Wednesday, July 9, 2014


SERVICE TO MY COUNTRY Back in the day, I was embedded with the then most feared Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) fighting unit –the battle hardened , crack mobile, 3rd battalion, commanded by the late (RIP) Major Sula Ssemakula “Suicide” . I covered the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebellion in western Uganda for four years (1996-2000) and there were battles fought in kyaka , Fort Portal ,Bunyangabu, Buryaha, in the then vast Kabarole district;to Kamwenge to Mbarara to Kanungu and then the mountainous areas of Kasese and Bundibugyo; to Hoima , Masindi, Mubende and Kibale. We ended up in Eastern DRC Congo where we encountered the bloody battles of Kisangani mojja and Kisangani mbirri. The rebels attacked katojo prisons in Fort Portal ,killed and released prisoners, attacked and killed close to 100 students at Kichwamba Technical Institute in Kabarole, cut off Bundibugyo , Bwera and Mponde border areas . They maimed , rapped ,defiled women and girls and killed hundreds of innocent civilians- raiding villages and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. But they (rebels)were still defeated. The war on the Ugandan side ended around 2000 and I headed back to my employer- The New Vision’s headquarters in the Capital Kampala and was appointed Editor in charge of rural news. I later went on to serve in the same capacity at the Daily Monitor . I also edited the Saturday and Sunday Monitor (2004-2010) after the ‘big walk out at NV’ in May 2004 (which changed the media landscape in Uganda forever) led by Conrad Nkutu and JB Wasswa, who became the Managing Director and Managing Editor at the Monitor (that equally important institution for free , independent private media), respectively. We were the first ‘outsiders’ to serve at Daily Monitor after the founders ,Wafula Ogutu, David Balikowa, Kevin Aliro, Richard Tebere,Charles Onyango Obbo and Jimmy Serugo were bought out by the Nation group,(that is another rich long story to be told another day.) I would like to recognize the following Afandes among others , ( named not necessarily in order of seniority ) who participated in the fight to end the ADF rebellion and allowed me the freedom to tell the story the way I saw it at the battle field. Afande Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Afande Maj.Sula Ssemakula Suicide (RIP), I directly worked under his command, Afande Jet Mwebaze (RIP) was the first senior UPDF commander to take me to the war frontline, Afande Katumba Wamala, afande Salim Saleh, Afande Charles Angina, afande James Kazini (RIP), Afande Nobel Mayombo (RIP), Afande Kahinda Otafiire, afande Nathan Mugisha, afande Muhanga, Afande David Kaboyo, afande Richard Edyegu (he suffered severe injuries and his leg was amputated after he was hit by a landmine at the Kasese officers mess), afande Stephen Masiga (RIP), Afande Charles Owor ( oba where he?), afande Walter Ochola (RIP), afande Balikudembe Kileju (headed the then PPU now in private practice), afande Abbas Byakagaba (now commanding the Oil Police protection unit he was then regional police special branch commander western Uganda ), afande shaban Bantaliza, afande Abbey Kisubi, afende Andew Muzira, afande Maj. Kibowa, afande , maj.Kawesi, afande Muhesi, afande Tumukunde. I also salute comrades in the journalism profession who joined me to carry the story forward but first to my editors at the time, again NOT in order of seniority : William Pike, Sam Serwanga, Hellen Mukiibi, Ben Ochan, JB Wasswa, John Kakande, Ikebesi Ocole Omoding ,Barbra Kaija, Paul Nsereko (RIP), Robinnah Basalirwa, Adyeri Kanyeihe, Ben Opolt, Wange M,Joacim Buwembo, Ben Bella , Epaja Ejelu, Rosemary Kemigisha and Rev Sam Adido . And the war reporters and editors ; Grace Matsiko NV, Emmy Aliro NV , DM ‘s Kevin Aliro, (RIP) ,Richard Tebere (RIP) of the Maama and Baba Pajero fame, Photo journalists, Arthur Kintu ( you remember when the mambas were first deployed to Bundibugyo and we took and survived an RPG enemy fire), Cranmer Mugerwa (RIP), James Akena ,Peter Busomoke, Jimmy Adriko, Linda Nabusayi (you remember moving in the ‘bufallo’ in the chilly Bundibugyo mountains), John B Nzijah, John Twaite, Michael Karugaba (RIP), Kagyenda Apuuli ,BBC’s Anna Bozello, and Hassan Ali of the then BBC swahilli service (RIP). Just like Afandes, Masiga, Edyegu and many others, I too, carry scars from injuries I suffered on my left hand while on duty. We were ambushed by the rebels at a place called Sempaya just before the hot springs in Bundibugyo a few weeks into the war. We lost a couple of gallant fighters and a number were injured . But all the same, I wish every youth in this country can have the rare privilege to serve in our armed forces and show positive results for their service. That will be Patriotism at its Best. In the days to come ,I will share some of the pictures and stories which were published from the war frontline in The New Vision ,nearly 20 years ago. I also want to be inspired by comrades, Joachim Buwembo (Punishing the Messenger), Charles Onyango Obbo (Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, And The Poverty,) Julius Mucunguzi ( the Story of Keeping Hope Alive) and write a book about my four years experience as a war reporter or better still, serving my country as a journalist for the last 20 years. MOSES PAUL SSERWANGA Esq. MEDIA, DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATION CONSULTANT , TRAINER AND ADVOCATE OF THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA