Around 1984 onwards, when victory in the Bush war became a distinct possibility, even a likelihood, skilled combatants who were thought to be insolent and insubordinate, flawed geniuses so to speak, were sent on missions to the outside world and many of them were captured and killed by the enemy.
Many people believe that those ill-fated fighters were betrayed to their death; that information about their missions was deliberately leaked to the enemy. It was an in-house cleansing job in which Obote’s rash and trigger-happy soldiers were left to do the NRA’s laundry, as they prepared to take power.
Bush war stories never did excite me so you don’t have to believe a thing I say.
All I know is that one of the combatants sent on those one-way journeys was (now) Major General Matayo Kyaligonza. He went on a mission and found Obote’s men waiting for him, as if on appointment.
He was taken to Makindye Barracks and battered to pulp.
Luckily for him, one high-ranking soldier decided that he was too valuable to be killed. He could give them priceless information on rebel positions and all that. So they pulled him out from a pool of his own blood, from the cusp of death, took him to hospital, revived him and kept him under heavy security at Nile Mansions.
As far as this story goes, Kyaligonza insisted that he could only speak to Army Chief of Staff Smith Opon Acak, who happened to be out of the country. As they waited for him to return, Kyaligonza escaped, mbu he tied bedsheets together for a rope, and let himself down from a window and into the dark streets. He returned to the bush an angry man, believing that he had been fingered for death.
Cynics say that the Makindye beating might have snapped a few wires and caused his endless shenanigans. But the truth is that he is just a naughty man who revels in infamy.
The people of Hoima are all too familiar with his recurring slapping episodes that appear to spare no one; yet for the most part they like him in spite of it, may be even because of it.
In 2016, Octogenarian former Deputy Premier Henry Kajura was determined to stay his retirement by despoiling the NRM Primaries to favour him. In places like Hoima, winning the NRM vote all but guarantees you the parliamentary seat. Kajura’s rival, Lawrence Bategeka, seemed powerless to stop the old man’s well-oiled rigging machine (he often boasted that his money is what votes for him, not the people) until General Kyaligonza stepped in. If the DPC of Hoima police hadn’t stood between the two squabbling NRM giants, Kajura would be the most high profile victim of Kyaligonza’s slap-machine. The general’s intervention caused the vote to be put off, and when it was redone, Kajura was rightly sent to his retirement home.
Much later, at the tail-end of 2018, there was an NRM primary for LC V chairman in the newly created Kikuube district, carved out of Hoima, towards the oil fields. One of the candidates, Alpha Opio had the support of all fellow Bafuruki (migrants) into the district, most of them Bakiga, and he was the strong favourite. Trouble is; he was standing against Banura Kyaligonza, son of the notorious general.
Enter the slap machine! This time he stirred up the locals with tribal sentiments and that, along with a few slaps to put the Bafuruki in line, and an inflated number of voters, ensured that his son won.
Not too long ago, an overloaded truck got stuck in Hoima, along Fort Portal road. It was a rainy day and the driver, fearing that he would get completely stuck in the mud if he moved to the roadside, decided to park right in the middle. A line of cars soon built up behind him. Drivers pleaded with him to move aside but he was adamant, saying “ffena tugende kusula wano”.
Unfortunately for him, one of the people held up behind him was Kyaligonza. The general ordered his boys to park the truck at the roadside, then he pulled out a gun and blasted all its tyres, front and back.
“You can now spend the night there since it’s what you wanted,” he said as he entered his land cruiser and sped off. He lives for such moments.
One radio presenter who was reporting what happened at the aforementioned LC V elections in Kikuube was told that the general was waiting outside the station. He escaped through a back door and ran to former Bishop of Hoima Diocese His Lordship Edward Baharagate, a gregarious fatherly character loved by everyone.
That’s the other thing about Kyaligonza. He is a staunch Catholic and reveres the church’s hierarchy. The Bishop is the only one who can, and often does, tame the raging general.
The negative media attention and a threat of a parliamentary probe might shake lesser mortals. Not Kyaligonza. He exults in it. He has probably framed the newspaper front pages on which he appeared slapping that traffic cop. He has arrived!
Finally his notoriety has gotten the attention it deserves.
Accept my apologies for a late rant… or I will slap you.