In 1979, several years after completing my Bachelor of Laws at Makerere University and the requisite Bar course at the LDC, I became the Director of Legal Services for the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
The UNLA, and its political sibling, the UNLF was formed in Moshi, Tanzania as a coalition of groups opposed to Amin’s rule. The coalition included FRONASA, Save Uganda Movement, Kikosi Maalum and Uganda Freedom Union.
As Director of Legal Services my role was to advise on legal matters as well as carry out various security operations with fellow UNLA members. These operations involved the recruitment and military training of FRONASA combatants in friendly countries. I also established and ran various clandestine study groups.
UNLA, with the help of Tanzania, brought about the ousting of Idi Amin and governed Uganda from 1979 until the controversial general elections of 1980.
Soldiers raid his home, put kids on gun-point for four days
The fraudulent elections of December 1980 saw former president, Milton Obote once again come to power. I and many others saw this election as an early warning sign of the new regime’s anti-democratic tendencies and it’s this singular event that birthed the NRA and NRM.
On February 5th, 1981, I (together with the late Sam Magara and the late Akanga Byaruhanga) led a reconnaissance mission to prepare for the events the NRA had planned for February 6th.
On that day NRA fighters attacked Kabamba Barracks and obtained additional guns for the guerilla war that was to ensue.
Remarkably, this would be the second liberation war to be fought in Uganda in under a decade. The raid on Kabamba meant that the environment would become even more dangerous for Ugandans and for my family.
Very soon after the events of February 6th, my home was raided by Obote’s soldiers and my children held hostage at gun-point for four days. Neither my wife nor I were at home.
At the time, I was working in Kampala under concealment and mobilising NRA soldiers to go the bush. Jacqueline, upon hearing the news that Obote’s soldiers had surrounded comrade Enid Kanyengyeyo’s home across the street, had fled to James Musinguzi Garuga’s house nearby with Eriya Kategaya in tow.
It was this raid on my home, coupled with other events, that forced my family into exile. First, the family went to Nairobi (mid 1981) and eventually Sweden (1983).
In Nairobi, we started the External Wing which coordinated the activities of NRM/NRA outside Uganda and in the rest of the world.
Delegates to the Constituent Assembly were elected on 28th March 1994. There were 284 of us, and our job was to draw up a new constitution for Uganda.
The country had changed. For the first time in Uganda’s history since independence, we were enjoying nearly a decade of peace and solidarity in most parts of the country.
Even with the conflict playing out in the North there was still a feeling amongst us of hope and great expectation; a feeling that to be among those writing our new constitution was to be part of something greater than any one individual.
The responsibility was humbling because we were determining, on behalf of the people of Uganda, the fundamental principles upon which our nation would operate.
At the time, having experienced what happened when governance was left to the whims of individuals, we all understood very clearly the importance of the rule of law.
Later on, in 1996 I was elected to Parliament for the first time as the MP for Kinkizi West constituency under this new constitution.
Amama Mbabazi, former Prime Minister and NRM Secretary General