Mwenda: I know at one time you met Gadhaffi. How did you come to meet him?
Bwengye: You see Gadhaffi was investing in us so he wanted to know who the leaders were. We could not even go on the same plane. On Museveni’s team were Kivejjinja, and the late Katabalwa and Sam Njuba. On my side, we had myself, Kangave, Kayiira and others.
Mwenda: Who organised this meeting and what did Gadhaffi want to achieve from the meeting?
Bwengye: There was his agent in Nairobi. Gadhaffi wanted us to unite, to put our forces together so that the war would not take long.
Mwenda: What did you discuss with him?
Bwengye: Most of the time , the meeting was chaired by a certain Lt. Col and his Minister of Foreign Affairs. Interestingly, we were staying in his State House. We also found Garang and Jerry Rawlings and others from South Africa. They were there to train people. But we had to sit and wait for arms. I remember Ali was given a plane full of arms, which he airlifted up to Koboko.
Mwenda: What happened when your recruits came back?
Bwengye: When the boys came back, we formed a formidable force. You see Kayiira believed in surgical strikes, not in small ambushes. We had a meeting and we agreed that we should hit Lubiri. We believed that the attack would demoralise other units. Kayiira actually believed we could take over government by hitting Lubiri. So messages were sent to the other groups, and they promised to support us if the attack succeeded.
But Museveni said the attack would be suicidal. We went ahead with the attack. We stationed the artillery just in front of Rubaga Cathedral. We overran the barracks but we got a lot of arms mainly guns because we were not able to break into the armoury. They moved out of the barracks with big loot and moved back towards the bush.
Mwenda: What happened next?
Bwengye: They were ambushed along the way by Museveni’s NRA formerly PRA and our boys were taken to the NRA zone.
Mwenda: Why did Museveni ambush you?
Bwenye: I am sure he desperately needed arms and we had a lot of them. Before elections, we had brought in more than 1,200 rifles plus support weapons and ammunition. At that time, other than the government, we were the only group, which was heavily armed. As he tells you in his book, he attacked Kabamba with only 27 guns so you can see the comparison.
Mwenda: What happened to the people who were carrying the guns?
Bwengye: They were captured. One of them was Ssonko, now dead who eventually became a Lt. Col. in the UPDF and Mr Polly Mukiibi who owns a school near Nabbingo. He is the publicity Secretary of the DP. These two were captured and given the option of going back to Kayiira or remaining there. Ssonko and some other people chose to stay but Mr Mukiibi came back to Kayiira’s zone.
Mwenda: What was the effect of the ambush on their relationship?
Bwengye: Kayiira was insisting that the arms should be surrendered back. Museveni was insisting that they should carry out joint operations. At the same time, Kayiira was talking the language of federo, which Museveni did not like. Kayiira was saying “And why should the Baganda shed their blood unless they have been assured of federalism?” So they had to meet to scale it down because it caused a problem.
Mwenda: Did the two groups ever fight each other at any time?
Bwengye: No, apart from the ambush. Kayiira was very popular. If at all the NRA attacked Kayiira and people realised that Museveni was attacking Kayira in the bush, it could have been costly to him.
Kayiira was the kind of person who believed that his enemy was not his enemy though they had differences.
Mwenda reads SMS: Nkata Musa in Nkokonjeru asks, “Do you think it was necessary to wage a war on the account of fraudulent elections against the government?”
Bwengye: To fight, you must have a cause. You can imagine a population of about 70 percent of the electorate voting a certain party.
Mwenda: What role did Gilbert Bukenya play?
Bwengye: Bukenya was at Mulago as a surgeon. I never saw him.
Mwenda: Why did you wait so long to tell the story?
Bwengye: The majority of our people are young people. I think because of Aids, a lot of people who should know these things have died. These are young people. The Mwenda’s are young people. I wrote two books in the 1980s The Agony of Uganda and The Price of Freedom. But some people have never read these books.
(Caller) Magomu J in Entebbe: All your plans were a result of Obote’s dictatorship. What will you do if Museveni does the same?
Bwengye: Of course the people of Uganda are prepared to fight dictatorship, whether the Pope or whoever brings it.
Mwenda: Do you think Museveni’s government is a dictatorship?
Bwengye: No, dictatorship is not described on an individual. It is a system. There are some elements of democracy. People can talk in Parliament. People can form Parties.
Emmanuel: Who killed Prof. Muhangi? UPC claims you killed Muhangi.
Bwengye: Those are mad people. I was in Boston. That very day, I was in the house of Prof. Rugira. I was raising funds from Ugandans who were in America for UFM.
Mwenda: What were you in UFM?
Bwengye: I was the Political Secretary and Kayiira was the military head.
Nabuheka in Buziga: During that time when Bwengye and Co. were planning subversive activates, would it be justified if you were arrested by the government of the day?
Bwengye: If they had me arrested, they would definitely have prosecuted me as a guerrilla. I think the government would be right.
Richard in Kibuli: When did the differences between Museveni and Obote begin?
Bwengye: They must have begun in 1968, when Museveni was a student at Dar-es-Salaam. At that time Museveni was a socialist. He thought that Obote was not socialist enough. I am told Museveni said Obote couldn’t run this country because it would not help Ugandans because foreigners were exploiting them.
He was not happy with the likes of Felix Onama, the Minister of Defence and Bantaringaya, the Minister of Internal Affairs accumulating wealth.
He called them a corrupt bunch of leaders. He didn’t believe in corruption.
I had a flat in Nakasero opposite Nile Mansions. He was working in the President’s office. Eventually he moved to Kireka and we used to discuss from there.
Mwenda: In 1980, what was Museveni’s subjective motivation to go to the bush?
Bwengye: Had Obote formed a government of national unity, Museveni would never have gone to the bush. Even if DP was in power, Museveni believed in a government of national unity.
Mwenda: After elections, Obote called Ssemogerere and offered to form a government of national unity and DP turned it down.
Bwengye: I am not aware because for me immediately after elections, I went the other way.
Patrick in Kawala: After Museveni, had accomplished the struggle, what hindered Bwengye from joining hands to reconstruct the country?
Bwengye: It is a terrible story. Immediately after Museveni had come in, the UFM was given only two ministerial positions, one to Sam Sebagala and the other to Kayiira. Before months had passed, Dr. David Lwanga, Kayiira, Nyanzi and I were all taken to Luzira and changed with treason.Kayiira and I were charged particularly for hiding guns in Lake Victoria.We were only released by court. It was in July 1987. We were in prison for eight months.
Just after two days, Kayiira was gunned down. I was hunted. So I had to flee the country. I remember I passed through Rwanda then Nairobi and into exile.I came back after four years, by persuasion of government that I should return
Mwenda: What is the future plan of DP?
Bwengye: We have reconciled, the future is to participate in multi party politics. We have to frame policies through the Delegates Conference, which we shall have before the end of the year.
Sam in Kibuli: It appears that in one of the meetings between Museveni and Kayiira, there was suspicion. Did Museveni have a hand in Kayiira’s death?
Bwengye: People in NRA uniform killed Kayiira at the nose of this government. People volunteered to give evidence about who the killers were. Unfortunately at that time, the Minister of Internal Affairs was Kawanga Ssemogerere and Kizza Besigye was his deputy. They put up a commission of inquiry to trace the culprits. It is now 18 years since the death of Kayiira. Government has hidden the report up to now. If it were you, what would your conclusion be?
David in Naguru: Do these disagreements they have talked about show Museveni as power hungry?
Bwengye: A politician who doesn’t believe in taking power should keep out and become a farmer. If you are in politics, you want power.
Peter Musoke in Nakasero: If you were with Museveni, why did you not become a minister in this government?
Bwengye: After having lost my dear friend Kayiira who was a minister in this government, why should I go there?
Stuart in Makerere University: Do you think all along Museveni had a personal agenda?
I think he had a national agenda. He had an ambition to lead.
Mwenda: Akena Adoko in his book says that after studying Museveni closely as his boss at the General Service Unit, he discovered that Museveni was eaten up by one thing, the monomania to rule over others. Do you agree with that assessment?
Bwengye: I am not quite sure about that.
Paul in Namasuba: Now that things are going back to the way they were in the 1980s, can you still organise?
Bwengye: At that time, I was about 38 years, very energetic. I think there are people, young people who can do that job.
Hussein: Why can’t you reconcile with President Museveni? Do you think he could have made a good DP leader?
Bwengye: Goodness is subjective. At that time, many people did not know who Museveni was. We looked at him as a revolutionary, a man who had risked his life to form FRONASA. He was a fiery man. We were the same age. We looked at him to have had an edge over us. He had an army and had trained as a guerrilla. If he blended that with his political rhetoric, he could have made a good leader. But after sometime, normally you assess people. At this time, he can’t be a good leader for DP. I think he is a good leader for the Movement, because in DP, we believe in internal democracy.
Mwenda: Ssemogerere has not left. He has had 20 terms.
Bwengye: That is why we are fighting him.
Mwenda: Why did you hurry to capture Kampala? Did you have enough support? Don’t you think Museveni was right not to fight prematurely?
Bwengye: In some aspects, he was right. In other aspects, he was not. For example, most people who start guerrilla warfare lack internal armies. But people who have internal armies don’t need guerrilla warfare. When you have enough forces, you don’t need guerrilla warfare.What turned out is what Kayiira had expected. When we started fighting people got scared. Some volunteers got scared and run away.
Mwenda: By 1983, the UFM as a force almost collapsed and Kayiira went to the USA. What factors brought about the collapse?
Bwengye: The biggest factor was that many of our commanders were captured by the government forces (UNLA). These included the chief of Staff, Col Kodir, who is now in the UPDF, the quartermaster general, Capt. Hussein Adda, who is now quartermaster general at Bombo and others. The leading officers were captured and taken to Luzira.
Mwenda: How were they captured?
They were overrun by UNLA but I suspect that some of our enemies infiltrated us and started leaking information.
Mwenda: Others are saying the Museveni of NRA was leaking information so that he would become the only warlord because Kayiira enjoyed support in Buganda and was taking it away from him and so if he destroyed UFM, then he could become the only legitimate resistance against Obote and the Baganda would support him. Have you heard of that theory?
Bwengye: I have heard of it and it stands the test of history because I do not have adequate information. But when we had meetings, Kayiira felt that we had been infiltrated by NRA boys who carried away information.
Those meetings we had at Kikunyu in the bush – the picture Akena Adoko shows – Kayiira felt that those were intended to entrap him and get information about where they were and so on. So whenever we were hit, he felt that was the betrayal.
Then the other one was that there was relaxation in discipline. Because what Obote did was that he sent some girls – the Bamutiires – UPC youth wingers who went there as fighters but they became girlfriends of the commanders and eventually escaped from there and told stories to the UNLA.
That is how Prof. Kyesimira who had been seen in the bush was arrested and charged with treason. They also told of where the camps were located. I remember we were the first force in Uganda to get SAM 7 from Gadhaffi to shoot down Obote’s plane and his officers but only weeks after the SAM 7 was received, our camps in Mpigi were overrun.
There was a certain Captain (who is still around, he flies planes to DRC), who sank them into the river Mayanja. I think they are still there. Had we been given a chance, we would have shot down so many planes.
Mwenda: So when the UFM collapsed, what happened to you and Kayiira?
Bwengye: I went to England and Kayiira went to the USA. We used to meet to re-plan and raise funds. We went back to the drawing board after about a year. Some of our friends formed a splinter group called FEDEMO (Federal Democratic Movement) under Nkwanga. For us, we continued to take more people to train.
Mwenda: Did you maintain any contact with Museveni?
Mwenda: So how did you come back to Uganda with Kayiira?
Bwengye: It must have been around July 1985. I think it was Bob Kitariko who was sent to us to tell us that these people (the Bazilio Okellos) were planning to overthrow the government. I think the arrangements included people like Sam Kuteesa and the entire DP. So he said “Plans are there to overthrow the government. Will you cooperate?”
And we said no.
Mwenda: Olara Otunu told me Museveni called him in Sweden…
Bwengye: Yes he [Otunu] came to London and we met him with Kayiira. He told us there were people going to overthrow the government. Museveni had even left the bush at the time. He was in Sweden.
Mwenda: Otunu told me – you know he was a close friend of Kajubiru – Museveni’s younger sister who now lives in Germany. He said Museveni told him something big was going to happen in Kampala with the Okellos and if they offered him anything in the new dispensation, he should not refuse it. He would be Museveni’s points man in the negotiations. That is what Otunu told me on this show.
Bwengye: Yes, I think that is true.
Mwenda: Otunu was Obote’s Permanent representative at the UN. So he came to London…
Bwengye: He came to London and he met me with Kayiira and told us the government was going to collapse and he wanted us to cooperate. At that time it was not only UFM that had left the bush. Even Museveni himself had left the bush. His troops had been pushed out of Luwero and he was somewhere in the mountains. Both forces had been badly hit.
Mwenda: And that was after the death of Oyite Ojok. Because after his death, the UPC wing created a special brigade under Col. Ogole who had been trained in the USA in counter insurgency operations. He started an offensive in Luwero and NRA was so badly beaten that it had flee from there to the Rwenzori Mountains…
Bwengye: So a month did not pass before the government collapsed. Otunu came back to London and told Kayiira to go with him because Okello wanted him. For me, I remained behind for sometime.
Otunu became Minister of Foreign Affairs while Kayiira became a member of the Military Commission, higher than a minister.
Mwenda: Kuteesa became Attorney General, while Ssemogerere became Minister of Internal Affairs. It was really a DP affair.
Bwengye: And Evaristo Nyanzi became Minister of Cooperatives; most of the ministers were DP members.
Then later on, we came in because our forces had regrouped. In fact before Okello took over, we had regrouped and taken back some of our soldiers who were in Mpigi, Mukono and so on, so we had to give a hand to the Military Commission when they took over. And I remember when the Bazilios wanted to use Salim Saleh and not Museveni. You remember they were calling Saleh on the radio and maybe Museveni did not like it. Eventually, they called for peace talks in Nairobi.
Mwenda: Did Kayiira participate in the peace talks?
Mwenda: He used to sit on the same side with Tito Okello, Sam Kuteesa, Semogerere on one side then Museveni on the other side.
Mwenda: Someone said whenever Museveni went to the peace talks, he only greeted Ssemogerere on the other side. He could not even greet Kayiira or Kuteesa across the table…
Bwengye: That is what I hear but I was not there. But he was not amused with Kuteesa having defeated him in the elections and now he was Tito Okello’s Attorney General.
Mwenda: How then did the Okello government fall? When did you come back to Uganda?
Bwengye: After about a month or so, I came back to Uganda in 1985. By the time I came, I found the situation was terrible because UNLA officers had started killing people in and around Kampala. There was Brig. Toko who was the vice chairman who was a bit reckless using gun ships to kill people suspected to be in the opposition. They would send planes to kill people and some of us were not amused.
In fact, we had asked Kayiira to withdraw from the government. Some other people wanted to overthrow Tito Okello and we really debated whether we were able to overthrow Okello’s government. Eventually, we had to fight each other. I remember we were controlling the zone towards Kabalagala, Gaba and towards the lake and Tito Okello was in the city centre, while Nkwanga was controlling Makindye…
Mwenda: and Moses Ali was controlling Bombo Road…
Bwengye: It was katogo. Then Museveni was controlling the western part of Uganda from Katonga downwards. So you could see that it was a temporary government which would not succeed. I remember one time I was staying with Kayiira and others in Speke Hotel and we were attacked by UNLA soldiers who wanted to ambush us.
Mwenda: Then there was a group by Onzi…
Bwengye: Former Uganda National Army [FUNA], led by Isaac Lumago.
Mwenda: Which was Toko’s group?
Bwengye: I think he was part of FUNA…
Mwenda: So Museveni came and overthrew the Okello’s junta…
Bwengye: By the time Museveni overthrew the junta, he was becoming popular because the junta was killing people, looting, doing all sorts of things. So when Museveni came in, he was looked at as a real liberator because people were really suffering.
Mwenda reads SMS: Did Bwengye get any military training?
Bwengye: Yes I did get some military training in guerrilla fighting in Libya.
Mwenda reads SMS: When did Mzee Lawrence Semakula meet his death and what role did he play?
Bwengye: He was one of the civilian fighters of UFM. Eventually, he became the political leader of FEDEMO. He was captured from Nairobi with another man called Bazilio Mumanya by Obote’s intelligence under Rwakasisi. They were brought back and killed in Kampala.