The Making of Col Kashillingi, a Bush War Hero Who Has Died in Regrets

PHOTO Courtesy. Deceased Col Ahmed Kashillingi

Col Ahmed Kashillingi was declared dead on Wednesday night this week and he will be buried today in the Kigezi region, Western Uganda.  To comprehend why a lot of eulogies are being carried in the mainstream media and social media platforms, you need to know who Col Kashillingi was.

According to one of the eulogies making rounds and believed to have been authored by one of the senior security officers, Col Kashillingi completed his A ‘level at Kigezi College Butobere, travelled to Mbarara for recruitment into Uganda Prisons. But to his disappointment, he was disqualified on grounds that he was short even though his height was about 5.8feet.

Kashillingi got upset Kashillingi, decided to stay with his aunt, Angela Kamazoba, who was a teacher in Mbarara. It was at this place he learnt that there was army recruitment at Mbarara barracks and he did not waste time. He rushed to the recruitment centre but again found when that the registration had just been completed. It is said Kashillingi stood there wondering why he was missing out on every opportunity to join forces. But as a wise and determined young man, Kashillingi decided to join the recruits boarding a truck. This was after he heard the commanding officer Colonel Mesusera Arach ordering the selected youths to remove their shirts and board the army truck.

The recruits were taken to Biharwe and then ordered to run back to Mbarara barracks while Col Mesusera observed their physical capabilities in his Land Rover. The commanding officer was amused by the determination of a skinny Kashillingi leading giants in the race and thus he was registered as recruit number one.

When he completed 9months of training in Mbarara, Kashillingi, and Lawrence Opio who were among the best trainees was sent to the army headquarters in Mengo, Kampala. It is here that they did a second course which focused on conditions of service, regulations, and the armed forces Act. At Mengo army headquarters, Kashillingi and Opio were tutored by John Mwaka, who later became a Colonel in the early reigns of President Idi Amin.

It should be remembered that Kashillingi trained in military signals in 1969 which was during the regime of President Milton Obote. This course was conducted at Jinja barracks where he rubbed soldiers with now second deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali. He also did a para-trooping course at Malire barracks.

Kashillingi’s stardom increased year in and year out. In 1970, he was one of the few lucky soldiers taken to England for an upper-grade course in records management. As the saying goes that luck comes for the prepared, Kashillingi was sent in 192 sent to Benghazi for a commando course. This was after then President Amin met Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli.

Being a bright soldier, Amin again selected him for another commando course in Bagdad, Iraq in 1973 and after completion, he was deployed in a special forces’ unit based in Bugolobi present day Nakawa division which was being superintended by Maj Ibrahim Garandi.

First Trouble

After three years of getting all those specialised courses, Kashillingi was arrested in 1976 by Col Isaac Maliyamungu, who was then director of special operations in Amin’s army. He was not alone in the clandestine arrest but with 13 others who were being accused of conniving with Israeli special forces that raided Entebbe and rescued its nationals. The Israelites and Jews were in hostage at Entebbe Airport after they had been abducted by militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Col Maliyamungu incarcerated Kashillingi and his colleagues in a room named C-2 at Makindye Barracks for less than an hour. It said that Col Maliyamungu abruptly entered room C-2 and started shooting randomly using his Soviet pistol. He did this while laughing because he was exceedingly happy to see people crying for dear lives as bullets penetrated their bodies.

Survive Random Bullets

As they say, until God says your time is up, Kashillingi and one Yusuf Mohammad who had been abducted from the Airforce were the only two people who survived the random bullets. It was at the moment Kashillingi’s wife Zainabu Mbabazi, pleaded with the wife of the country’s second in command (Vice-President) Mustapha Adrisi, to set free her children’s father.

Mbabazi’s cries helped and Kashillingi was released. He returned to his commando unit until the fall of Amin’s regime in 1979. Prof Yusuf Lule’s government that had replaced Amin’s issued radio notices to all soldiers of the deposed leadership to report to the nearest police stations or army barracks. But when Kashillingi reported at Kyanamira Police post, Kabale, he was arrested and eventually detained at Luzira alongside dozens of other soldiers.

Luzira Escape

It is alleged that Kashillingi almost escaped from Luzira dungeons using a hole he had dug but his moves were detected by prison authorities. As a punishment for the attempted escape, he was detained in stinking water for several days. His lower body was reportedly decomposing at the time he was exonerated from the punishment.

But after recovering, Kashillingi noticed that it was not going to be safe for him to stay in prison. It is said that he escaped from jail and walked to his home district of Rukungiri. While enjoying village life but of course with fears that he would be rearrested, Kashillingi was convinced and accepted to join Uganda Freedom Movement -UFM started by Andrew Kayiira. He joined UFM with people he previously served within Amin’s government and they included Ndugutse alias Kalisoliso, George Nkwanga, Lutaaya Sonko, and Joseph Tomusange alias Tom Demo.

First UFM Mission

One of the deadliest tasks UFM gave Kashillingi was picking the rebel group’s guns near Lubiri barracks. He was given a Fiat Mirafiori and he loaded the guns in the car boot. However, Kashillingi landed in an army roadblock at Nalukolongo where every car was being checked. It said that he waited for the soldiers to clear the vehicle that was in front of him and sped past the roadblock without being checked. Eventually, he delivered the firearms to a recruitment centre which was disguised as a garage in Nakulabye but it was purely a UFM cell.

Second UFM Mission

Kayiira, who was UFM commander assigned Kashillingi and a few others to assassinate Paulo Muwango, who was then chairman of the military commission. This mission was supposed to be executed at Najjanankumbi along Entebbe Road. The determined Kashillingi and his fellow battle-hardened men reached the plot centre but their mission was obliterated by Abdullah who did not deliver their killer weapons thus making the task flop.

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1980 Chaotic Elections

Uganda’s current president, Yoweri Museveni, was a presidential candidate in the 1980 elections but terribly lost as he had not support. But Museveni disagreed with the outcomes insisting that it was characterised by malpractice. Museveni waged a war that brought him into power in 1986 a grip he has kept to date. However, Museveni had to mobilize people and make a coalition in order to defeat Obote’s Army.

Kashillingi was approached in 1980 by Museveni’s ally a one Joy Mirembe, around the now Ben -Kiwanuka road/street in the Central Business District of Kampala. The two were not strangers to each other since Mirembe was married to a prison warder at Luzira, called Ahimbisibwe. But Kashillingi’s wife was a Taekwondo instructor at Luzira prisons.

To cut the long story short, Kashillingi fought alongside Museveni and many others for five years until they came to power in 1986. Among the many roles, Kashillingi executed while National Resistance Army (NRA) fought to come to power was training recruits commando skills that involved the use of stones to attack military installations. Kashillingi and his group attacked Kisoga Police Station in April 1981 mostly using stones at 8:40 pm and seized seven G3 guns. They later shifted to Jjanda, Namugongo, where they met one Reverend Ssewanonda, a crucial collaborator. A day later, they raided Ngogwe Police Station and seized 10 submachine guns and several live ammunition.

Museveni-Kayiira collaboration

When the two war Principals (Museveni-Kayiira) struck an agreement in Nairobi and London, the former instructed all NRA forces to converge near Matugga where new units were formed and deployed. Kashillingi was deployed in the mobile brigade, along with Butamanya, Drago Nyanzi, Bruce Muwanga, and Mohammad Kanaabi, among others. But Obote’s Army severally hit them and the groups had to be reorganised in 1983. At the time, Obote’s infantry was being superintended by Col Charles Ogole.

NRA forces retreated to Ssingo and Ngoma. But Museveni regained fighting energy after the death of Obote’s Army commander David Oyite Ojok. This was because the Army became disorganized and this resulted in the July 27, 1985 coup that was led by Brig Gen Bazillio Olara Okello who then installed Gen Tito Okello Lutwa as Uganda’s new president. Kashillingi played a pivotal role as NRA faced off with Gen Lutwa’s Army at Katonga bridge and this led to the fall of the government. All this happened because Kashillingi commanded the capture of Entebbe Airport and Museveni came to power on January 25, 1986, although they chose to celebrate the victory every January 26.

Troubles in Museveni Gov’t

Kashillingi after the capture of Kampala, was appointed Kashillingi as the director of army records. Two years later (1988), Museveni promoted Kashillingi to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel alongside Mugisha Muntu, Kizza Besigye, Jim Muhwezi, Kasirye Ggwanga, Ivan Koreta, Stephen Kashaka, Ronald Bata, Peter Kerim, Lutaaya, Frank Guma, Nasur Ezaruk Amin, Stanley Muhangi, Bamwesiga Kamwesiga, Fred Mugisha, Samson Mande, Julius Aine, Chefe Ali and Serwanga Lwanga.

But in 1990, Museveni made changes in the Army whereby he dropped commander Salim Saleh (General), and Kashillingi including Brig Gen Julius Chihandae. It is said that Museveni directed Kashillingi and Chihandae to report to the minister of public service, Tom Rubale, in order to be assigned new duties.

It is again alleged that Museveni left for Djibouti when he had instructed the commander of the 301 Brigade, James Kazini to arrest Kashillingi. Forty three soldiers including three arresting officers were deployed at Kashillingi’s home that was at Block 12, Acacia Avenue. The arresting offices have severally been identified as Lt. Edward Kacumitana, Lt. Paddy Zebikire and 2nd Lt. Kyeyune. Being a military officer, Kashillingi learnt of the pending arrest and he evaded it using a Mercedes Benz. It is said he hide for three days trying to meet Museveni in order to understand why he was being witch-hunted but when this did not succeed, he decided to flee to Congo Zaire present-day DR Congo.  It is said that Kashillingi took a decision to flee to Zaire after hearing the minister of state for defence, David Tinyefuza read Sejusa instructing soldiers not to arrest him but to shoot him dead on sight.

Military officials have repeatedly told the media that Kashillingi fled to Zaire using a military car he allegedly seized from soldiers. When he reached at the Uganda- Zaire border at Ishasha, Kashillingi told authorities that he was crossing to purchase drugs for his sick son, Hussein Kashillingi, who is currently one of the renowned lawyers in Kampala City.

While in Zaire, the now-deceased military officer revealed to authorities that Kazini was plotting to kill him. He was offered safe passage through Buganza- Nyamirima-Rutshuru, and Goma but later met President Mobutu Sese Seko and briefed him about his predicament with Army leadership in Uganda. Authorities in Uganda through the state minister for foreign affairs, Omara Atubo, asked Zaire to extradite Kashillingi because he was needed for treasonous acts.

Kashillingi was in 1991, abducted, brought back to Uganda, and charged with treason. He was sent to jail but he was acquitted in 1995 and that was the start of leaving unceremonious life until his death despite having fought tooth and nail to bring Museveni’s government into power.