Museveni War Ally, Maumbe Mukhwana, Dies

Museveni decorates Mzee Maumbe Mukhwana with a heroes medal. (Courtesy Photo)

Mzee Maumbe Mukhwana, ambulance a key ally of President Yoweri Museveni during the National Resistance Army (NRA) struggle, remedy has died.

Maumbe breathed his last today Monday.

This was confirmed by the presidential press secretary, mind Don Wanyama.

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“Just learning of the sad news of the demise of Mzee Maumbe Mukhwana,” said Wanyama in a brief post.

“Rest well our elder. You ran your race successfully.”

Maumbe’s historic role in the NRA struggle was graphically presented in Museveni’s book, The Mustard Seed.

His compound would later act as a stage for a deadly battle between hardened guerillas and Amin’s soldiers.

The bloody fight, in which Museveni’s friends died at the hands of Amin’s soldiers, eventually emboldened the entire rebel movement to intensify its efforts to uproot the dictator.

What happened?

In the early 1970s, Yoweri Museveni returned from Tanzania where he had sought sanctuary following the overthrow of President Milton Obote by Dictator Idi Amin.

Museveni’s main job was creating resistance cells for the armed struggle against Idi Amin.

In his mission, Museveni was supported by his comrades including Martin Mwesiga, Mwesigwa Black, Abbas Kibazo and Eriya Kategaya.

The architects of the resistance had set up camps in Mbale with Maumbe Mukhwana as a key contact.

Museveni on January 22, 1973 travelled to Mbale in the company of Martin Mwesiga and Wukwu Kazimoto Mpima to check on the camps.

Little did they realise that Amin’s intelligence had spotted the camp.

In his book, the Mustard Seed, Museveni wrote that, “One of Mukwana’s cousins wanted to spite him for refusing to give him some cigarettes. He reported to the authorities that there were some guerrillas in the area. Fortunately, Maumbe learned of the betrayal and evacuated the group to the mountain before Amin’s soldiers arrived,” Museveni wrote.

Museveni and friends arrived at Maumbe’s House No. 49 in Maluku Housing Estate on January 22, 1973, at about 3:00pm. He wrote:

“Mukhwana was not at home, but his wife was. She said we should wait for him. At around 5:00pm, we saw a contingent of about 15 military policemen coming through the estate. We sent someone outside to find out what they were after. Our messenger came back, saying they were looking for a thief. I wanted to open fire on them because I was not convinced that they would use 15 military policemen just to look for a thief.

Mwesigwa, however, dissuaded me, arguing that, first, we had student identity cards. Secondly, they could actually be looking for a thief, and thirdly, we were in the house with women and children who we should not endanger. We had left all our SMGs locked up in the car outside. Our consultation lasted barely two minutes before the soldiers were upon us.”

Museveni said the house was surrounded in a ‘very unprofessional manner’.

“They only asked one question, regarding our identity. We said we were students and, straightaway, they told us to get into our vehicle and drive with them to the barracks. That convinced me, beyond doubt, that the time to act was then. I had the car keys and one of the soldiers, poking a rifle into my side, told me to open and enter the car.

Taking them by surprise, I jumped over the hedge, hoping that my colleagues would follow my example and scatter in different directions.”


Museveni said he sprinted towards a eucalyptus forest below the housing estate, with people and soldiers in pursuit, thinking he was a thief.

He had to brandish a pistol to scare them away.

He later took cover and fired back, compelling soldiers to stop the chase.

“I went into a thicket of tall grass, which turned out to be worse than Amin’s incompetent soldiers. Struggling with the tall grass was so difficult that if Amin’s soldiers had had the courage to pursue me, I would have been an easy target. I shall never forget those 300 metres or so, of tall grass, through which crashed my way.

“I was moving slowly, through the tall, thick grass, leaving a clear track, which any pursuer could have followed. I was also growing very tired. Of course, I could have waited at the edge of the bush so that I could shoot my pursuers from behind the cover of the grass, but I was afraid to do this as I was so close to the army barracks, from where reinforcements could be quickly mustered.

“While it would have been impossible for my pursuers to see me through the thick grass, a large volley of bullets fired into the grass would have been most problematic for me, to say the least. For that reason, I opted for speed, in order to get out of this area and, later on, for concealment, taking advantage of the fact that few people in Mbale would recognise me.”

Museveni said he eventually got out of the grass and ran along a water drainage channel, into a eucalyptus forest.

About 20 minutes later, he entered a banana plantation and could see many soldiers behind, trying to comb through the tall grass, from which he had just emerged.

He then headed for the main road of Bugema. All this time, Museveni wrote, he did not know that his friends had been killed. In the book, he said he blamed himself for not having insisted on fighting the soldiers.

“Since we were armed with pistols, one of us could have kept firing at the soldiers, while the others go for the guns in the car boot. These soldiers were unprofessional: you only had to fire at them and they stopped chasing you.”

Leaving Mbale

Museveni says he then went to Bugema, booked into a lodge and slept. Very early the following morning, he walked on the main road at the edge of Bugema barracks. At the road block opposite the barracks main gate, soldiers were stopping vehicles and beating up people.

He managed to bypass the roadblock and re-entered the road, at the junction of Bubulo Mbale-Tororo roads. He could see many army vehicles moving towards Mbale.

“I saw a jeep mounted with GPMGs coming from the direction of Bubulo. I knew that they were following up our colleagues who had gone up to the mountain — the ones with whom we were supposed to have linked up the previous day,” he wrote in The Mustard Seed.

Museveni’s dilemma was the pistol, which had saved him the day before.

He had also not changed clothes and so, feared he could be recognised. He, however, did not dispose of the pistol.

In case he was identified, he would use it to fight or to avoid capture by shooting himself.

He managed to take a bus to Tororo, and then a taxi to Jinja without any incident. He proceeded to Kampala to warn his colleagues about the Mbale incident. At Namanve forest, their taxi was stopped at a roadblock, manned by a company of soldiers.

Final escape

“All the passengers were ordered out.

One soldier looked at me closely, and I looked straight at him. He did not even ask me for my identity card, he simply asked me what I did and I told him I was a student. He then told me to re-enter the car, without any more questions. Had he attempted to search me, I would have shot him and grabbed his gun. It would not have been easy to fight a whole company, but I thought I could have escaped, grabbed a vehicle from someone and driven off. Fortunately, that did not happen,” he wrote.

“From that day, I lost faith in the use of roadblocks as effective security measures. Soldiers manning roadblocks get tired because of the endless stream of travellers. And the moment they are tired maybe the very one when fugitives pass through the road block. Alternatively, the fugitive may simply bypass the roadblock, as I did on many occasions. It is better to mount roadblocks only for very limited periods, seeking specific information.”

After briefing the contacts in Kampala, Museveni proceeded to Kenya using the same route, without any difficulty.


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