Sunday, June 21, 2015


I am not sure if this piece relates to Idi Amin's legacy, social justice or history. Hey, I am learning a lot about Uganda as I go along.  I have not lived in Uganda for decades but my memory is sharp.

In 1979 when the "liberators" were closing onto Kampala, Idi Amin demanded evacuating our family from Kampala to the village.  I was in boarding school in Namugongo.  My father loved me so much and wanted to die with me and did not tell them that there was a kid a short drive away.

Some 6 army jeeps drove to our place in Nakasero (we lived only 5 minutes away from State House).  Our entire family was packed up and they were all driven  to Bududa.  When they got to Bududa, dad gave a brief case to bad mommie and told her "all you need is in there in case anything happens".  Then he had to be returned to Kampala.  Father was a senior in Uganda Posts and Telecom.  Any Military coup must secure Telecom and Broadcasters first.  Since he was in Telecom, he had to return to work.

Upon his return in Kampala, he was guarded daily at home and at work.  Meanwhile at school, most parents picked up their kids and no one came for me.  The war was raging.  We used to wear all our clothes and top up with dark clothes in case we have to run out at night. The nuns were very good.  Our PE was rolling down hills or running in zig zag.  We lived on one meal a day as the trucks could not bring food to the school.  But we could go into the forest picking fruits.

Three days before take over, father was forced to remain in that building of Uganda Posts and Telecom under guard.  There was no internet at that time so all communication was with telephones and telefaxes.
Meanwhile at school, I used to pray nightly for God to allow my family into heaven as at that time I knew that they had died and I could no longer pray for their protection but rather pray for their entry into heaven.

The day of take over of Kampala, an army shows up at our school.  This beautiful woman dressed in military uniform comes asking for me.  The nuns were very apprehensive.  In our school at that time, there were only 4 kids who were non Baganda.  But the woman assured them that it was okay for her to talk to me.  When I was finally allowed to meet her, she gave me food. I was so hungry from many months of living on one meal a day.  The school tried to feed us when the food supplies were cut off.  Then imagine woman tells me "Leah, your father is okay and someone will come and pick you up and take you to him.  Your family was evacuated to the village so they are not dead".  I thought that she was an angel of some sort to console me.  I had never tasted military food till that day.  But it was awesome.

The next day, someone who reports to dad but lives in the Namugongo area comes to pick me up. I am so apprehensive like you have no idea. Hey, I was a kid.  I had to spend a night at their place.  Did not sleep, well, they could have killed me in the night.  The next day, the man drives me to my father's office.  My father only cries when he is very angry or extremely happy.  When he saw me, he picked me up and cried. "Leah, you have become very skinny, sit and eat".  Then he gave me more military food.  So we go to our place in Nakasero after his work.  My room was perfectly made (he had even made my little bed).  Then I became the cook.

One day he lost it "Leah, you burn all the matooke, do better".  So I started flooding the pot with water.  Then imagine he asks me "why are you soaking all the food in too much water?".  It is funny because our oldest brother (cousin, Dr. Wambete) had refused to be evacuated with the family as he was in Medical School at MUK and decided to remain with his dad (uncle) during the ordeal.  I have no reason why both of them thought a kid could cook for them but they eventually learned to like my cuisine.  Some 3 months later, father says, I am going to the village to bring everyone back because you cook very badly.  He did.  When I saw bad mommie, I cried like you have no idea. Oh, that woman, she did everything for me and all of a sudden I had been thrust into life on my own and expected to do well.

Fast forward, Museveni knew when father retired.  Father had worked for EAC for a long time.  His government went after the pensions for the EAC employees.  We got some money but father had died in Bududa Hospital due to lack of medicine.  But he also tried.

You are now wondering about Obote.  Obote sent my father to UK for education, then to Japan for further training in Telecom.  He also ensured that father worked in Kenya and Tanzania to show case Uganda. Obote had done something too.  I think when he knew things were not going well, he insisted that father stays in Nairobi.

I have great stories about each of our presidents.  I also have some not so good stories.  I just feel sad for the people who come on Social Media and say "Museveni is the best president ever", and they are 19yrs of age.  Museveni has been in power since 1986 which would mean that you have to be 40+yrs to claim that he is the best president.  Well, even if you were born in 1986, you are not qualified.

Martha Leah Zesaguli (Nangalama)
Moncton, Canada
Born and Raised in Uganda (Bududa District)
For God and My Country.

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