8 Guns, Magazines Recovered from Home of Fronasa Fighter

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Eight guns and 15 empty magazines have been recovered from the home of the late James Karambuzi, one of the fighters of the Front for National Salvation Fronasa who was executed in Kabale district in 1973. Athanasius Mujaasi, the LC I Chairperson, Igabiro cell, says a team of builders led by site engineer, Victor Byaruhanga, first recovered four guns on Sunday while digging the foundation of the house.
Guns that were recovered from the home of the late James Karambuzi

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Eight guns and 15 empty magazines have been recovered from the home of the late James Karambuzi, one of the fighters of the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa) who was executed in Kabale district in February 1973.

Builders stumbled on the arms while excavating the foundation of a commercial structure at the deceased's home in Igabiro cell in Mwanjari ward in Southern Division of Kabale Municipality.

Two of the guns are Sub Machine Guns-SMGs while the others are Semi-Automatic Rifles-SAR. 

Athanasius Mujaasi, the LC I Chairperson, Igabiro cell, says a team of builders led by site engineer, Victor Byaruhanga, first recovered four guns on Sunday while digging the foundation of the house.

Byaruhanga says the builders recovered four more guns and magazines on Tuesday afternoon. He says they handed over the guns to police. 

The Kigezi Region Police spokesperson, Elly Maate, says the recovered guns are currently kept at Kabale Central Police Station. Maate says although the guns and magazines are rusty, police experts will examine them to ascertain whether they are still operational.

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Family members including Happy Karambuzi, the deceased's son, declined to comment on the matter. They also barred our reporter from accessing the construction site where the guns were recovered.

About James Karambuzi

He was among the first recruits of Fronasa, a rebel group formed by Yoweri Museveni to fight the government of General Idi Amin Dada, who ascended to power in January 1971 through a military coup. 

Shortly after the coup, Museveni, who was working as a researcher in the office of the then president, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, left for Tanzania and started clandestine activities against the new government.

He started recruiting people into Fronasa including Karambuzi, Joseph Bitwari and another man only identified as Kangire. In his book Sowing the Mustard Seed, Museveni narrates Fronasa's leading role in the attack on Simba Barracks in Mbarara, now the Second Division army headquarters at Makenke September 1972.

According to Museveni, the rebels were nearly annihilated by government troops. Following the attack, government forces launched reprisal attacks hunting for suspected rebels and their collaborators. 

Museveni narrates that several young men were arrested from different parts of the country and sentenced to death by the military tribunal. In Kigezi alone, the list had James Karambuzi, Joseph Bitwari and David Kangire. 

The suspects were to be executed by firing squad carried out in their home towns. For Karambuzi and his group, the executions were carried out on February 10, 1973 at Kabale Municipal Stadium. 

Other suspected rebel collaborators or sympathizers who were killed on the same day in different parts of the country include Abwoli Malibo and Perez Kasoro who were executed in Fort Portal town and Tom Mabasa and Sebastino Namirundu whose public execution was carried out in Mbale town. Others were James Karuhanga who was killed in Mbarara and Joseph Obwona and John Labeja who faced public execution in Gulu.

The military government put announcements in the media asking the public to attend these executions.

In 2015, President Museveni visited Karambuzi's family and promised to help the struggling children and grandchildren by constructing a commercial structure on their land in Kabale Municipality.

He also promised to donate a lorry to the family and sponsor the education of some of his grandchildren. The commercial building is part of the pledge by president Museveni to support the family.

Bishop summarises the day in Kabale

Among the people who were called to witness the public execution in Kabale was Bishop Festo Kivengere of Kigezi Diocese. It was Bishop Kivengere who led other religious leaders present to talk to, and pray for, the victims shortly before their death. It was a tough call for Kivengere, who had been consecrated as the second Bishop of Kigezi Diocese months earlier, replacing replacing Bishop Richard Lyth.

In his 1984 book, The Case For Christianity, Colin Chapman quotes Kivengere's account of the events at Kabale Stadium on February 10, 1973:

“February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there to watch.”

Bishop Kivengere is quoted saying he had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died.

“They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?”

Bishop Kivengere, who led Kigezi Diocese from 1972 until his death in 1988, added that he and other religious leaders approached the victims from behind and that when they saw him… “Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out:

“Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did.”

The other two men, according to Bishop Kivengere, excitedly raised their hands and rattled their handcuffs as they told similar stories.

“I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men's faces!”

He added: “The three faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired, and the three were with Jesus. We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.”

The following Sunday, Bishop Kivengere preached to a huge crowd in the home town of one of the three executed men. “When I gave them the testimony of their man, and how he died, there erupted a great song of praise to Jesus! Many turned to the Lord there.”