Sunday, April 2, 2017

General Idi #Amin's fall from #Uganda - a story of a servant of the people

There were only 4 girls in Namugongo who were not Baganda.  Two were sisters called Otim from Acholi.  Then there was Namasaba who told everyone that she was not from Bugisu.  Her Luganda was impeccable.  Then there was Leah. We were called Banamawanga and with our names, we could not fake Luganda.  But the school had a strict policy of speaking only English all the time which the 4 of us did well but if you were caught speaking Luganda, you could get away with murder.

Then one time this Otim kid in my class (P5) mouthed off our English teacher.  She was brutal. She said something like "Why cannot I speak Acholi and also get away with it like all the Baganda?"

The teacher was infuriated because this was gonna set a precedent.

Teacher Miss Jane beat the kid so bad and broke the kid's arm.  We did not have a clinic so all kids who were sick had their parents called in.  When this tall Acholi woman pulled in with military guns and guards to get the kid, the kid told her our teacher had beaten her.

The woman asked to meet the teacher and told her guards to sit in their cars.  Then the woman proceeded to beat up our teacher.  It was getting dark and the teacher ran into the bushes.  The mother chased her to also break her arm. And we were all waiting to see the mother fight for her kids because some of us were wimps and had never told our parents of the daily undeserved beatings and being forced to eat green bananas raw.

Not too soon after, Amin fell and radio announcements had kept saying to go collect the kids. Our PE had become rolling down the hills and running in zigzag to avoid bullets.  We were sleeping under our beds in case the bazookas came through the windows.  We always wore our clothes and then finished off our night wear with dark clothes because we could be running in the dark of night and we did not want to be spotted.

But the roads were kinda shut off.  But army people could still drive through and that is how most people in the regime got their kids away.  Food became scarce.  We had tea with no sugar or milk for breakfast.  We had porridge for lunch with no sugar or milk.  Then supper was heaven.  We used to get one cooked potato skin on.  No meat for months.  We were terribly hungry.  We used to go into the bushes around that shrine to pick mapera (guavas).

One week, the food truck could not even bring the potatoes.  Our sister had to finally talk to the local farmer to buy food to feed the only remaining 200 kids whose parents had likely died BUT we all did not like that farmer.  He had a local village rumour that he was a cannibal.  Sometimes when the mice chewed our toes and fingers, we used to think that he had come in to taste us to see if we were edible.

The things which can go into a 10yr old's mind are beyond measure.  The gentleman then gave the school permission to dig up all the food needed to feed those kids.

So the 2 Acholi girls had gotten picked up and not me.  And given that Mzee was in control of UPTL, I knew he had been killed.  So despite hating morning mass, I now found solace in singing at mass. I said the Rosary daily.  I prayed to the Virgin Mary to at least deliver mercy for yaya, my other siblings and maybe consider my dad, mom and all my uncles and aunties.  I prayed for my family and asked to also die and at least go be with them for life had lost all meaning.  It is well known on the whole village that my brothers used to beat the heavens out of me but this time I knew at least in heaven they would not beat me up because this time yaya would have angels to help her to protect me.

On April 11, 1979 a military convoy pulled into our school yard.  We did not even run.  We were tired and starved and this time we all just looked at them to just kill us. Then some talks. Sister Mildred came asking for me.  I ran under my bed. Sister Mildred used to beat me up daily.  Except by now she knew my hiding places and told me that the army woman was asking for me. The head nun HM was there too.  Why were they sacrificing me all of a sudden when I was an orphan?

This Tanzanian beautiful woman in army fatigue said "your father is well. We are here to take you home".  I refused to go with those army people because my father was dead anyway so I was not stupid enough to fall for such tricks.

The next day, a gentleman whom I did not know and lived in Kireka but was working with father drove to the school and told me he was gonna take me home.  I put him through an interrogation and once he answered all questions, I then went with him to his house in Kireka for us to drive to Kampala the next day.

I have watched movies of soldiers returning from war and picking up their children and kissing their wives and crying.  When we showed up at work, mzee picked me up.  He held me tighter than he had ever done.  He cried.  I was laughing because I could not believe that he was not dead.  He cried and eventually I also cried.  Then he fed me so much army food you have no idea.  Then he let me play with the phones and switch box.  Then he picked me up again.  Then he finally said something like "President Amin knew that the rebels were getting close to Kampala. He sent a team to pack up the whole family and we all went to Bududa.  I left a briefcase with Nakami.  They brought me back.  For the last 3 days I have not been allowed out of the building because all the communication had to remain open.  It is you and I Leah.  I hope you know how to cook".

So we get into our apartment in Nakasero (remember we had recently been recalled by President Amin from Nairobi so we were not yet in a house) and that is how I became the Woman of the House. Man one was father.  Man 2 was Dr. Julius who was in his final year in Med school at MUK and he had refused to be evacuated.  Then both men told me that I could not cook.  Three months later, all the roads were opened and we went to the village and brought back the matriarch. My sister walks on water.  OMG when she showed up, she had to scrub all the pots I had been burning and wash all the..well practically everything.  Then she had to do the usual.  Wash me clean.  But this time it did not hurt because it was the most amazing feeling to see that she was alive and putting me through her tough love.  BUT if everyone had someone like her, the world would be at peace.

I am not defending Gen. Amin.  I am just saying that he cared and I am a living example.  Amin took over when our father was in UK in school and did not yank him out of school.  Dr. Obote had sent mzee to England for school and even Obote II cannot document that this regime killed anything Gen. Amin had built.  Would you like to see what Amin and Obote built that Dictator Museveni has killed?

When Mzee returned from UK, Amin being from Northern Uganda did not hesitate to loan out Daniel Nangalama to Kenya and Tanzania.  When Kenyatta and Amin fell out and Kenyatta kicked out all Ugandans who were working in Kenya, Amin told Kenyatta to also send back all the doctors, engineers and professors. Museveni would never allow anyone who is not from his clan to enjoy such basic human rights.  Ugandans make a very big mistake to think that I hate Museveni.  I do not and he also knows it.  I just remember a lot. By the time we are done following the paper trail of EAC pensions, some of you will hide in Kamooli.  For now #AprilRevolution is real.

Martha Leah Nangalama

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