President Museveni has together with his younger brother, Gen Salim Saleh been awarded with the “Order of Katonga”, the highest military decoration of the Ugandan honour system.
The award was done during the ongoing 42nd Tarehe Sita celebrations in Mbarara on Monday.
During the function in Mbarara on Monday, the president was decorated by the Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny Dolo.
Others including Gen Ivan Koreta, Gen Salim Saleh and Brig Bosco Omule received the Kabalega star for their contribution towards the creation of the UPDF.
Apart from Museveni, the three UPDF generals are the only remaining people of the lot of 28 Front for National Slavation(FRONASA) fighters who were the first from Ugandan to be trained at Montepuez in Northern Mozambique between 1976 and 1978.
These fighters were later part of the foundation of Uganda’s National Liberation Army (UNLA) which fought alongside Tanzanian forces to oust President Amin.
These officers later formed the National Resistance Army (NRA) which captured power in 1986 and later metamorphosed into the current UPDF.
The honour was named after the final and decisive battle of the National Resistance Army during the 1986 bush war which was fought near the Katonga River.
The battle happened on October 13, 1985 when government troops and NRA rebels encountered each other in a battle at the stragic bridge on Katonga River.
In his book, ‘Uganda’s Revolution, 1979-1986; How I saw it’ the late Gen Pecos Kutesa wrote in his book that in order to control the area under NRA/NRM and in order to deny enemy reinforcements for the Mbarara and Masaka garrisons, the NRA rebels had to control all the access routes from Kampala to south-western Uganda.
“River Katonga offered us the best natural barrier and the Katonga bridge was a godsend to us, the defenders of the territory under our jurisdiction. It was the 1st Battalion under Fred Mugisha as my second-in-command and myself which had blocked the bridge. The 5th Battalion under Stephen Kashaka and Ahmed Kashillingi were told to man the southern side of the road,” Gen Pecos said in his book about the river..
“As I had already intimated, the bridge which I had earlier reconnoitred reminded me of the Kalongero bridge of Luweero Triangle. We immediately set up a position a few metres from Lukaya town and moved onto the bridge where we dug in our defences. Effectively, we had cut off Masaka and the whole of southern Uganda from Kampala. This was a very provocative action on the part of the NRA/NRM. The Okello junta could not stomach such an insult and so the famous Katonga bridge battles were set in motion.”
He said that on several occasions, government troops attempted to cross the bridge but ended up in NRA’s kill zone as none ever left.
Celebrated on February 6 every year, Tarehe Sita a Kiswahili statement for sixth day is when 40 combatants took to the Luweero bushes through the attack at Kabamba on this exact date to launch an epic five-year struggle that ushered the National Resistance Movement into power.
The attack on Kabamba led to the formation of the National Resistance Army which later metamorphosed into the current army, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces.
Tarehe Sita is therefore meant to celebrate the creation of the UPDF.