Kayira’s Spirit Haunts Museveni Regime

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[Op-Ed] Twenty years after the murder of Dr Lutakome Andrew Kayira in my house at Gaba, near Kampala, the spirits of the late guerrilla leader have come to haunt the government of Lt. Gen Yoweri Museveni.

The majority of the population of Uganda is below the age of 20 so most were not born when the attack took place at my house on March 5, 1987. Yet many may rightly think they have always known Dr. Kayira, as Ugandan rebel movements and opposition political parties have now and then queried the circumstance that led to Kayira's killing and most notably who carried our or his assassination.

Who then is this man who, even from his grave is causing more controversies in as much the same he when he was still alive? Many of us, including this writer, had not heard of this man until the late 1970s when Ugandan exiles converged in the Tanzanian town of Arusha to quickly organize a united movement that would take over power in Uganda as Idi Amin, Uganda's most feared dictator was about to be overthrown with the help of Tanzanian troops.

Kayira who had abandoned his post as a college lecturer at Boston University, Boston Mass., was among the many fighters who led their separate rebel movements to the negotiating table in Arusha that culminated in the formation of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).

That meeting chose a former Makerere University lecturer; Professor Yusuf Lule to lead the newly-formed Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) which eventually took over power after Amin had been deposed. Kayira was among the many members of different fighting factions that formed the National Consultative Council (NCC) that was put in place to run Uganda as the executive arm of the Lule government.

Within 60 days of replacing Amin, Prof. Lule was unceremoniously deposed by the NCC. Kayira who had been a staunch Lule ally refused to co-operate with his fellow NCC members who had chosen a former Ugandan Attorney General, Godfrey Binaisa as a replacement to Lule. It was from this time that Kayira along with others chose to start removing himself from the NCC and started to oppose it, especially its then very powerful chairman, Edward Rugumayo.

By the time Binaisa was toppled by UNLF's vice chairman Paulo Muwanga, Kayira was already in the bush. From then, his name became famous for attacks on police stations and military detach. His most brave encounter was when he led a group of rebels to attack a heavily-fortified Lubiri army barracks in which he was able to capture several weapons many of which were in turn captured by the national Resistance Movement (NRM) that had been set up by Yoweri Museveni.

Members of both Kayira's Uganda Freedom Movement and the NRM have since told me it was the stealing of weapons from the UFM by the NRA that started a long feud between Museveni and Kayira that finally ended in Kayira's death.

It is significant to note the way Uganda's Democratic Party (DP) has suddenly caught the Museveni government off-guard by demanding to know what a group of men from Britain's elite police force, New Scotland Yard found after being commissioned by the Museveni Government to investigate the killing.

Before the officers left Uganda to carry out their investigations, one of them, Superintendent Thompson personally called me and said the Uganda Government had sought their help in finding the killers of Kayira. He added that before his officers could go to the Ugandan capital Kampala, Ugandan police officers had asked whether it would be possible for me to give them an interview. I said I had no problem granting them an interview as long as I did not have to return to Uganda to give it. It was agreed that the officers would fly to London.

Before they were allowed to interview me, Mr. Thompson made it very clear that at no time was I being treated as a suspect. He said it was up top me to agree to the interview or refuse to answer any questions. I agreed to be interviewed on condition that a friend of mine who was a practicing advocate in the UK and who was at one time head of Uganda's security police, Mr. Akena Adoko sit in throughout the interview. This was agreed and I was interviewed by two Ugandan police officers led by then head of Uganda's criminal investigation department, Inspector Mugamba.

Mr. Thompson, accompanied by another Scotland Yard officer also sat in and listened. I was asked whether I would agree to have my fingerprints taken. Again, Thompson said this was for the purpose of eliminating my prints from those that had been found in my house which might belong to the killers. Thompson said I was free to refuse my fingerprints taken but I chose the latter telling them I had nothing to hide.

What has amazed me is that a report published by the New Vision newspaper purporting to be the original findings of Scotland Yard's investigation into Kayira's death, failed to mention the very fact that my wife and I had been interviewed by Scotland Yard. This vital piece of evidence was also missing in a report published some years ago by a Ugandan tabloid pamphlet called Uganda Confidential, which has since gone out of circulation with its then editor Teddy Seezi Cheeye now an officer in one of Uganda's security organizations.

I was very surprised to read a version of yet another Scotland Yard report, this time published by the Monitor newspaper in which details of my interview to the Uganda police officers at Scotland Yard. In my opinion, it did not take me long to determine which one was the right report.

It is right and quite important that questions are raised as to who killed Kayira. Yes! Many Ugandans have been mysteriously killed but Andrew was no ordinary Ugandan. As an African journalist and historian, I can fully understand why the DP is raising the stakes at this very time. Uganda is to host for the first time, the prestigious meeting of Heads of State and Government of the Commonwealth. The fact that our own head of state here, Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to open the conference also makes it a great opportunity for any political opposition party to try its best to embarrass a government, especially one like that of Museveni which has many skeletons in its cupboard.
While the opposition is milking all its worth from the embarrassment it is causing the Museveni government, the Ugandan media is also having a field day. The story has been headline news for over a week now and it could well be one of the best stories that have captured readers, listeners and viewers all at the same time.

My criticism of the Uganda media it seems still very much steeped in the journalism of the 1980's when the press self-regulated itself to avoid arrests and being shut down. One wonders why there are no investigative journalists in Uganda who could have tried to find out what kind of person their formal colleague -this writer- was before defaming his character in the manner that they have.

No medium has seriously taken the government to task by questioning why Scotland Yard was paid an estimated $1.5 million dollars tax payers money to investigate a killing and then fail to let the country know the outcome of such an investigation. The Uganda press has failed to ask why President Museveni bought the widow of Kayira a $175,000 house in Poughkeepsie, New York and where that kind of money came from. It has also failed to ask the Uganda Police what conclusion they reached on their investigation. 

What the media in Uganda has done is to repeat the government line over and over again those investigations are still going on and that the prime witness is not in the country. The press has also not raised any eyebrows at to what happened to two soldiers who appeared as government witnesses during a brief trial of six men arrested for the Kayira killing. These two were often visited in prison by a Uganda army brigadier who, on their release accommodated them only for the two to be shot dead later after being accused of being government enemies.

In all, the Uganda press has let down the people of Uganda big time! As for me, however long it takes me, I will one day take to court all the news organizations in Uganda that have defamed my name. It may not be today or tomorrow but I know one day my day will come.

Publisher's Note: Gombya worked for the BBC at the time of the Kayira murder. He has since been exiled from Uganda.

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