NEW SERIES: MY PRISON LIFE
 
 
March 15, 2007
Arrested, tortured, dismissed, for fighting ghost soldiers
SGT. GITTA MUSOKE-RA 54,262 has been in and out of prison over the last decade. He was abducted and forced to join NRA guerillas as a child, fought Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit Movement, alongside RPA in Rwanda, and later in DR Congo.
He was UPDF's Pay Clerk, a position that enabled him to discover and make reports on the phenomenon of ghost soldiers in the army. But this was to be the beginning of his trials and tribulations in the army.
In 'My Prison Life' this week, Sgt. Gitta Musoke tells MICHAEL MUBANGIZI about his arrest in Congo, Mbale, at CMI, in Bombo, at Luzira and even at Police chief Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura's home in Makindye-Lukuli.

I am called Sergeant Gitta Musoke, RA 54,262, born in Migadde, Matugga, Wakiso district in 1969. I studied at Migadde Primary and Secondary School up to Senior One when I was abducted and joined the army on December 19, 1983.

Sgt. Gitta displays the
gap in his teeth

We were six children coming from school at around 5:00p.m. when we met about seven armed soldiers dressed in Obote government army uniform. Later, we found out that they were Museveni’s [NRA] rebels.

I was 14, my other colleagues were between 12 and 15 years. They told us in Luganda that they were taking us to the bush, that we were in a danger zone and would be killed if we remained at home. We tried to resist but they forced and promised us many things - free education, promotion after the war, and to be big people in government. They took us to the bush in Gombe where we found about 400 armed fighters [aged] between 18 and 19 years.

We thought they were going to kill us until the following day when their bosses told us that they were going to train us into a rebel group.
“You are going to be commandos, president Museveni’s fighters; after the war you will go to school,” they told us.

We trained for two months with people from Bukalasa, Bamunanika and Bulemezi. They often took us at night to get food - cassava, potatoes, cows…from civilian shambas in areas people had vacated.
Fred Mwesigye and Matayo Kyaligonza were in charge of our Abdul Nasser camp, later named seventh battalion, but our instructor was one Corporal Kasule.

There was no torture except when we were getting the youth wingers of UPC - Bipingamizi. When they refused to join us, they would tie them kandoya and kill them with hoes. Some commanders used them as lectures to train us how to kill using hoes.

Even during the two-month training, they often took us [for operations] to capture guns in Kyadondo, Mpigi, Mukono, Bulemezi, Matuga and Buwambo areas.

[During the NRA assault on Kampala], our unit captured Makindye barracks, and I was part of them. After the 1986 take-over, a unit under Patrick Lumumba was created from our battalion. We continued northwards and captured Koboko, Lira, Gulu, and fought Alice Lakwena’s rebels up to Magamaga [Jinja] from where she fled to Kenya.

Then we fought Joseph Kony’s LRA until 1993 when they sent us to [fight in the] Rwanda war. At the end of 1994, President Museveni met us at Ruhengeri on the Rwanda-Uganda border; we asked him to bring us home and take another unit which he did.

Back home I worked in various operations until June 1997 when the army sent me for a three-month training in Auditing, Accounts, Clerical and Intelligence at the School of Infantry in Jinja, Gaddafi Barracks.
The aim of the course was to enable us fight fraud, corruption, ghost soldiers in the army.

My first deployment was at the Directorate of Finance in Mbuya as an auditor. My work involved paying army officers. That is where I first discovered that many officials were benefiting from army strength. Then I was shifted to Bombo, and later to 3 Division in Mbale.

In December 1999, under Capt. David Kibirango, intelligence officers and some staff from the auditing section at the division made verification exercises to find out [the physical presence of soldiers on the payroll].

People would come, check their names on the computer, print out and sign for their payments. All officers came but 96 of 1,035 never appeared to collect their money. When we asked about the remaining names, some officials of the division told us that it is not our work. The then Division Administrator, Silver Kayemba (now brigadier), told us to make accountability indicating that all the money was collected.

The captain (Kibirango) left me alone; I think he was given money. Through intelligence officers at the division, I sent a list of people who never collected their salaries to Bombo and they were deleted [from the register].

When Kayemba knew that I had reported the issue, he ordered the SIB - Special Investigation Branch - staff to arrest me in December 1999.

The arrest
I was in my office in Mbale at around 9:00a.m.when two SIB officials dressed in military uniform came, saying they had an order from Silver Kayemba to arrest me.

They told me to remove my shoes and took me to a cell in Mbale barracks where they beat me, poured water on me and removed my clothes, leaving me in under-wear. That night I slept on cement; we ate one meal – posho and beans - a day.

During the day, other inmates were taken to slash outside, but I stayed in the room 24 hours on the orders of some officials. I was never taken to court; it was illegal detention.

Some officials wanted me released in March 2000 but Kayemba ordered me to be taken to Rwakaka on the Kenya-Uganda border.
A military lorry took me there and I was detained here from March to May 2000. That was the time of the referendum on political systems.
“Your fellow Muganda has ordered me to arrest you in this place,” said the officer who took me there. He also asked me if I had a grudge with Kayemba who had earlier stopped my salary.

I was the only person here. There was nothing to sleep on but soldiers brought me food - posho and beans. My wife and relatives did not know anything about my whereabouts, but I was not tortured.

Back to Mbale
Officers in our unit were called to Mbale army barracks to beef up security for President Museveni who was staying at Mbale State Lodge [during a visit]. I went with them to Mbale where I told the intelligence officers everything I had gone through.

They promised that no one would arrest me again. Kayemba was still in Mbale but I think he did not know I was there. I went back to the house where I used to stay, collected my papers, documents concerning ghost soldiers, their names, and took them to officials in the Finance Department at Bombo who gave it to [then UPDF Director of Records] Maj. Sabiti Mutengesa.

I told them I was not going back to Mbale for fear of mistreatment. They deployed me to DR Congo in August 2000 as pay clerk for Operation Safe Haven. Capt. Dan Byakutaga was the overall pay-master. I never interacted with him but we were in the same finance department. Byakutaga stayed in Kisangani, I stayed in Beni - Eastern Congo.

Maj. [George] Bukenya controlled the unit where I worked. The zonal pay master gave me the money to pay soldiers and I continued discovering what I had discovered in Mbale.

Soldiers also told me “so and so [on the payroll] did not come to Congo, they are in Uganda or they left the army!”
After payments, the in-charge would call me, demanding the uncollected money, saying they are to keep it for them. That they knew where these [absentees] were serving! They wanted me to indicate in my records that there was no balance. Some pay masters collaborated with such officials. But only 500 of the 730 soldiers collected the money.

The ghost soldiers issue affected the welfare of junior soldiers and the [general] performance of our troops. I sent a message to the Director of Records, Mutengesa, to delete those names, which he did. It was during the 2001 presidential elections and their (ghost) February 2001 salaries did not come. The benefiting officers blamed me for telling Mutengesa.

I promised to write a salary claim for the ‘people’ deleted from the list if they showed them to me. That is when Maj. Bukenya got his pistol, boxed me and hit me with a bayonet: I have a scar on my left thigh.
He also and knocked my teeth out, as you can see (shows this writer a gap of two teeth that he says the major broke).

Then they dumped me in an underground cell where they kept about 20 Mai Mai rebels. “You Ugandans have come to arrest us for nothing. This is our country, you have come here to plunder our minerals-diamond, timber and gold. There are no rebels to fight here,” said some of the rebels with whom I was detained.

We were given posho and beans. We spent time talking. In the evening they would take us to a river to bathe. I was only given uniform when we were going to bathe, otherwise I wore just under wear.

Leaving Congo
I stayed there until one of the guards helped me escape back to Uganda at night when the sector commanders were asleep.
In Uganda, I compiled a report of how I had been tortured, on ghost soldiers, and took it to CMI. They told me to report there daily as they investigate the matter.

Nothing was done after a month. Officers I was reporting to were not helpful. I decided to tell the President. Through the then President’s Secretary, Pius Mujuzi (now Kyotera County MP), the President agreed to meet me on May 9, 2001.

A PPU official Capt. Moses Rwakitarate took me to Kale Kayihura’s office at Okello House. Kayihura was then [a colonel and] President Museveni’s Military Assistant, Chief Political Commissar, and head of the Special Revenue Protection Service (SRPS).

Kayihura’s prison
Kayihura told me, “Are you Gitta Musoke? I am the right person to take you to the President, but now I am going to take you to my home”.

He drove me to his home at Lukuli-Makindye. He asked me, “Do you have any report about ghost soldiers you want to give the President?

I told him, “No, but I have all the data in my head.” He put me in his boy’s quarters, brought me papers, a pen and told me to write a report. He gave me a mattress, blanket, Colgate and soap.

When I gave him the report, he told me to wait as he waited for an appointment with the President. He also told his home guards to keep me inside his fence. My family did not know where I was but the guards gave me food - posho and beans. After five months there, I pressured him to take me to the President.

Kayihura instead handed me over to his ADC, Lt. Emma Muhoozi, who on December 7, 2001 took me to meet then Army Commander, Brig. James Kazini at Bombo. Kazini told me they were going to deploy me.
I said “No sir; I want to meet the President”.

He said, “No, I have seen your reports, you have a lot of information, we are going to deploy you to continue with your research on corruption.”

Kazini gave me an office in ‘White House’ [at Bombo] where he and top executives like [then Chief of Staff] Brig. Lakara Nakibus and Kale Kayihura sat.

I started work as a researcher and investigator on corruption from January to March 2002. That is when I discovered that there were many civilians with army numbers! I compiled all these but there was no action taken. They just warned them to change their behaviour. That is when I compiled a report to the President and passed through the Secretary to the First Lady, Peninah Kembabazi.

When the President got it, he called Noble Mayombo, Kale Kayihura, James Kazini and the late Zimula Mugwanya, and blamed them.
“What are you doing? How can a junior officer send me a report concerning corruption, thieves...?” He again told Kayihura that he wanted me.

On May 28, 2002, I saw a person I knew as Gregory Katusiime, an operative, in a parked Corona car, while I was on a boda boda going home in Kasangati.

As I passed the car, I heard an echo of a pistol. I jumped off the boda boda and ran. They started shooting at me, so I lay down. They arrested me, tied me with ropes and dumped me inside the car’s boot. I later found myself inside CMI headquarters.

CMI torture
They tortured me, blaming me for sending the report to the President. They said they were going to kill me. They squeezed and broke my finger using magalo (pliers), saying they had information that I was a Kizza Besigye and PRA collaborator. They wanted me to admit that.
Later at night, they drove me to Kololo Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT) offices where I spent two days.

On the third day, at around 9:00p.m, they wrapped a rag around my face, tied me with ropes and took me to Mbuya Army Barracks.
When they removed the rag, the ropes had cut through my arm (shows scar).

There were some 90 people inside but I was put in a room alone. I stayed there for four months without going out. I slept on bare cement. For meals, they just pushed posho and beans into the room. There were however lights at night.

In October 2002, they mixed me with other inmates who nominated me to be their leader-katikkiro. My work was receiving [new] inmates, getting to know their cases, and obtaining money from them to buy fuel in case power went off, brooms, soap, etc. Some of the people brought in had been tied with ropes and tortured with flat irons, etc.
Still, I was not taken to court.

Leaving CMI
I left the cell in April 2004. I was surprised to see the vehicle of Lt. Col. Proscovia Nalweyiso. She told me there was a directive from higher authorities to take me to the David Tinyefuza committee probing ghost soldiers at Bombo.

I entered a room and faced Gen. Tinyefuza, and other members like Lt. Col. Kyamulesire who headed the Legal section. I told them the whole story as I have told you.

After my testimony, Tinyefuza asked the CMI officials, “Why did you arrest that boy without bringing him to court?”
A CMI official stood up and accused me of being a collaborator for Besigye, China Kaitesi, Beti Kamya, Aggrey Awori and Sam Njuba.
Tinyefuza asked me if I knew the allegations.

I told him those were false allegations. I knew Besigye was a UPDF officer, the rest I was just hearing on radio. Tinyefuza dismissed the charges as false and ordered Nalweyiso to take me to my family.

My wife had shifted to Namasuba-Massajja. Nalweyiso dropped me there and told me not to move anywhere as they were working on my case. But nothing was done.

On August 10, 2004, I met Florence Bisanga, one of the President’s secretaries, to make an appointment with President Museveni to raise my complaint.

On August 17, 2004, officials from the President’s Office collected me from my home and took me to the fourth floor at Parliament to see the President.

I stayed there till later in the night when they drove me to State House where I met President Museveni. We discussed for three hours during which I told him about ghost soldiers [and all that I had gone through].
He called Gen. Aronda and blamed him for mistreating junior officers.

He also ordered him to pay all my missed salaries and reinstate me in the army, as well as arrest people who tortured me. He also telephoned then PGB Commander, Col. Leopold Kyanda, and ordered him to allocate me a house at Kololo Summit View, and to facilitate me with food rations from PGB stores.

The President also gave me Shs 1m and told [Amelia] Kyambadde that he would want to see me again. They drove me back home.
The next morning, they collected me and took me to Parliament and handed me over to one Lt. Kanyamunye who was in charge of security under President’s Office.

He drove me to Kololo, to the house the President had promised me. It was one-room uni-port. I stayed there alone. I didn’t move with my family. I was given utensils, basins, bed sheets, jerry cans, etc. I stayed there from August 18, 2004 up to July 13, 2005 the day Kampala lawyer Robinah Kiyingi was killed.

Meeting Aronda
I had earlier met Aronda at his Kololo office and asked him about the money the President had said should be given to me. He intimidated me saying, “You boy, I am going to chase you from the army. I can’t work with a person who collaborates with the President”.

I told him, “I am in my [last years] in the army, if you want to chase me; give me my retirement package.” He rang James Mugira of the Armoured Brigade; he was then Director of Military Intelligence.
He said he was sending him one person to be arrested. I said, “Afande Aronda, why do you want me to be in jail all the time?” He ordered me out of his office and I walked to my home in Kololo.

After a few days, I went to Bombo to cross-check with the Finance Department about my pay. They told me they were going to pay the whole army. As I was there, somebody called out my name,
“You Gitta, you are a deserter, you are on the PRA list, we are going to arrest you.”

He ordered men to arrest me; they removed my shoes and put me in a cell. I spent there one month. Then they took me to the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC) at Bombo where they accused me of deserting the army and sentenced me to two years’ imprisonment in Luzira and later dismissed me with disgrace.

I wasn’t a deserter, I was just complaining about my money. How can a deserter get food, house from PGB?

In Luzira
They handcuffed me and took me to Luzira Murchison Bay on August 17, 2005. I found there other prisoners. Life wasn’t easy but the OC of the prison had an idea about my case. He ordered that I be appointed a leader, so I became katikkiro again.

I was not taken to court because I was already “a convict”. My wife always visited me on visiting days. I served my sentence until November 23, 2006. My wife came and collected me.

I am still struggling to get my money and make the President aware and may be retire me from the army officially. I have been in the army since 1983 but now I am neither a veteran nor a civilian. I only have an army number. I don’t have a dismissal letter. Some officers in the army have advised me to sue the government but I don’t have money.

I only want the money the President promised me. I want Shs 11 million, including my pension and gratuity and compensation.
I was a child soldier but I have gained nothing from this army. I haven’t built a house, my children are not going to school, my first born is 17 years. I am just a beggar. I move on foot. It’s friends who know my situation that come to my help.

My first wife with whom I had five children was taken by other men when I was in prison. Now I have one kid with another one.
I don’t want to meet any army officer because they are all the same. I still remember what Aronda told me the last time I met him. He asked Mugira to arrest me and vowed to chase me from the army, which has all happened.

I don’t want to go back to the army, it has spoilt our future. We get little money. We have gained nothing, yet some people joined recently and got rich overnight.

mcmubs@ugandaobserver.com