President Museveni Concludes Historic Tour of Montepuez
President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday, May 19, 2018 concluded his three-day state visit to Mozambique with a visit to the northern Mozambican town of Montepuez, where the first lot of 28 Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) fighters was trained between 1976 and 78.
The President arrived in the town to a rapturous welcome from the residents. First laid a wreath on a monument built in commemoration of fallen officers and men of FRELIMO, the military and political force that led Mozambique to independence from Portugal in 1975.
Thereafter, the host Minister for National Defence, Atanasio Mtumuke conducted him around the military barracks that housed and trained the Ugandan fighters. The highlight of the tour was a visit to the dormitory where the Ugandan fighters slept and taking a break between the two big trees where President Museveni and FRELIMO leader Samora Machel sat to plan their resistance.
The President was later ushered to an open playground where he was entertained to a stucco demonstration by Mozambican soldiers. He then decorated veterans who directly supported the Ugandan fighters while those who died were recognized posthumously with medals given to their family members. Among those recognized were Juliao Chissico Francisco, a driver and Luis Manuel, a cook.
Addressing the large gathering, President Museveni explained how the journey to Montepuez in 1976 all began.
“Your brother country Uganda had a lot of political problems. To get the picture of how your brothers suffered, you are told that, between 1966 and 1986, a total of 800,000 Ugandans had died because of the governments’ killing them,” said the President. “The economy had collapsed and over 500,000 Ugandans were living in exile.”
He continued, “When Comrade Samora and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere agreed to help us in 1971, it was to rescue your Ugandan brothers and sisters who had no hope anymore. We made several attempts between 1971 and 74 to dislodge Amin but we failed. Like Mao Tse Tung says, making a revolution is not a tea party.”
He noted that after Mozambique gained independence in 1975 from the Portuguese, Samora Machel, a year later, on the intercession of Mwalimu Nyerere, offered FRONASA a training base in Montepuez.
“This (square) was our training centre. I was staying in a house near here while the youth were staying in the dormitory. This group of 28 turned out to be more useful than the others who we had been trying to train since 1971. They formed the nucleus of our army,” said the President, who told his audience that by the time Amin fell in April 1979, the Montepuez group had recruited and trained up to 9,000 other fighters.
“Although the politics of Uganda did not stabilize immediately, this nucleus made us autonomous in military affairs. Thereafter, we could do things by ourselves. So, when you hear that the UPDF is in Somalia or Central African Republic and doing a good job, know that the nucleus was here in Montepuez,” he said, to rousing cheers from the crowd.
President Museveni said he had discussed and sought permission from President Jacinto Nyusi to allow the Uganda government set up a technical school in Montepuez as a token of appreciation. He added that a dormitory or lecture theatre would be built inside the barracks to solidify the two countries’ brotherhood.
Noting that only four of the 28 fighters were alive, whom he introduced to the gathering, President Museveni warned the youths and young soldiers against risky lifestyles, saying most of their comrades did not actually die due to war but risky behaviour.
Those introduced were Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh, Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta, and Col Bosco Omure.
The President revealed that together with his three colleagues, they had decided to initiate a poultry project for the Montepuez veterans to boost their incomes. The project, said Mr. Museveni, would be integrated with a crop farming initiative to manage costs. He offered $26,000 (about Shs 90m) to kick-start the project.
“Mozambican veterans showed us how to defeat the Portuguese. In Uganda, we veterans showed how to defeat bad governments. We must then show our people how to get out of poverty. Revolutionaries must show collaborators how to get out of poverty,” he concluded.
Host Defence Minister, Mtumuke, in his remarks thanked President Museveni for remembering his revolutionary roots and retracing them. He announced that the barracks President Museveni had visited would be preserved as a “Museveni Museum” to promote solidarity of the two countries’ armies.
Later, President Museveni, whose Montepuez tour was the final activity of his state visit, was seen off at Pemba International Airport by the host Agriculture Minister, Mr. Francisco Marrule and a host of Ugandan officials including Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Bright Rwamirama and Ambassador Richard Kabonero.
Other Voices (On what it feels like being back in Montepuez after 40 years)
Gen Salim Saleh
“I am both happy to be here after all these years but again, I am unhappy that it is only four of us who are alive today. I would have wished that all my comrades were present today to celebrate this milestone with us.”
Lt Gen Ivan Koreta
“I feel elated being back here. It feels good, especially meeting the veterans, and others who supported us. Also, not much has really changed here in the barracks.”
Col Bosco Omure
“Our training in Montepuez taught us to fight injustice anywhere. At times when I am watching international news and I see what I think is injustice in a foreign country, I feel like going there to fight that injustice. This place made us freedom fighters and revolutionaries. I am happy to be back and trace my roots”.