After almost eight years
at the helm of the country, a combined force led by the Tanzania People’s Defence
Forces-TPDF toppled President Idi Amin Dada on April 11, 1979.
to the fall of Amin’s government, different parts of the country, especially along
the direct routes used by the Tanzanian forces, witnessed a series of
bombardments as the invading armies advanced to the capital, Kampala amidst stiff
resistance from the government troops.
The communities in Masaka
still have fresh memories of the heavy artillery sounds alias Saba Saba, the
grave damage to infrastructure and the lives lost during the war. Mousa Wamala,
a retired educationist who witnessed the war, recalls that the Tanzanian forces
captured Masaka town between February 23 and 24, 1979
before advancing to the neighbouring Lukaya town on their way to Kampala.
According to Wamala, before the full military
assault on Masaka, which was a progressive town, TPDF deployed agents that
regularly spied on the Uganda Army and Amin’s confidants in the area. He
says that the secret agents began infiltrating Masaka and the country in early
1978 even before the invasion of Kagera. He says these simplified the work of
the invaders when Tanzania eventually announced the war to oust Amin.
Days to the final fall of Masaka, Wamala
recollects that many civilians whom he believes were part of the disgruntled
loyalists of Obote's government, which Amin had toppled in 1971 started
appearing with guns on the streets of Masaka. This instilled a lot of fear in
the public. He narrates that on February 23, 1979, the Tanzanian forces started
bombarding Masaka town, which caused extensive damage to infrastructure.
//Cue in: “Prior to 1978….
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//Cue in: nzijukira
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Key among the infrastructure that was razed down
in Masaka include the Tropic Inn, Amin’s favourite hotel, Masaka Town Hall,
Uganda Commercial Bank and Post Office, roads and private residences, many of
which have never been reconstructed.
Wamala says that TDPF also hit the
government’s military Russian-made radar at the Uganda Technical College in
Kirumba Masaka, which partly disabled the Ugandan troops forcing some of them
to surrender in panic.
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Hajjat Bitamisi Namuddu, one of the famous local
businesspersons in Masaka narrates that she lost all her merchandise and other
properties to looting and destruction by military shells. She narrates that as TDPF soldiers advanced
towards Masaka town, some agents within the Uganda Army started framing famous
entrepreneurs whom they would secretly kidnap before fleecing them.
On top of her wholesale
shop that was looted when the invaders struck Masaka town, Namuddu also lost
her TATA lorry to the Ugandan fighters who intercepted them at a roadblock in
Lukaya town as she fled the war with her family to Bulo in Butambala district.
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Namuddu explains that
besides the external invasion, some naughty soldiers who
tormented Ugandans also contributed to Amin’s overthrow. According to Namuddu,
the 1979 war erupted when many Ugandans, especially in the business class were
angry with the regime owing to the atrocities committed by notorious soldiers
who took people's merchandise without payment.
//Cue in: “abasajja abe bakola….
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Nuliyat Nanyomo, a resident of Bisanje parish
about 15 kilometers away from Masaka town towards the Uganda-Tanzania border
says that prior to the fall of Masaka, Amin would visit their communities to
encourage them to support the government forces.
Unlike other people who describe Amin as a
ruthless military commander, Nanyomo still recalls the clothes the former
President shared with her family upon his return from the invasion of
Kagera. “Amin used to visit his friend in our neighbourhood, the home of Isaac
Nswazaluguudo, and he brought for us rare types of mats, clothes and military
“Actually, we used to join him to sing military
songs,” she said. Swaibuh Makumbi, one of the civilians who at one time stayed
close to the Uganda Army soldiers notes that despite his rare military skills,
Amin could not match the mighty force of the Tanzania soldiers.
According to Makumbi, when Amin left Masaka for
Kampala, as the TPDF advanced, several soldiers lost morale and tactically
withdrew while others just disappeared giving leeway to the enemy who was also