Sunday, August 6, 2017

{UAH} Personal testimonies of the survivors of the 1979 muslim massacre in Mbarara

The following are the personal testimonies of the Muslims who survived the massacres.

Mzee Hassan Hamutambo

Mzee Hassan Hamutambo was born in 1908 in Kigezi District. In 1925 he migrated with his parents to Rwengando in Kiziba sub-county, Ankole District. He  fought  in the  Second  World  War  and  returned  to  the  same place  in  1946.  His father was not a    Muslim and was married to 10 wives. In 1946 Hassan Hamutambo embraced Islam. He later married a  non-Muslim  lady,  and  in  1975  the community  pressurized  him  to  revert  to Christianity. He refused.

From then his wife started misbehaving, and they divorced.  Asked about how Muslims behaved during Amin's regime, Mzee Hassan said, "Generally the Muslims behaved well, save for two men, one of whom is currently in jail. It was mainly the Christians who held high positions of responsibility.  For example all the chiefs, save for the then Gombolola chief, Abas Kigozi, were Christians."

On  how  the  massacres  started,  Mzee  Hassan  said  that  it all  started  with  the  Christians  holding  continuous  meetings.  Thereafter  they  went  to  Muslim  homes  and  demanded  cows  as  ransom  for having misbehaved during Amin's regime. Among the people whose cows were eaten are Jafari Kibirige, Miiro, Hajji Katende, Serunjogi and Hamidi. Banana plantations belonging to the Muslims were destroyed. All these events took place in 1979.

Then they started gathering the Muslims from their places of work or homes at around lunch time. They were called out of their homes by people with spears, dogs and banana fibers who told them that they were wanted by the defence minister, Yoweri Museveni, to explain certain things. On coming out of their  houses,  they  were  handcuffed  with  banana  fibres  and  led  to River Rwizi where they were cut with pangas and thrown into the water.

Mzee Hassan  said  he  lost  his  eldest  son  Abdu  Isangabashaija who  left  three  sons, of whom  two  are  currently (1989)  in  Primary  Four  and  one  in  Primary  Two.

Another one is the son of Abdulmanaf who was his in-law. His worst experience of all was that of the lady who had been married to Ali – Madiya – who was seven months pregnant.  Her belly was hacked with a panga and fetus removed and thrown in the river.

Abdallah Segululigamba, the Muslim pioneer in the area, was also killed. The  Mzee  also  said  that  before  all  this  took  place,  there  were  some four people who were killed in the house and the Muslims were prevented from burying them. They were not buried until a delegation from the headquarters of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council headed by Kassim Mulumba came to the place. The victims were:

1.         Idi Tamukedde

2.         Abdallah Kyegambe

3.         Mustapha Mabuye

4.         Out of his memory

All of them were neighbors. Only their skeletons could be buried.  "We placed two in each grave", said Mzee Hassan.

Asked about how he escaped, he said, "I cannot exactly tell how I escaped. It was a horrible experience, but somehow I managed to escape to Zaire where I stayed for sometime in Muslim homes.  In the  same  year  I  came back  because  of  my  people  I  had  left  behind, but I found when they had gone to Mbarara."

On  property,  the  old  man  said  he  had  lost  almost  everything.  His house was also burnt. "As if that was not enough, in 1982 during the Obote II Regime, when  they  started  chasing  the  Banyarwanda,  my house  was  burnt  alleging  that  I  was  a  Nyarwanda.  I later went to Mbarara and cleared myself by producing evidence."

When Tito Okello Lutwa took over power  in  1985,  they  again  came  to  his  place  at  around  4.30pm  and burnt everything within the grass-thatched house.  In it were 30 bags of  coffee,  30  bags  of  maize,  4  bags  of  beans,  4  bags  of  groundnuts  3  granaries  of  millet.  They alleged that his son Mutwalib Dimba had on many occasions stolen money and a radio cassette, and they wanted him to give testimony to the police. "However, some of the people who did it were arrested," Mzee Hassan said.

As regards responsibility, the old man said that he has 10 children in Primary school, three of whom are orphans.  He has three in Secondary school.  Asked whether he knew about any other orphans, he said he did not know many, except those of Abdallah Kachwa.  People  had  dispersed  into  different  places  after the  tragedy,  he  noted  sadly.  He, however, said that some are under the guardianship of Sheikh Abdulmanaf Semakula at Kiziba, who "lost many children, about 10 and his wife was cut on the head but still lives."

Ibrahim Kangave

He stays in Kiziba Village.  He asserted that the people killed in 1979 were not politicians.  Ibrahim explains that soon after the meetings held by non-Muslims, especially the Protestants in Itendero, and after forcing Muslims to pay ransom and destroying their plantations, Fenikance Kamisha was killed by unknown assailants at night.  It is said that  this  was  the  origin  of  the Muslim  massacre  as  Christians thought  it  was  the  Muslims  who  had  killed him  in  retaliation.  Ibrahim Kangave contends, however, that they wanted to use this as an excuse to finish off Muslims in the area, which seemed to have been their wish for a long time.

He  also  said  that  some  government  officials  were  sent  to  the  area  in 1980  during President Binaisa's  Regime  but  were  chased  away  by  throwing stones at  them.

Sheikh Abdulmanaf Semakula

Currently, this is the oldest sheikh in the area and one of the earliest settlers.  He  came  to  the  area  at  the  age  of  5   with  his  father.  They came from Kyaggwe in Buganda to Nakasambya and finally to Kiziba when he was 20.

Asked whether he had problems with non-Muslims during Amin's regime, Sheikh Abdulmanaf said, "There were no problems at all. We even married from them."

Concerning the atrocities committed against Muslims,  Sheikh  Abdulmanaf  said that it seemed that Amin, having been a Muslim and President,  had  prompted  the  Protestants  to  nurse  a  silent  grudge  against all  Muslims.  Sheikh Abdulmanaf  recalls  that, Edward Rurangaranga  came  to the  area  and  called  for  a  meeting,  and  told  the  people to separate thus, "Those of Amin here and the rest there." They refused to separate.  But  the  Muslims  were  told  to  separate from the rest,  which  they  did.

He addressed them separately. Thereafter he addressed the other group. It  is  reported  from  people  who  were  in  the  non-Muslim meeting  that Rurangaranga  said,  "We  have  finished  the  stem  (Amin)  and  the branches are yours." This was in 1979. It was not long thereafter before the non-Muslims, especially the Protestants, started asking for ransoms, burning houses and destroying gardens belonging to Muslims.

"On 26,  June 1979,  they  started  gathering  all  the  Muslims  from  their  houses  in broad day light and took them to River Rwizi," said the old sheikh.  Some of those involved in the process of gathering were:

1.         Machote, who is currently in prison

2.         Rweizire

3.         Bucunku –in prison

4.         Yoramu  – imprisoned

5.         Kamugisha –   in prison

6.         Kyankaga – Not arrested

The Muslims were cut, thrown into the river, and those who managed to survive ran to the district commissioner. A meeting was convened at Kagango.  The defence minister Yoweri Museveni attended in person.  He ordered  for the arrest  and  imprisonment  of the killers but  some  of  them  were released  shortly  after.  Kyankaga was not arrested and stayed at his home.

Another meeting was held at Kiziba to try and put out the fire.  At the meeting a resolution was passed that whoever shall be seen harassing Muslims would be fined. This meeting turned the matter from an open operation to a secret one which was more destructive.  They would come at night and take all the things.  So the Muslims ran to Kabwohe; those who remained were forced to sell their land at takeaway prices.

Asked  whether  the  cases  were  reported  to  the  Police,  Sheikh Abdulmanaf  said they  had  reported and  that  the  cases  even reached court. "The other side hired a lawyer and the Muslims were called upon to hire one but they could not afford because the lawyer wanted sh. 400,000," he said.

Allaah gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him."And if Allah touches you with harm, none can remove it but He, and if He touches you with good, then He is Able to do all things." (6:17)

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