not know how much Ugandans and UPC had suffered.
Considering those facts, some of us thought that we were
making a mistake to say that this lady could do much and
indeed she did not manage to compete in elections with Yoweri
Museveni, Kizza Besigye, Ssebaana Kizito and Dr. Abed Bwanika.
It’s also true that I did not give her my vote [in
the presidential elections]. I can’t reveal who I
voted for, but I did not vote her. I know you reporters
can provoke somebody but I won’t reveal. I did not
vote for Museveni, I did not vote for Miria but I voted.
I was arrested a month after Idi Amin’s coup on February
22, 1971 by Uganda Army soldiers in my shop in Mbarara town.
About four soldiers came, they did not tell me anything;
they only pulled me from the shop and forced me into a vehicle.
I was taken to Simba Barracks in Mbarara where the army
I stayed there for two days. We were about 10; others had
been picked from various places in Mbarara. They included
Nekemiah Bananuka, who was then secretary general of Ankole
district administration; one Mwiga who was accountant of
Ankole’s eishengero (parliament), county chiefs of
Kajara, Rwampara; Yowasi Makaru who was district councillor,
and Chris Rwakasisi who worked in the President’s
The suffering of two days in Simba Barracks was greater
than the suffering I had experienced in the 39 years I had
lived. We were thoroughly beaten, kicked and tortured by
They gave each one of us a pail full of posho to eat and
finish. Imagine a pail full of ugali; how would you finish
it? Then they brought meat, it was in plenty then. They
said, “You have been chiefs, you have been eating.
You eat and finish.” Each pail contained between 20
and 30 kgs; they expected us to eat both.
Then we were beaten for nothing using kiboko. Kiboko in
Kiswahili means hippopotamus, so it’s a whip made
out of a hippo skin. You can beat a whole district using
that kiboko. How do you resist? Your innocence couldn’t
When you hear that somebody has been under military torture,
that’s it. They beat you with anything - like iron
bars – anywhere; on the head, buttocks and chest.
Those who have not seen that torture don’t know how
much Ugandans have suffered.
After two days on February 24, 1971, we were transferred
to Makindye where I stayed until June 1971.
The man who announced the 18 reasons why Amin overthrew
Obote (Warrant Officer Class 11 Sam Wilfred Aswa) collected
us to take us to be slaughtered at Bulange, Mengo, what
used to be Republic House.
He said he was taking us to Kampala to answer charges.
They said we had collected Shs 1million from people to send
it to Obote who was in Tanzania, to help him come back.
By that time a million shillings was unheard of. Even Ankole
district [that comprised the whole of western Uganda] wouldn’t
There was an interesting case on the way to Kampala when
we reached the road to Kampiringisa.
I was badly off, I asked to urinate.
They stopped the vehicle and we went out.
As I pulled out my thing to urinate, a man got a gun and
pointed directly at it (penis). I couldn’t do it.
I took the whole day without urinating.
At the entrance of Republic House were Lt. Col. Ndahendekire
and Maj. Kamushana. They are all dead. They asked why we
had been arrested. We said we didn’t know.
Col. Ndahendekire directed that we be taken to Makindye.
That is how we survived.
If you went to Lubiri you would definitely be mercilessly
killed; cut into pieces with pangas and axes. People’s
work there was to butcher others.
We had seen them; they had got out with axes, ready to
finish us. By God’s grace we were directed to Makindye.
They put us in a vehicle. We were not handcuffed; the army
doesn’t have handcuffs.
We reached Makindye at around one o’clock.
[Brig. Hussein] Malera had just been appointed to man Makindye.
What I saw there was untold suffering. We were lined up,
made to lie down on the tarmac, facing the sun with eyes
The sun was just overhead, hitting us [directly] in the
eyes. Then the soldiers stood on our stomachs. Thank God,
the stomachs did not burst.
From there, we were taken to a ward called Singapore –
it was called so because Obote had been overthrown while
in Singapore [attending a Commonweath heads of government
People who went to Singapore never survived.
They would come at night, call so and so to get out. Those
who got out were summarily killed and were never seen again.
They were taken by APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers). Where
their bodies were dumped, only those who slaughtered them
Hacking of people was a normal thing in Makindye. I saw
brains on the floor. Those we found there told us so and
so had been tortured, hacked, especially by soldiers.
In Singapore, we were made to roll over several times. We
found bones, skulls, blood. We were actually rolling in
bones and streams of blood.
Beaten and kicked with iron bars, we bled till we could
After that torture, they took us to the kitchen to eat.
The same style of feeding; a pail of ugali and the leg of
They said, “You people, you have been chiefs, you
like eating meat, eat. This is your last supper.”
After eating, we were taken to another ward.
In that ward there was no torture; we lived like ordinary
prisoners, sleeping on the floor.
But I remember Janet, a woman from Lango.
The soldiers were smoking and they put cigarette ashes in
Bishop Yona, Wavamunno in [Gordon] Wavamunno was also arrested
and he found me there. Wavamunno and [Chris] Rwakasisi had
formed a company, Spear Tours, dealing in vehicle hiring.
It was that business that caused Wavamunno to be arrested.
His crime was operating a tours business against somebody.
I think he had a conflict with a certain Nubian businessman
Later, they brought in Joshua Wakholi who was a Minister
of Public Service, and Bishop Yona Okoth who was later Archbishop
of Church of Uganda.
Another time, they brought in the Minister of Works, Housing
and Transport, Shaban Nkutu.
Because he was a UPC chairman, they made him dance on the
floor. They said you must dance UPC style. Nkutu was later
released and he went back to Jinja but he was picked again
If you attended the re-burial of his bones, which I did,
you should have heard the story narrated by his son, this
man (Conrad Nkutu) in charge of Daily Monitor.
We left prison on June 15, 1971. By then hacking had reduced;
there was an outcry. Our lawyer, Godfrey Binaisa (later
president), intervened, but we never went to court.
One day, a lieutenant came and read the out our names;
Bananuka, Orach, Rurangaranga, Makaru, Wavamunno, and many
We thought either we were going to Luzira or to be slaughtered.
Fortunately as we came out, we saw our lawyers. We went
to the reception and changed into civilian clothes.
They said “do you want to go?” We said “yes”.
“Do you have anything in the store?” We said
“yes” but we had no time for them. We left barefoot,
leaving everything - shoes and what have you.
There was a car but the owner wasn’t comfortable
driving. Wavamunno drove us to the bus park. At the taxi
park, and we got buses, by 9:00 we were in Mbarara; then
I got a vehicle to Kitagata. My family [members] thought
it was the spirit not the human body when I knocked at the
door. My wife had visited me a week earlier. It was by God’s
kindness that we were released.
There was an invasion [by Ugandan exiles] from Tanzania
on September 17, 1972. They invaded Mbarara and Masaka.
Among the invaders was a young man called Museveni. He came
with them because he had lived in Tanzania. Many soldiers
were butchered like grass hoppers. A few managed to return
The hunt was on for UPC members and supporters. Some people
opposed to us, even in UPC itself, gave our names to the
army, saying these congressmen organised the invasion.
We were picked as a group, many people from Ankole, but
few are still alive - like myself, former Bushenyi LC-V
Chairman, Yowasi Makaru and Chris Rwakasisi.
I was picked from my home in Kitagata on September 19,
1972. We were having tea in the morning when four armed
They said the commanding officer of Simba Barracks [in Mbarara],
one [Ali] Fadul, wanted me. He is in the condemned section
in Luzira and was Local Government minister in the Amin
I asked “why?” They said “we have been
asked to call you.” They also had some bananas because
they were angry. I dressed up and we went in a white Peugeot
vehicle, UUL 111. They are no longer in use. It belonged
to a certain businessman in Bushenyi. The vehicle ran out
of fuel when we reached Itendero [on Mbarara-Bushenyi road].
They returned it to the owner and got a taxi that belonged
to an Indian.
Instead of seating me on one of the seats, they put me
in the boot of the car when everybody was seeing. However
big you were, you found a way of fitting there. If you did
not, they would make you fit there.
So when they threw me there, I folded myself.
As we travelled to the border of Mbarara and Bushenyi, there
is a river from Buhweju hills, Koga, a tributary that puts
water in river Rwizi.
When we got there, the driver told a friend, “Let’s
kill this man”.
He objected. “How can we kill a man we have been sent
to collect? What shall we say?
What if the commanding officer goes there and realises
we collected him, won’t we have problems?”
When we reached Mbarara stock farm, they got me out of the
boot. Officers Fadul and [Yusuf] Gowan were here.
I operated buses from Rukungiri to Kampala.
Gowan said, “We are told your buses brought invaders
I said: “Sir, I was in Rukungiri, when I got to Kabwohe,
I was told that Mbarara had been attacked. I went and parked
my vehicle at home.”
One man said, “Look, this man has been our speaker
in eishengyero (parliament); he is well known, don’t
take him to the barracks, you can kill him anywhere.”
Gowan said, “Before we kill this man, since his buses
are at home, let’s go there; may be we could get information.
We could even find some rebels there.”
I went with Gowan and other soldiers in a saloon car to
Kitagata. My father, wife, step-mother, wife, and all my
children were there. Gowan checked here and there.
Letter to Amin
They found a letter we had written to Amin.
A man called Yuda Katundu had disappeared; we wanted to
know his whereabouts.
They asked, “Why do you write to the president?”
I told them he is the president of Uganda. I am a citizen,
I have a right to write to the president asking him anything.”
Gowan told soldiers that the commanding officer had already
passed a sentence: “Take this man and kill him on
At 14 miles on the road from Ishaka, they asked where they
would kill me. One man said Nyakisharara Airstrip [in Mbarara].
But we went all the way to Mbarara - Kabale road, and then
they took me to river Rwizi; they wanted to cut me with
I asked, “Why do you want to kill me?” They
said “we have been given orders.” I asked them,
“Do you know me?”
“We don’t need to know, we have been given
orders, come here.”
Instead of being cut with knives, slaughtered like a goat,
I ran, knowing that they would shoot me; at least I die
by the bullet.
As I ran, they started shooting. They shot at me several
bullets (in the waist, arm, head and buttocks).
I rolled and hid in the river. I heard one soldier say,
“Hit him on the head.” The bullet first hit
water before it touched me. It was about 3:00 p.m. The leg,
arm could not move.
Fortunately, as God loves his sinners or his people, I got
out of the water later. The red aunts had eaten (stung)
me until they got tired.
A military man came and took me to one of the bushes near
river Rwizi; opposite Mbarara High School because I was
on the other side of Nyamitanga.
At 7:30p.m. soldiers picked me from the bush, put me in
a boot to Kitagata through Bushenyi. We reached home at
They did not take me to my house but to a hiding place near
my home. They told my wife that they had brought me. I had
been terribly beaten, shot, any time I would die.
As they were hiding me, other soldiers came asking whether
I had come back. They were told, “Look, the fellow
was taken yesterday by soldiers; you are the ones with him.”
They went away.
Later, on October 8, 1972, I was smuggled via Fort Portal,
Kilembe, Mityana to a hiding place in Kampala where kind
doctors at Mulago Hospital treated me. Bullet wounds had
almost decayed. I stayed there until December when I was
smuggled to Kenya through Malaba. I stayed in Kenyatta Hospital
up to June (1973).
I taught in Nairobi schools from 1973 till 1979 when I joined
the guerrilla war on November 19, 1979. I left my family
of eight children and their mother in Kenya to go to war,
determined to participate in the removal of Idi Amin.
I knew I was making a one-way journey. Either I would die
or survive. My late wife encouraged me: “Others must
die to pave way for others to live.” I was in the
western axis [during the war] with Museveni and others.
When our [UPC] government (1980-85) was overthrown on July
27, 1985, a number of us ran to Kenya again. I returned
to Uganda on March 23, 1986 when Museveni had just taken
Having been Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s
Office, I was an important person.
I wouldn’t just come in. I needed protection and
my presence to be known. So I reported to the President’s
Office at Parliament building where I met the President’s
Personal Assistant Sserwanga Lwanga (RIP). He referred me
to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
The IGP was from West Nile, I don’t remember his
name. I went to his office at the Parliament building. He
told me to go to CID offices then on Impala House. There
was a harsh Mutoro man. He said you are now under arrest.
“We are going to charge you; you killed people.”
I said “which people?”
This was March 25, 1986. I had gone with my son. They took
me to Central Police Station. On March 26, they took me
to Buganda Road Court where I was charged with conspiracy
to murder some people in my home village in Kitagata and
remanded me to Luzira.
They alleged about four or five people. They gave me their
names. I knew them. They had died under unknown circumstances
during our second UPC government (1980-1985).
A chief who was collecting taxes had been murdered in broad
daylight, cut into pieces by people who ran away. Police
later rounded them up. I attended his burial near my home
and I addressed mourners. I appealed to them to be calm.
The hand of government would get the culprits, I said.
The DC (District Commissioner), [local] chief and police
After the burial, I left for Kampala. Two days later, I
think the clansmen of the murdered chief went and killed
the suspects. I read it in Munansi newspaper.
I was arrested because I had said the hand of government
would get the culprits. It was said that I murdered them.
I stayed in Luzira for five good years. I overstayed in
Luzira under the pretext that government had no money to
Police had collected evidence from 22 witnesses. I said
to expedite my trial, if government has no money, take the
court to Kitagata so that we are tried. People there will
even come on foot. I was transferred to Kakyeka prison in
Mbarara and tried by the High Court in Mbarara.
The transfer was about two or three times. They would bring
you, stay one month in Kakyeka, back to Luzira, and then
In Mbarara, sometimes the judge did not turn up for three
months, so we would be transferred to Luzira. Then in Luzira,
they would push you back to Kakyeka.
The last time we came [to Kakyeka] was I think December
19, 1990. A Ghanaian justice heard the case. I have forgotten
In his one-page judgement on January 23, 1991, he found
no case, not even a grain of implication in the murder by
Edward Rurangaranga and his [five] co-accused. No evidence
had been adduced by the 22 witnesses.
He (the judge) acquitted us. I can’t tell you how
it felt and you understand the feelings. First of all, when
the man said “I find you with no case”, we got
paralysed in the dock until the court clerk told us, “People,
you are free to go.”
Tears of joy
My wife had anticipated it from the hearing of case. The
assessors had found no case. She had come with a vehicle.
She cried. My daughter and everybody else cried out of happiness.
I stopped them because we wanted to go home.
But there was no home [to go to]; it had been destroyed
by hooligans. I don’t know who they were and I have
not bothered to find out. We stayed in Mbarara until September
2001 when I rebuilt it.
When I was released, there was a case for me to [seek compensation].
I had been arrested for nothing. But I never sought compensation.
You see, I accepted Jesus as my saviour and lord. So I
said, God will reward those who maliciously accused me of
I only sympathised with people who falsely accused me, but
I forgave them. I harbour no hatred or malice. I had 400
cows; they were all eaten [by hooligans]; my 17 vehicles
were all vandalised, house destroyed. This hotel (Hot Springs
Hotel Ishaka where the interview was held) was thoroughly
looted by people who I know but I forgave them.
A year after prison in 1992, I was elected to Bushenyi
district council unopposed. People of Kitagata wanted to
show the world that I had been falsely arrested.
Luzira as home
When you stay in Luzira for six months, you get assimilated
to prison life. In fact, prison becomes a home. Luzira became
I was the head of the laity and I used to lead them in prayers.
I was also a patron of a group of actors (Katemba), and
leader of football team. My team - Dakar - used to defeat
But prison is bad.
First of all, prisons are meant to be rehabilitative for
people to convert, change attitude, heart and behaviour,
but that is not the case. A number of people come out of
prison more damaged than they had been.
Young people are lured into homosexuality by the senior
prisoners who have stayed in prison for long. Homosexuality
is high. This has increased the spread of HIV/AIDS in prison,
leading to many deaths. Others die because of poor health,
fever and many things. What is plenty in prison are lice.
(Asked whether he participated in homosexuality, Rurangaranga
said) I told you I am a Christian, why do you ask me if
I was part of homosexuality? I am telling you what I saw,
that doesn’t mean that I was a participant. I have
never smoked, not even taken alcohol in my life.
I know what you reporters want (a head line): “Rurangaranga
was a homosexuality person.” Secondly, there is smoking
of bangi (marijuana). Punishments can’t change a bad
person into good person. Seeing people tortured, in fact,
So prison is not rehabilitative, unless people accept Jesus
as their personal lord and saviour. That is how they can
come out of prison changed as I am.
I left prison a strong believer in God than ever before.
I am a member of the synod, chairman of the laity in Ishaka
But imprisonment destroys homes. A number of people find
their families, wives taken.
There is congestion. Luzira was meant to cater for 600
prisoners, but you find about 3,000 prisoners! One time
I went to a ward with 200 in mates sharing a single toilet
seat! The place for washing was inside!
Posho would be served. Fortunately they allowed us get
food from outside. I catered for my self, buying my food
throughout the time I was in Luzira. I would even buy charcoal
for cooking my food. My wife brought the supplies, but you
can imagine five years, feeding yourself in prison.
(Commenting on his colleague, former minister Chris Rwakasisi
who is in Luzira on death row)
We appealed to President Museveni to exercise the prerogative
of mercy to pardon Rwakasisi as he did to [former Amin governor
Abdul] Nassur. We continue to pray to God to soften Museveni’s
heart to forgive Rwakasisi because we think Rwakasisi is
a victim of circumstances.
He did not take part in the alleged murder of the five
or six people when he minister in charge of security.
Secondly, I know that many people who have been sentenced
to death have met their death innocently.
I was falsely arrested by the government in power, so I
can’t compare the political environment then and now
because there are no two governments; it’s one.
The other arrests were by primitive people; you can’t
compare Amin’s government with this one. If Amin did
wrong things because of his [low] intelligence, this government
of learned, university graduates who have sought votes should
behave differently and decently.