NEW SERIES: MY PRISON LIFE
 
 
June 15, 2007
We used to watch films in Luzira

I am Dr. George Herman Jjuuko KKOLOKOLO. I was born in 1943 at Villa-Maria in Masaka and I was baptized a Catholic at Narozari (Masaka), my mother’s home place. My father had worked as a Medical Assistant before being appointed chief in Buganda and by the time I was born he was a Ggombolola chief in Kkooki and he retired as a Deputy Ssaza chief.

I studied at St. John’s Junior School Kisubi, Ggoli Full Primary School, Savio School, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Makerere University where I was awarded a BA (Hons), and the University of Paris (St. Denis and Sorbonne) where I received a Master’s and a PhD in French Language/Literature/Education and I am now an educator/examiner/researcher in the Academy of Versailles (Paris).
Before going to Makerere, I was detained for 17 months under the Emergency Regulations Act. So, my entry into university was in the rear for two academic years !

At CPS
I was arrested on Sunday, April 30, 1967, with my mother at home in Mutundwe where I had come for a weekend as I was teaching in a mission school at Kiziba Parish in Wakiso, after my HSC.
We were accused of special connections with my younger brother, the late Lt. Andrew Kyeyune who, on completing Senior IV at St Leo’s College Kyegobe, had joined the army and was then living in Nairobi as a refugee. He was a young, brilliant soldier admired by Brigadier S. Opolot who was to become his inspiration in many things, including events leading to the Battle of Mengo Hill in which Kyeyune participated very actively!

Dr. George Herman Jjuuko Kkolokolo

Immediately after our arrest, we were driven to the CPS where we spent 14 terrible days! For the first night, I had to share a cell with a detainee accused of high treason, a Sikh (Singasinga) accused of fighting in a night club, and four kondos (thieves) arrested in Ssekanyonyi (Wakiso).We had two blankets full of lice and bedbugs and no bed, no mattress! Our only unique meal a day was a chapati and beans served at 6p.m. 

It was on the occasion of our first meal that evening that I was surprised to see three leading personalities also lining up for their chapati: Dr. Abiasali Kibaya, the first Ugandan Medical Superintendent of Mulago Hospital, accused of conspiring to overthrow Obote; Hon. Bazilio Lukyamuzi MP (Masaka), arrested in Kenya and accused of funding pro-Kabaka Mutesa groups in Nairobi; and Hon. Semu Ssemakula (Oweekitalo), an outspoken Member of the Buganda Lukiiko, arrested in his hiding in Teso and accused of dangerous connections with Sir Edward  Muteesa!

I took away my plate.I had no appetite! It was the kondo who ate my share !
Needless to say that a night at CPS is a night in hell itself! The Sikh almost spent the whole night yelling from time to time, as he scratched his head and beard!

It was only the kondos who could sleep! However, the Sikh was set free the following day which was Labour Day, a public holiday. The kondos were later taken to court and released, as they had a good lawyer from Ben Kiwanuka & Co. Advocates, a firm which also successfully defended many detainees and helped me a lot after my release.

At C I D headquarters
As for me, I was hand-cuffed and driven to the CID Headquarters at Parliament buildings for interrogation. The Goan officer who interviewed me decided to release me but when he contacted his immediate superior he was advised to refer me to a certain Mr. Farooqui, a terrible officer of Zanzibari origin who, on seeing me, exclaimed ‘Oh ! Oh! Glad to see you my brother Kyeyune!’

When he was told that I wasn’t Kyeyune but his brother, he immediately ordered the accompanying constable to fill a detention form for me stating in a Nota Bene that I was Kyeyune’s brother!
Then I was led to the office of the CID boss, Mr. Hassan, an officer of Egyptian origin, who was busy interrogating Hon. Lukyamuzi. Another CID officer, Mr. Wawuyo, a deadly Mugishu officer, dropped in for something and both were very happy to see me arrested! They frowned at Lukyamuzi’s remark that as a student I wasn’t fit for detention! Then I was driven back to CPS to continue my calvary!

To Luzira
Some 12 days later, early in the morning, a group  of armed soldiers from the Special Force entered our section accompanied by the O/C who assembled us and read the names of detainees to be transferred to Luzira Upper Prison: Kkolokolo, Dr. Kibaya, Lukyamuzi, Lt. George Mpiira, a Munyankole army officer arrested in Nairobi and accused of connections with Sir Edward Mutesa, Opolot and Kyeyune’s group, the list also included my mother who was to spend three months at the Women’s Section, not far from Upper Prison.

We were put on an open Land Rover and driven first to the CID Headquarters to get our detention charges, then off to Luzira.We were immediately introduced to the O/C who happened to be Assistant Commissioner Mwebesa, a sharp, pragmatic, principled officer whom I had already known at St. Mary’s College where he did his HSC when I was in S1 and S2. He was indeed surprised to see me in the group!

Looking at his British assistant and other colleagues, he said a few words about me, then asked me some questions about the college and the Brothers! I observed the whole group felt comforted! Then a senior clerical officer recorded our full particulars in the prison register and gave us sheets of paper to write a will giving, in addition, the full particulars of the person to contact in the event of death in detention!
We were then given the official khaki uniforms in exchange with our ordinary clothes and all other belongings on us which were taken to the official store for custody. They also gave each of us a number of other items: a pair of blankets, toilet paper rolls, a toothbrush, powder, colgate, and a mug.

Then the O/C ordered a nice Musamia askari to take us to a dormitory in the prison’s central division. This was a nice room capable of accommodating a dozen inmates.When we reached there, we were handed to an askari on guard in that section. He was a somewhat stiff warder. Before he opened the door, he ordered us in Swahili ‘Mketi chini!’, meaning ‘Squat!’ Then, looking at both Dr. Kibaya and Hon. Lukyamuzi, he opened the room, saying in broken Swahili ‘Mtoke ndani, hapa pana yiko watu wakubwa!’, meaning: ‘Enter! Here, we don’t give a damn about important personalities!’

Next to us was a group of 18 individual cells all occupied by detainees accused of high treason against the government! Only three of them had been sentenced; the others, whose profiles ranged from a bicycle mechanic from Kiboga to a London University
graduate in civil engineering, were acquitted and placed into detention for two years!

So we got on to business. The whole group appreciated my presence in their midst because we were in general well handled due to my ancient acquaintance with the O/C!

I must say that compared to the brutal treatment at CPS or Hotel Brutus, as it was then known in witticism, Luzira Upper Prison was a rehabilitation in body, mind and soul! Here, we would bathe, wash, have three meals a day and enjoy a reasonable sleep! And twice a day we were allowed to walk in our small courtyard, an opportune moment to make our toilet. Our big problem was just getting used to posho!
More detainees

Sometime later, a number of other detainees were added to our group.They included Oweekitiibwa Latimer Mpagi, ex-Minister of Finance (Omuwanika) in Mengo, reportedly caught with a letter from Sir Edward Mutesa, George Kalanzi, Chief Administrator of Mengo Municipality, accused of dangerous connections with Sir Edward Mutesa, and four young men ; one a Musoga, two Banyoro, and a son of Dr. E. Lumu (an Obote Minister already in detention).

All were accused of spreading malicious propaganda against the regime. It was Dr. Lumu’s son who informed us about the arrest of the Kyeyunes whom he had left at CPS. These new inmates gave us a lot of news and brought in a new warmth.

Things improve
Bit by bit, due to stiff parliamentary action by heroic Opposition DP MPs, notably Alexander Latim (Acholi) and Boniface Byanyima (Ankole), things began to improve. We could now stay outside for four hours, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, beds were introduced, leading personalities among detainees were put on a special diet, etc…It was at this venerable period that the prison chaplains were officially allowed to come and pray in our dormitories.


In our wing we were all moved to full emotion when one afternoon we saw Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalyabe, a very exemplary priest popularly loved and respected by all in Luzira, entering our place while holding a small crucifix in his right hand. He recited some prayers, gave us nice words of comfort and finally blessed us and moved away to other dormitories, leaving the rest of us petrified and deeply grateful!
Fr. Kalyabe left an indellible mark on all detainees whom he never abandoned on any single occasion!

The tribunal
One day, for the first time since our detention, our group was taken to the tribunal. This was a kind of court empowered to hear detainees on CID accusations against them and also to deliberate on them by way of recommendation to the Minister of Internal Affairs. It sat regularly in the premises of Luzira Prisons and each detainee would be summoned to it once every three months.You could be represented by a lawyer. Its chairman was Justice Fuad, a British of Turkish origin who later became Chief Justice under Amin. He had three assessors to assist him.

Before entering the tribunal, detective Farooqui put me aside and asked me once again whether I was really the brother of Kyeyune! In the tribunal, I pleaded against the laughable charges lavelled against me and the chairman together with the assessors were already aware of the fact that the CID officer who interviewed me and who took my statement had found me innocent and had decided to release me but it was Farooqui and his group who were now [pursuing] me!

At the end of the hearing, I was surprised to see a CID chap stand up to tell the judge that the police was still inquiring into those charges against me! At that moment I knew that my detention would take very long and my chances of entering university were now jeopardised!
I was right since I was to be freed 16 months later, after my brother’s death in Nairobi!

Dozens released
Following the recommendations made by this tribunal, dozens of detainees were released, among them my mother who had been there for three months. Others included many Ssaza and Ggombolola chiefs, in addition to soldiers of the Kabaka’s bodyguard.

All of these had been in detention for 15 months having been arrested in connection with the Battle of Mengo Hill. Only three Ssaza chiefs remained in detention; Pokino Mukwenda and Ssekiboobo. All three had been arrested slightly before the Battle of Mengo Hill and accused of preparing an insurrection to back the Kabaka’s battle.

Many of the released chiefs wept on seeing that they were leaving behind Prince A.D. Ssimbwa, the Kabaka’s brother, who spent more than two years in detention! All detainees were madly loyal to Prince Ssimbwa who iconized the presence of their Kabaka  amongst them!
Becoming co-prefect

Following this mass release, arrangements were made to group the rest of us in a much bigger dormitory.CID had wanted me to be transferred to a single cell, but O/C Mwebesa stood firm in my favour and I was put in the dormitory. I’m still grateful to Mwebesa for this gesture, it facilitated things for me. While in this dormitory, I was elected joint prefect for a year, sharing this responsibility with a certain Kassan Mulindwa, an ex-serviceman arrested and charged with planning military action with Sir Edward Mutesa!

It was at this stage that we were allowed to receive visitors once a week, to play football, to undergo an obligatory medical check-up once a month, to attend religious services on Sundays (the Muslims on Fridays), and eventually to watch a film every Wednesday.
As prefect, I arranged the room for the film and presented regularly our demands to the O/C as well as interpret for our colleagues who didn’t know English.

We were allowed to read boks from the prison library and I deepened my French. Newspapers and press articles were strictly forbidden although they could come in with the complicity of askaris, but we had to destroy them immediately after reading for fear of the dreaded search teams.

My role as prefect taught me many excellent lessons  and enlarged my sense of initiative.When they allowed us to smoke, I was one of those who invented and encouraged barter trade! One could arrange through the kitchen services an exchange of a packet of cigarettes for an evening cup of tea for four days! We also initiated a secret way of letting in money from relatives.This would enable one to live more comfortably.

Medical check-up
This took place once every month inside the prison. The prison medical doctor was a Korean who spoke poor English but good French and Russian! He knew his job well but he was less experienced than a person like Dr. Kibaya. To any detainees, this Korean was an
indispensable asset because he was the only person officially authorised to grant a special diet!

On finding out that you lacked a vitamin, for example, he would just put you on the list for that diet where you could regularly be served with meat, milk, rice, some greens, etc. The best way to access the good diet was through flatterring him! This method fetched us many rewards. Dr. Kibaya would also plead for many colleagues and the Korean would respond positively using his famous phrase, ‘Yes, that’s right according of this one!’

In case of a very serious health problem, the doctor would recommend a detainee to the sick-bay or to Mulago Hospital. The time I was there, only Hon. Amos K. Ssempa, ex-Minister of Finance both at Mengo and in the Central Government, was recommended there for an operation, and he personally chose Prof. S.Kyalwazi who carried it out successfully.

The VIPs
Among the detainees there was a number of very prominent personalities.There was the five legendary detainee ministers; Mathias Ngobi, George Magezi, Emmanuel Lumu, Grace Ibingira, and Balaki Kirya, all accused of conspiracy against Obote. They stayed in
Luzira for five solid years.

There was Brigadier Shaban Opolot, accused of collaborating with Sir Edward Mutesa to overthrow Obote. These six individuals were the detainees whom Obote feared most. The five ministers lived in strongly guarded cells in an area whose small courtyard had a very strong barbed wire fence atop of a solid high wall surrounding it! And it wasn’t very far from the section of the condemned.

The courtyard was also the place officially reserved for the administration of kiboko (caning) to the criminals.
A British prisons officer told us that the area was thus strongly fortified in order to eventually receive persons like Ben Kiwanuka, Paul Ssemogerere, Cuthbert Obwangor, W.W.K. Nadiope, Abubaker Mayanja, etc… And this is what really happened!

These persons together with Prince Ssimbwa, Amos Ssempa, Dr. Kibaya, Lawyer Mpungu and Major Katabalwa were permanently put on a special European diet since they had been in important positions or had serious connections! We could only get in touch with the five ministers during Sunday church service or on Wednesdays for the cinema.

Prayers
Every detainee invested himself in prayers. There were the Sunday church service prayers (or Friday prayers for the Muslims) with the chaplains. Then the group prayers on a daily basis.

Catholic prayers were conducted by an ex-seminarian and Lukiiko Member, Pio Kizza, who was also the official arbitrator in any one of our conflicts. He was accused of trying to incite a pro-Kabaka rebellion.
The rosary was conducted by Buddu Ssaza Chief, Michael Matovu.
For the Anglicans, there was Dr. Kibaya and the elderly Rev. Kyobe, a Lukiiko member accused of secretly communicating extensive pro-Mutesa propaganda during church services.

The Muslims had Kassan Mulindwa and Mulongooti. It wasn’t unusual to see an inmate profoundly absorbed in spiritual recollection. People’s prayers did great wonders for Uganda.

By the time I was there, a small Protestant prayer group popularly known as Biafra Group had been formed under the auspices of one Musa Mukiibi, editor of Ddoboozi newspaper, arrested for having written an article judged insolent towards Obote. The group insisted on mentioning the name of Sir Edward Mutesa in prayers and on inserting it in songs, in spite of the presence of askaris on guard.

Sports and other activities
In that place where detainees didn’t work, sports was a necessity. Football was the major sport and Prince Ssimbwa, a former national player, would show his prowess in the game watched even by officers and askaris.

Other games included chess, taught to many by Dr. Kibaya, Ludo, the board-game (mweso) in which the official executioner (hangman), an officer of Nubian origin, would at times take part, regularly uttering his famous expression whenever things went well with him, ‘Ekyo kituufu!’meaning ‘That’s okey!’

 

We would also read books, the Bible, the Koran. Others would do personal studies in Swahili and other subjects. I improved on my French, Swahili and notions in Latin thanks to the ex-Seminarians we had. Many would consult the professionals we had in the group, notably the doctor and lawyer Mpungu, an advocate who helped many avoid trial in court. One detainee who refused to heed to his counsel fell prey to eight months’ imprisonment. He was removed from the group and taken to the criminal section where he served in the prison carpentery.

Conversations
Conversation was mainly centred on politics, economics, religion, culture and education, etc. Many detainees would ask me questions about my Alma Mater, and the Brothers.

I found that St. Mary’s College Kisubi was very much loved by all.
About politics, there was a lot of interest in the Biafran War in Nigeria and almost all detainees were for Biafra. Then there was that eternal talk about the Kabaka since many were his chiefs and others his personal friends or former schoolmates at King’s College Buddo.
About national politics, very many appreciated the action of DP MPs in favour of detainees. This, coupled with the fact that most of the lawyers defending the detainees were from Ben Kiwanuka & Co. Advocates, rehabilitated Benedicto Kiwanuka and the DP among many diehard Kabaka Yekka inmates.

Rumours
A rumour was an appetizer to [accompany] a plate of posho; it was a medicine, a relaxer and a sedative. Many detainees could bear prison conditions thanks to rumours.

The best rumours were those about a possible release from detention, about anything negative towards the UPC, and about the Kabaka’s possible return. Visitors, askaris, prisoners and ordinary prison personnel were always the source of these rumours. An askari could announce news about an imminent release of a group of detainees.

Then somebody could bring in an anti-UPC rumour which would provoke the emotions of detainees. Rumours about Sir Edward Mutesa’s return would tell how the Kabaka had been seen in Mombasa; how stamps and bank notes bearing his effigy were secretly circulating in Kampala, how his troops were amassing at the border, etc.
Many detainees would get excited and become stubbornly arrogant and big-headed towards the CID [officers] who now, whenever they came in to see them on formal matters, would go away humiliated.

Profile of detainees
We had a prince and Buganda chiefs, Kabaka Yekka supporters mainly from rural Buganda; some army officers like Brig. S. Opolot, Major Katabarwa, Captain Mugarura, Lt. Mpiira ; the five Obote ministers; very many Baganda, some well educated and others almost illiterate; two Europeans who were eventually deported: a young Briton from Scotland, arrested in the regions of Ntungamo where he had reportedly excited people in a bar that he was a mercenary on mission! The other, a European was from Denmark who had entered Uganda without official documents and was suspected to be a mercenary from the Congo. Both strongly regretted leaving Uganda. The general age-bracket of detainees was between 23-75 years.

My release
On Friday, September 7, 1968, we all realised that the radio, controlled in the O/C’s Office and emitting to our dormitories through loudspeakers, wasn’t on. We then suspected that there was going to be a ggambo (great news) as we used to call news about releases.
At bedtime, the askari on guard secretly confided to us the news about the release of several detainees. Speculation began as the askari didn’t give any single name.

On Saturday, September 8, at 5.30a.m., lights were switched on in the O/C’s Office, another sure sign of a possible release because that was the moment when belongings of those to be set free were being sorted out and their names crossed out from the routine register.
At 7a.m., the morning session askari, a very nice guy from Tororo, arrived. He secretly disclosed some of the names he had heard on radio and, turning towards me, said in Luganda: ‘Kkolokolo, naawe bakutadde’ (Kkolokolo, you are also released !).

Half an hour later, the O/C arrived with the official list. When he read my name, all inmates applauded, thanking me for having been very good to them.

In all, 12 were set free. They included Prince Ssimbwa, the three famous ssaza chiefs, two Lukiiko members, an army officer, and Opolot’s brother-in-law, accused of helping Opolot’s family.
We dressed up and an officer accompanied us to the main gate where hundreds of relatives, friends, etc. received us with deafening cheers and ululations.

An ex-detainee, Mr. Ssekajja, then an executive officer at Namulonge and present on the scene, immediately gave me Shs 100 for entandikwa (start up capital).

I arrived triumphantly at home as anybody would imagine. Many people vowed to help me and they did so. A former schoolmate at St. Mary’s, Leonard Lubowa, one-time Mayor of Kampala, who was then a mere second year student at Makerere University, had the courage to introduce me to friends and to often familiarise me with Makerere University which I joined in 1969, after six months with Shell Co.
After Makerere, I taught at the prestigious St. Peter’s S.S. Nsambya before going overseas for further studies.

While abroad, I participated very actively in the guerrilla struggle, helping the three movements; UFM, NRM, and FEDEMU. At the same time, I advocated for human rights in Uganda.
I am now a keen supporter of the DP, a party I joined to say THANK YOU for what it did for us during and after our detention.
And I’m loyal to our beloved President General, John Ssebaana Kizito, and his team who are doing an excellent job for Uganda and whose very intelligent outlook, efforts and programmes are very highly appreciated abroad.

Reflections
Detention under the Emergency Regulations Act was a very unfair deal which turned against its authors. It planted the revolutionary seeds that brought about the downfall of Obote I and Obote II.
It tarnished the image of Parliament which regularly enacted its extension, of the CID whose bosses paid a stiff price, of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for regularly misinforming all national institutions on Buganda.

Detention failed to achieve its objectives: the Baganda remained madly loyal to their Kabaka, UPC failed to woe them and they eventually ventured into DP, and the heroic action of such non Baganda MPs like A. Latim (Acholi), B. Byanyima (Ankole) ended by showing the Baganda the goodwill Uganda had towards them. This was among the things which gradually led to the natural demise of the Kabaka Yekka Movement.

And the prisons staff, a mainly non Baganda institution, somehow championed the cause of patriotism by showing a great deal of modesty towards the suffering mainly Baganda detainees. I even saw Langi officers and askaris extending true sympathy to us.

The non-Baganda thus seized the occasion to pass a special message to the authors of detention laws, some of whom were Baganda parliamentarians, that in all circumstances, Ugandans were indivisibly one and the same people  bonded to the common ideal of their great nation.

Fortunately, the UPC of today under Miria Obote’s pragmatism is trying to make amends for the past ills, a thing appreciated as a sign of indubitable courage and wisdom.

Now let all of us Ugandans try to turn our back on the nasty past and look only at that common ideal that will peg all assets of our destiny only to God and our Country.