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A detailed account of the 1979 massacre of Muslims in western Uganda


Summary: Genocide is internationally defined as actions intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such. In Ankole the bloodbath targeted Muslims as such. The perpetrators said they acted on the orders of the then defence minister and current president, Yoweri K. Museveni.

Author Biography: Abasi Kiyimba is Professor of Literature at Makerere University. He has researched and written widely on Muslim affairs in Uganda.

It is now (1990) coming to eleven years since the end of the war that ousted Idi Amin from the presidency of Uganda.  Some people choose to identify this war by the gigantic name of “LIBERATION WAR”; but as the  experience  we  are  about  to  review  will  show, absurd is  a  weak description of  the  colorful  naming  of  this  shootout  whose  major highlights was the convictimisation of the innocent.

When the Human Rights Commission was setup in 1987, it tried to sidetrack the issue by hearing evidence on everything else except the massacre of over 60 Muslims. If Jumba Masagazi had not exploded it, may be up to now the atrocious crime would never have been among the concerns of the Commission. 

And when they addressed themselves to the matter, they payed lip service to it because they soon jumped off it without hearing what the major witnesses had to say. Instead they decided to emphasize the killing of two Muslims at a mosque in Kajara (Ntungamo District). They propelled the name of Sheikh Obeid Kamulegeya to prominence in  association  with  the  death  of  these  Muslims  and  sought  to  imply that when Muslims die, it is a Muslim affair. In this they were helped by the country’s largely anti-Muslim press.

Neither were the  authorities  at  the Uganda  Muslim  Supreme  Council  (UMSC)  very keen on the issue; they wanted to forget anything that might put them  in  disfavor  with  the  NRM  government  which  some  of  them continually  worship.  When the Vicegerent newspaper highlighted the issue, a number of them were heard complaining, “These young boys want to bring us problems.”

And in another development one of the Uganda Muslim  Supreme  Council  officials  told  the  present  writer  face  to  face, “We have more important issues to deal with.”

At that rate, the issue that involved the murder of so many Ugandans was steadily degenerating in a stale and misreported history. Two organizations  refused  to  forget  the  issue;  they  were  the  Vicegerent and  the  Makerere  University  Muslim  Students  Association (MUMSA). We  insisted  that  if  we  do  not  cause  this  issue  to  be redressed, then we shall soon be worthless. Our grand children would register that when Muslims are killed, it is not an issue. So we decided to visit Bushenyi with two aims.

First to reassure the Muslims there  that they  were  not  alone  in  their  pain – we  were  with  them.  Secondly,  to collect  first-hand  information  from  the  survivors  of  the  holocaust  so that we may confront those  who  wish  to forget it with the real facts.

We are therefore not merely interested in ranking up unpleasant history that might destabilize peace.  But we believe that the danger lies more in forgetting than remembering, if the peace we seek is to be permanent.

Two trips

We made two trips to the scene of the1979 holocaust.  The first one that took place in September 1988 was composed of the following:

1.         Abasi Kiyimba

2.         Imam Idi Kasozi

3.         Idris Semakula

The  second  trip  took  place  in  February  1989,  and  the  team  was composed of the following:

1.         Abasi Kiyimba

2.         Hassan Mwesige

3.         Musa Tonda

4.         Ali Konge Kyeyune

5.         Ali Mwesigwa

We used the MUMSA van Reg. No. UXF 739, and the driver on both occasions was Ali Mukibi.

The first trip

The first trip was mainly a familiarization tour. It introduced us to the people of both Mbarara and Itendero. We enjoyed the hospitality of the chairman of the Muslim Community of the area, Br. Abdul-Mutwalib. We were able  on  this  occasion  to  collect  the  general  story  and  sequence  of events  from  the  eye-witnesses.  We also met among other venerable personalities, Sheikh Abdulmanafi Semakula, Bashir Semakula Serujuge and others. 

We also passed through Kyazanga in Masaka District where we met survivors who fled Itendero in the wake of renewed hostilities against them. In particular we were welcomed and given first-hand briefing by Hairat  Nambi  Segululigamba, a Muslim  woman  mobiliser  in  the  area and daughter  of  the  great  Muslim  pioneer  in  Itendero,  Hajji  Abdallah Segululigamba,  who  was  among  the  first  victims  of  the  massacre.

The general story

The Parish (Muluka) of Itendero is found in Bushenyi District.  Islam has been a resident quality of the culture of the people in this part of the world since the close of the 19th Century.  For all  the  past  years, Muslims  and  Christians  are  known  to  have  coexisted  peacefully.

During President Amin’s time some of the Christians started getting discontented by the fact that the head of state was a Muslim.  They nursed their grudge and threatened that if there was a change, the Muslim would “see” them.  The  trouble  that  culminated  in  the  murder  of  more  than  60 Muslims started long before the fall of Kampala on 11, April 1979.   

March 1979

By March 1979, the town of Mbarara had fallen into the hands of the Tanzanian invading forces, giving some people the room to harass Muslims without a defender. The first incident was that in which four Muslim lives were ended in cold-blood. In the village of Mbagwa in Kiziba sub-parish, a hostile group of Protestants attacked and killed the following Muslims:

1.         Idi Tamukedde

2.         Mansur Mutebi (son of Idi Tamukedde)

3.         Mustapha Mabuye

4.         Abdallah Kyegombe

They were all killed in the house of Idi Tamuzadde, and the Christians kept  guard  over  it  to  ensure  that  they  were  not  buried.  For two months they remained unburied. They were eventually laid to rest in May 1979 after the bold intervention of the then Chief Qadhi, Sheikh Kassim Mulumba. It will be recalled that during this period, the President was Yusuf Lule, a man who had converted from Islam to be admitted to a Christian school, and therefore probably saw little value in Muslim life.  He  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  the  outcry  of  the  Muslim community. 

When on 23, May 1979, Sheikh Kassim Mulumba proclaimed over the radio that the “liberation” meant nothing to the Muslims, President Lule was irritated.  He is quoted as saying in response, that the reports of the massacre were extremely exaggerated.  The killers not only  went  free,  but  were  encouraged  by  the  lack  of  government intervention, to kill again, and again, and again.

 April 1979

This  was  the  month  in  which  the  government  of  Idi  Amin fell in Kampala. The harassment of the Muslims intensified to nearly the entire district of Ankole. Kagango sub-county was the worst hit.  Here Muslims lived in constant fear, under intensive harassment.

More than 400 Muslims were detained without any charges – being Muslim was their only crime. They were forced to ransom themselves  by  paying  dearly  in  form  of  money,  cows,  goats,  sheep, bicycles, radios,  etc.  That  of  their  property  which  their  tormentors  could  not take  was  destroyed.  For example, houses and plantations were burnt and cut down, respectively. A number of Muslims were forced to drink alcohol while others died resisting it.  In this month of April, five prominent Muslims were murdered, including: 

•          Hajj Abasi Kayemba (former county chief Igara)

•          Ismail Mutangizi (former senior internal auditor, Ankole District)

•          Haj Amiisi Kapalaga (former county Imam, Bunyaruguru)

•          Hajj Hassan Sewanyina (former sub-county Chief Isingiro)

These  were  killed  on  different  days,  and  apparently  according  to  an organized  plan.  All this time no restraining voice from the government was heard; the forces of oppression seemed to find justification and approval in this silence, and may be were not mistaken. 

May 1979

Encouraged by the total helplessness of the Muslims, the Christians intensified their harassment in the following ways:

•          Burning down of houses

•          Slashing all banana plantations

•          Looting of the property belonging to Muslims

•          Taking over their land and turning it into grazing ground 

•          Burning down mosques

The burning down of mosques was a fresh development conceived in May as part  of  the  grand  idea  of  completely  exterminating  Islam  from  the area. Among the mosques burnt down in the county of Sheema were:

1.         Kashekuro, 2.           Kiyungu, 3.   Kasana, 4.      Kyengando, 5.            Marembo,

6.         Nyakanyinya, 7.       Kyamata, 8.   Kihunda, 9.   Kyamushakara

These  were  the  mosques  destroyed only  in one  county  of  Sheema; otherwise in the whole of Ankole District, a total of 27 Mosques were torched.

Under the intensified house-burning campaign of May, the following lost their houses: 

1.         Bashir Semakula (Kiziba Parish)

2.         Abbas Mugoli  (Kiziba Parish)

3.         Abdallah Katende (Kiziba Parish)

4.         Dauda Serujunge (Kiziba Parish)

5.         Hamad Katende (Kiziba Parish)

6.         Hassan Hamutambo  (Kiziba Parish)

7.         Abbas Nsambu  (Kiziba Parish)

8.         Dauda Serunjogi  (Kiziba Parish)

9.         Ausi Semwogerere  (Kiziba Parish)

10.       Abdu Ishngabashiaja (Kiziba Parish)

11.       Mutwalibu Turyatunga (Kiziba Parish)

12.       Idi Tamukedde (Kiziba Parish)

13.       Abdallah Segululigamba (Rwabutura Paish)

14.       Jafar Kibirige (Rwabutura Paish)

15.       Sulaiman Kapere (Rwabutura Paish)

16.       Hiziri Byandala  (Rwabutura Paish)

17.       Rajab Kibadula (Rwabutura Paish)

18.       Abduswamad Ntate (Kinyungu Parish)

19.       Habib Maloge (Kinyungu Parish)

20.       Imam Zikusooka (Kinyungu Parish)

21.       Ishaka Magezi (Kinyungu Parish)

22.       Ahmadda Mawanda (Kinyungu Parish)

23.       Elias Mugerwa (Kinyungu Parish)

24.       Abdu Murema (Kinyungu Parish)

25.       Zaid Muwanga (Kinyungu Parish)

26.       Umar Mutono (Rwengando Parish)

27.       Haruna Musajjaakawa (Nyakabira Parish)

28.       Noor Mulefu (Nyakabira Parish)

29.       Abdunoor Mulele (Nyakabira Parish)

30.       Abdunoor Sebalu (Nyakabira Parish)

31.       Abubakar Kadala (Nyakabira Parish)

32.       Ismail Balindekawa (Nyakabira Parish) 

33.       Anat Nankya (Nyakabira Parish)

34.       Hajjat Hadijah Kalijja (Nyakabira Parish)

35.       Hajji Byekwaso (Ishaka Parish)

36.       Idi Bintubizibu (Kigarama Parish)

37.       Musa Mwebe (Kigarama Parish)

38.       Abdu Katarikaawe (Kigarama Parish)

39.       Kasim Barukayo (Kigarama Parish)

40.       Musa Rwabihuro (Kagango Parish)

41.       Muhammad Mbidde (Kagango Parish)

42.       Abbas Toronwa (Kagango Parish)

43.       Sulaiman Sengahaki (Kagango Parish)

44.       Ahmada Kasozi (Kagango Parish)

45.       Hajji Kasule (Kagango Parish)

A  number  of  Muslims  whose  houses  were  set on fire,  like  Abdallah Segululigamba,  Idi  Tamukedde,  Abdunoor  Mulele,  etc, were  also murdered earlier or later. Others only survived by running away in time.  Other houses belonging to Muslims were burnt down in other parts of Ankole e.g. in Kijara and Mbarara town.

June 1979

The  month  of  June  marked  the  climax  of  the  atrocities committed  against  the  Muslims  of  the  area. By this time Lule’s government had been in power for two months.  Nothing had  been done  to  the  offenders,  so  the  same  crime  could  be  committed  again with  impunity. 

The bloodbath was fuelled by people like Edward Rurangaranga who addressed meetings in the area, in which he would make it clear that the people he was addressing were in two categories: Amin’s men and rest. The old Sheikh Abdulmanaf quotes Rurangaranga as saying to the non-Muslim members at the gathering thus, “We have finished the stem (Amin); the branches (Muslims) are yours.”

The Protestants got more hostile and started harassing Muslims verbally. They told them they would get them, sooner or later. A plan was hatched and all the non-Muslims were alerted. Some of them were not in  favor  of  the  proposed  action,  so  they  leaked  the information to  their  Muslim friends. But most non-Muslims agreed to the plan, and they waited for an opportunity to implement it.

The spark came on 25, June 1979. Fenekansi Kamisha, a Christian, was murdered in his house by assailants that have not been identified up to now.  The Christians accused the Muslims of the murder, and proceeded to execute “justice”. Kamisha was one of the people that had  led  teams  of  Christians  to  harass  Muslims  and  collect  ransom from them.

On the morning of 26,  June  1979,  a  mob  of  Christians armed  with  spears,  knives  and  ropes,  rounded up  Muslims  and tied  their  hands  behind  their  backs.  They said that they were doing it on the orders of Yoweri Museveni, the then minister of defense. They were led by Bankutaha, and included Machote, Buchuku, Yoram, Kamugish, Rweizire, Rwanuma, Kategaya, Nyamugurusi, Eridadi and others.

They gathered  the  Muslims  in  the  home  of  Abdallah  Segululigmba  from where they marched them  to River Rwizi  for execution one after  the other. At the river Muslims were butchered in the most horrifying manner. There was one whose head was cut into three pieces before being finally thrown into the river. Other cases included those  whose hands  or  legs  were  cut  off,  then thrown  into  the  river  to  drown. 

The imam Abdallah Segululigamba was mercilessly hacked in the middle with a panga and thrown into the river. The most memorable of these cases of cruelty is the 27-year-old Madiya Natende who was seven months pregnant. Her stomach was ripped open with a machete and the fetus crudely torn out. Needlessly to add that she died soon after. Madiya’s mother watched all this, and she would retell it to the end of her earthly days.  She herself survived as if by a miracle – she jumped into the water before being cut.

We  shall  never  learn  the  full  story  of  the  manner  of  the death  and  the nature of the suffering that  the dead people went through because  it could only be told by them. The following were the people who were killed at River Rwizi in June 1979.

Adult males

1.         Abdallah Segluligamba

2.         Abubaker Katongole

3.         Abdu Ishangabashaija

4.         Nashir Semwogerere

5.         Ismail Sempa

6.         Bruhane Sentende

7.         Idris Serujunge

8.         Umar Nsamba

9.         Hussein Serunjogi

Adult females

1.         Hayrat Namakula

2.         Hadija Namayanja

3.         Aisha Kasule

4.         Hadija Mukibi

5.         Sania Nalubega

6.         HaliimaNabatanzi

7.         Hadija Nanteza

8.         Zuhra Namakula

9.         Naira Nabunya

10.       Mariam Tibanagwa

11.       Bint Juma Nakayenga

12.       Mastula Nakato

13.       Layusa Bakazibaguma

14.       Nafsi Nabatanzi

15.       Nuliat Mbabazi

16.       Aisha Nalongo

17.       Zaituna Namakula

18.       Zaina Namakula

19.       Aidat Kenyana

20.       Amana Nantande

21.       Nuliat Kaweesa

22.       Hadija Kayinda


1.         Nuliat Namakula

2.         Abdu Katende

3.         Madina Nabukalu

4.         Luuba Namakula

5.         Zainab Nakayinda

6.         Aisha Nantende

7.         Madia Namakula

8.         Taha Habyalimana

9.         Mariam Nabukalu

10.       Madina Nakawesa

11.       Hamida Nansamba

12.       Naziru Nsamba

13.       Muzida Nsamba

14.       Ibrahim Kabuye

15.       Zinab Nabunya

16.       Rehema Nakachwa

17.       Luub Magala

18.       Muzaphar Kabuye

19.       Ismail Kato

20.       Khamiyat Nabukalu

21.       Hadija Nassaka

22.       Haliima Nbatanzi

23.       Bitijuma Nakayanja  

It  cannot  be  proclaimed  that  these  atrocities  in  anyway  took a form  of political struggle. It was pure murder because some of the people killed were very old men and women and others were children and babies. Abubaker  Katongole  was  80  years, Segululigamba  was 75, Haliima Nbatanzi was 80, Aisha Katende was 85, Nuliat Namakula was 2, Hamida  Nansamba  was  18 months.  Most of the children were below 5 years.

It should also be  noted  that  the  list here  includes  only  those  people  from  one  county, and  not  all  of  them were  recorded. The names of the rest of the people who died throughout Ankole District are not available to us. In addition, it was not even possible to recover all the bodies of the people known to have died.

For instance, of the 64 people we have recorded here, only 36 bodies were recovered from the water in which they were thrown. They were  buried  at  a  time  of  fear  and  distress, with  intimidation  being carried out by soldiers (the purported liberators) and other government officials  whose  duty  should  be  to  protect  all citizens. It was not possible to burry them in their homes as this was “a danger zone”; so they were buried in mass graves at Nyamitanga mosque in Mbarara. The survivors fled the area and went to settle in Kyazanga in Masaka District, leaving their land to be occupied by their tormentors. 


This was the time that has come to be referred to as the Obote II Regime. People like Edward Rurangaranga who had allegedly directed the killing of Muslims assumed offices of responsibility in this government.

For those  Muslims who chose to stay in Bushenyi,  harassment  continued,  taking  the  form  of  psychological harassment,  intimidation,  denial  of  participation  in  public  affairs, etc. Muslim-founded primary schools were abandoned, mosques neglected and orphans went without education, food, and dress.  The leaders of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council were busy quarrelling among themselves and seeking the support of non-Muslims in their factional struggles.  For all practical purposes, the world seemed to have forgotten these unfortunate people.

The events of 1979 were not even history, because history is recorded.  The question that tormented those  of  us  who  bothered  to  think  about  them  was:  Is  it  possible  to forget these people and rest with a free conscience? The answer is no. It was necessary for us not just to record the general story, but get the minute details – that is why it was necessary to make a second trip.  

The second trip

By  the  time  we  made  the  second  trip,  we  had  managed  to  publicize the  plight  of  these unfortunate  people,  and  obtained  some  financial assistance for them from the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which we delivered. We first made a stopover at Kyazanga where we were taken around Kakuuto Primary School by its proprietor, Sheikh Mbajja. This is a school for Muslim orphans. 

It has a total of 15 orphans and out of these, 96 are children of the victims of the 1979 holocaust. They study free of charge but they are completely helpless when it comes to scholastic materials and clothes. They also do not have any form of bedding.  WAMY made some contributions towards their clothing, but it was meager compared to the need.

The following day we continued to Itendero. After performing the Juma prayers we  talked  to  the  Muslims  and  gave  them  words  of  solidarity.  Among other  points  we  encouraged  and  thanked  them  for  insisting  on upholding  the  banner  of  Islam  in  the  area  in spite  of  the  wishes  of their  enemies.  We were impressed to find that a new mosque had been erected at the site and would soon be ready for prayers.

We met the headmaster of Itendero Primary School, Mr.  Ismail Senyonga and discussed general issues relating to the orphans. We were given a list of 44 orphans in the school.  Of these, 16 were completely helpless and could not afford school fees and scholastic materials. The delegation cleared all their fees for the year 1989  and  made  some  contribution  towards  the  scholastic  needs  of some of them.

The following morning, we proceeded to Kiziba Parish.  Our mission there  was  twofold – to  talk  to the  survivors  of  the  massacre and get  their  detailed  personal  testimonies,  and  to  offer  some  financial  relief  to  the  orphans  in  distress.  We paid the fees for 32 orphans  at  Kiziba  Primary  School  and  for  five  students  in  secondary schools. We then proceeded to talk to the survivors of the massacre.

In all, we were able to talk to 20 survivors.  A part from Mzee Hassan Hamutambo (81) whom we had met earlier at Itendero, we met the rest of the household of Sheikh Abdulmanaf Semakula. Each narrated to us a peculiar experience involving their personal survival, but their stories corroborated the general story already given. The people interviewed included:

  • Hassan Hamutambo; an old man aged 81 who lost his 34-year-old son, and himself survived narrowly. 
  • Abdulmanaf Semakula; the Deputy District Qadhi of Mbarara. He is the oldest man in the area.  He refused to leave because, he says if he left, all other Muslims would leave and then the Word of Allah would be wiped out in the area.
  • Twalib Kasule; an elderly gentleman that suffered greatly during the massacre.
  • Bashir Semakula Serujunge; a young man in his early 30s who jumped into the river before being hacked and swam to safety. He is credited with removing many of the dead bodies from the water and helping to prepare their burial.
  • Yudaya Baryanengwe; an old lady in her 60s.    She was  cut three  times  by  Buchunku  and  then  thrown  into  the  water.  She survived miraculously, through the intervention of non-Muslims who  found  her  floating  but  had  no  knowledge  of  how  she  had come to be there. 

Other  survivors  included  Asia  Kishiki,  Mayi  Nabukalu,  Habib Rutwinda,  Mastula  Segululigamba,  Ishaq  Magezi,  Jalia Semwogerere,  Hamid  Semakula,  Mrs.  Kayinda, Mrs.  Muzamiru Kangave,  Abdu  Hakim  Luyima,  Kinani  Mutyaba,  Abasi Sebadda, Fati  Nanyonga,  Sulaiman  Semakula,  Hairat  Nambi,  Yunus Tumwenda, Abdallah Katende, Sulaituna Nanyonga and others.  (Some of these were interviewed in Kyazanga where they now live after fleeing their homes. The full texts of their personal testimonies are available in both the MUMSA and Vicegerent offices).

Of  particular  interest  in  these  testimonies  is  the  fact  that  these people  know  exactly  who  killed  who  as  some  of  them  were witnessing  when  their  friends,  parents,  children,  wives  and husbands were butchered. Herein we present the list of the people  that  killed  37  of  the  victims  and  inflicted  injuries  on two of those that miraculously survived.




Bumbakali Katongole




In Prison,


Mwajjuma Nakyaja 




In Prison,


Burhane Sentende  





In Prison


Naziiru Nsamba 




In Prison,


Nuliat Mbabazi  Buchunku 


In Prison


Hariat Namakula 


In Prison

Nuliat Kyokusaba 


In Prison,


Zaituni Namakula 


In Prison


Rehma Nakachwa 


In Prison,


Abdallah Segululigamba  Machote 


In Prison


Hadijah Nasaka 



Kalijja Nanteza  



Madiya Nantende 



14  Saniya Nalubega 



Nashir Semwogerere 




Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Umar Nsamba



Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Asiati Nantende 



Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Afusa Nabatanzi 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Abbasi Mugisha 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Haliima Kinaana 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Mariam Nabukalu 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Muzinda Nsamba 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Aramanzane Serunjogi 


Free at home, Nyakachembe 

Idris Serunjogi




Free at Home,



Masitulla Nakato 




Free at Home,



Muzapharu Kabuye 



Layusa Bakazibaguma 



Aidat Kenyana 


Free at Home, Kihunda

Abbas Kayinda 



Ismail sempa 



Hadija Nakayinda 



Ibrahim Kabuye 



Abdu Ishangabashaija 





At home, Rwengando


Aisha Kalule  Kyanyabanda 



Kamiida Nansamba




Free at home,




Zuula Namakula


Tom Mayanja

Free at home,





Free at homa, Kihunda

Mariam  Nakitende  and  Yudaya  Baryanengwe  were  brutally  hacked by Nsangeki  and  Buchunku, respectively.  Nsangeki died but Buchunku is still alive.  The  actual  killers  of  the  other  victims  are  not  specifically known;  but  it  is  known  that  in  addition  to  the  above  list  of  murderers, Mwesigye and Renshana are known to have participated in the killing. 

The  other  information  that  the  people  of  Kiziba  hold  as  sacred  were names  of  the  people  who  still  occupy  the  land  they  snatched  from them  11  years  ago  in  spite  of  the  claim  that  a sane  government  had returned to Uganda. 

Below is a list of the owners of pieces of land that are still illegally occupied:





Hajj M Serunjogi 

Nsangeki’s family 



Dauda Serunjogi 




Hajat A. Nakayenga  

Kashaija A



Kasule Kapere 




Mustapha Ddungu 




Zamuda Nabukalu 

Ruhema T



Hajj K. Katende  

Bakweta E



A. Mugooli



A. Mugooli 



Hajj A Katende  

Rutendana P



A Katamba 





The Muslims of the area are aware that the Banyarwanda whose pieces of land were taken away during the Obote II Regime were returned to them when the NRM government came to power. But theirs which were taken six years earlier have not.

They are also grieved by the fact that the known alleged murderers of their people, 13 of whom appear in the list above, were free and even assumed leadership under the Resistance Council, or RC system. They have also heard that some senior ranking officials in the NRM government are involved in attempts to free the four jailed killers.

The Human Rights Commission

The NRM government  set  up  the  Human  Rights  Commission;  we thought  this  was  a  step  in  the  right  direction  as  it  meant  that  the criminals  of  the  past  were  to  be  brought  to  justice.  But we are dissatisfied with this Commission for several reasons:

  • There is no Muslim representation. It is not possible that matters of Muslim interest can  be adequately handled without anyone to  speak  up  for  them  with  some  feeling  that  arises  out  of belonging.
  • The Commission did not allocate enough time to listen to witnesses on the 1979 Muslim holocaust. They have given three times as much time to listening to witnesses on Ben Kiwanuka’s death than they have to that of over 64 Ugandans.
  • They  have  attempted  to  divert  the  attention  of  the public  from  the killing of 64 Muslims by Christians to the death of two Muslims in Kajara  by  the  Uganda  Police  supposedly  at  the  instruction  of Sheikh Abdul-Obeid Kamulegeya, a prominent Muslim.
  • President Yoweri Museveni was implicated by the testimonies. We  are  not  satisfied  that  he  chose to  give  his  evidence  in  a closed  session  whereas  this  is  an  issue  of  interest  to  all Ugandans of good conscience.
  • Witnesses  like Edward Rurangaranga  whom  even  the  president  himself implicated  as  responsible  for  directing  the  murderers,  has  not been summoned to appear before the Commission.
  • Alleged Murderers  who  have  been  unequivocally  named  to  the Commission  still  walk  free.  This continues to be an embarrassment to the Commission and to the government.

What do we want?

A  senior  NRM  official  has  made  an  irritating  comment  in  reference  to those  who  blame the government for not bringing the 1979 killers  to justice when he said, “We can not bring them back to life, can we?” 

Of course he is right, they cannot be brought back to life, and we are aware of this. So what do we want? We are not irresponsible agitators seeking  to  reopen  wounds  of  the  past  that  are  better  forgotten.  We are  patriots  who  would  like  our  country  to  start  again  on  a  road  of meaningful peace.

As  President  Yoweri  Museveni  himself  has  said  more  than  once,  you cannot have peace without justice. We want justice. We would like all the alleged murderers to be apprehended and put on trial.  We have been to the area and talked to the people.  All the orphans know who killed their parents. They talk of revenge twice a day, and constantly await their chance. If we satisfy them that there is a more civilized way of getting  justice  done,  we  might  be  able  to  avert  another  crisis  in  the area.

Otherwise, we do not see the atmosphere clearing. The  longer justice  is  delayed,  the  closer  we  come  to  detonating  the  time  bomb. For  this  reason,  the  murder  of  over  64  Muslims  in  Bushenyi  cannot become history. It is still a live issue that will affect the destiny of this nation, whether we like or not. 

Personal testimonies of the survivors

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.

On the current situation and relationship between the Muslims and Christians, Sheikh Abdulmanaf said, “The storm is settled though there is no good relationship because none visits the other and many do not greet us.  They often threaten that when Museveni’s government is overthrown, they will kill us.” 

An example  of  such  a  person  who  threatens  them  was  named  as Thomas  Mayanja,  a  brick  layer. The  old  sheikh  said  most  of  his  people  were  killed,  leaving  only  three, including himself. 

On whether they involved themselves in the Resistance Council politics under Museveni’s government, he said they did. The following Muslims are on the Resistance Council Executive Committee (as of 1989):

Bashir – Secretary; Muzamil – Secretary for Defense; Abdulkarim Luyima – Secretary for Rehabilitation. He added, however, that these positions can become meaningless as  the  important  decisions  are  taken  by the Christians,  including those  without  office,  some  of  whom  participated in perpetrating the unforgettable atrocities.

The sheikh added that he is not impressed by the work of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. It may even be that some assistance was sent but did not reach them, he suspected

Ishaq Masagazi

The son of Abdallah Segululigamba is a peasant with a wife and two children.  According to him the Muslims and Christians of Kiziba village had good relations with each other before the war. He says that things took a different course in early 1979 after the non-Muslims conducted a meeting in which they conspired to torment Muslims.  From then, ransoms in form of cows were demanded from Muslims.  The cows  were  eaten while  the  banana plantations  were  cut  down,  houses  burnt  and  eventually  people killed.

“My father and I were at home when people came after lunch,” he narrates. “They came with dogs, spears and pangas. We were told to come out of the house, [saying] that they were taking us somewhere. This we did immediately.”

Ishaq’s father asked where they were being taken, “We are taking you for a meeting,” they replied. The Muslims were tied with Banana fibres and driven to River Rwizi. “My father had received some whipping on the way to the river and by the time we reached, he was too weak,” he says.  “They started cutting one by one. Those whom we saw cutting people’s necks included Bankutaha who was a parish chief then.”

Asked how he survived, the young man said that he jumped into the river and swam, and that when he reached the opposite side, he got out of the river and ran to Kabwohe where he stayed for two days. While there he heard that the  bodies  of  those  killed  had  been  taken  to  Mbarara. The  following morning  he  went  to  Mbarara  and  found  the  bodies  in  the  mortuary. 

“At that time there was chaos,” Ishaq recalls. “Army men were looking for those who had got the bodies from the river.  They  were  looking  for  my  brother Kabuye  who  was  the  leader  of  the  group  that  recovered  the  bodies from the water. I therefore had to run for my life to Kasese.”

In  1981  he came  back  from  Kasese,  and  in  1984  he  married.  Asked whether  all  Muslims  ran,  he  said  that  some  persisted  but  were always threatened and eventually sold their lands to those who used to threaten them at a takeaway price. 

The following lost their land: Abdallah Katende, Mugo, Hajj Mukibi Muhammad, Ali and the late Hajji Miiro. All these went to Kyazanga.  Others went to Itendero such as Hajj Bumbakali, Swamadu  Ntali,  Hajj  Kamadi  and  Mulere.  Amisi  Kapere went  to  Mbarara. 


+1 #1 YUNUSU KYABALONGO 2012-07-31 13:49
Thank OB for such story concerning the muslin fraternity. Why isn't the govt of Uganda bringing such people in black and white?
+1 #2 bashir bin abasi 2013-02-12 19:28
moslems in uganda we must learn that the museven's government believe me or not t useless to us even now there are people who survived and not looked at and are stil helpless to themselves .we have two mufts what are they for now? with exception of being driven in good cars and fighting for mosques and zakat to fill their bellies . so w're very angry about the moslem supreme council in uganda and whoever concerned to the welfare of moslems.
and ALLAH bless you
asalaam alaikum.
0 #3 Dennis 2013-06-12 07:32
Christ! What a chilling account! How hard must it be for all the affected to live with all this and see their perpetrators being continuously shielded, I can only imagine. But is this the only perspective to this story, I wonder? With all due respect however,I find it surprising that the list is conspiciously composed of largely Baganda Muslims and very, very few Banyankore (less than 5). Were Banyankore Muslims this few...or were they carefully (largely) spared??The perpetrators on the other hand are all Banyankore Christians - and not a single Muganda. Could all this be given to coincidence? Could it be that the real coincidence was that the victims were Muslims with their actual crime being Baganda - especially since I have heard that Baganda Christians were targeted too (no pun intended, but these somehow didn't even make it to this article)?
+1 #4 NASRE Ambition 2013-06-13 20:00
0 #5 Hamidu Kyabalongo 2013-08-04 14:35
May the soul of the dead rest in JJANNA---Ameen

And May Allah punish the perpetrators. Those bustards and all the then leaders.
-1 #6 badru ssekitooleko 2014-01-05 06:41
0 #7 Daudi katondwaki 2014-07-26 18:36
Hi People,am so heartbroken by the discovery. though am a christian I have had a goodrelationshi p with moslems b4 I even developed milkteeth.if am not mistaken i will marry a moslem/my sis patience is already married to moslem.Regards to everyone.Shame to the badhearted was stoneage at its best
0 #8 sadiq kiweewa.. 2015-07-08 01:24
Its so unbelievable that Africans n Ugandans in particular can kill themselves over religion that was just brought from other countries...I believe it was both tribal n religious massacre since majority of the killed were bagenda Muslims..its really a putty that people forget that we r black but instead begin seperating n killing themselves over religion...I pray that all the innocent souls rest in peace n still pray that something like this may not happen again...for God n my country...
0 #9 hassan bulega 2015-11-23 12:22
asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi y ALLAh forgive the deceased and have mercy on them and HE is not careless about the ''thwalimiina'' i pray that he guides the killers because its sufficient for them to be forgiven
0 #10 Deo Matovu 2016-10-29 23:57
Inna llilahi wa inna illaih rajiuun. Yes life can't come back. The has to be given to the orphans.
Thanks for the work done.
0 #11 D Matovu 2016-10-30 01:04
]Inna llilahi wa inna illaih rajiuun. Yes life can't come back. But The land has to be given to the orphans.
Thanks for the work done.