Rurangaranga: A cult too Loved, loathed In Equal Amount


By Benard Muhangi


In his heyday days, Maj. Eduard Rurangaranga wielded power, moved the unmovable and made things happen!

Spotting a Marxist beard for most of his life, Maj. Rurangaranga took political cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed reddish shirt and Uganda People Congress encrypted baseball cap.

Jimmy Akena Obote, the UPC party President, says they will remember Rurangaranga for his unwavering dedication and commitment in serving his country and the party.

Uganda People’s Congress – UPC party members have described former Chairman, Rurangaranga, as a hero whose contribution to the party and country shall forever be remembered.

“He was a very unapologetic man; when he set out to do something, he would do it regardless of the consequences,” said Sam Baigana, one of Kitagata Town Council elders who grew  up watching keenly Maj. Rurangaranga exercise authority.

Rurangaranga collapsed and died in the wee hours of Tuesday at his home in Kitagata, Sheema district following a protracted battle with diabetes. He was 84. He was until recently UPC National Party Chairman during the reign of Dr. Olara Otunnu between 2013 and 2012. Jimmy Akena Obote, the UPC party President, said they will remember Akena, a son to Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, the former President of Uganda, said he knew Major Rurangaranga during his tenure as Minister
of State for Local Government during Obote’s second reign between 1981 and 1985.

He described the late Rurangaranga as a great man. Okello Lucima, the UPC party spokesperson under Dr. Olara Otunu, the former party president, said both UPC and Uganda have lost a soldier,
patriot, liberator, and an elderly statesman. He said in remembrance of Rurangaranga all UPC supporters and patriotic Ugandans must embrace unity in diversity, equality of opportunities and before the law, and development with equity and fairness; and to continue the struggles for national democratic liberation, for which the deceased and his contemporaries dissipated
their youths.

“UPC expresses its sincere sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and relatives, and the communities of Sheema, Bushenyi, and Ankole,” Lucima said in a statement Tuesday, adding that,

“We salute him, and his comrades -in-arms, of the Kikosi Maalum, for their service to country and people. May God grant Maj. Rurangaranga everlasting life, and may Christ carry the burdens of death for his family, the people of Sheema and entire Bushenyi, his Party and country.”

Bonny Ocen, a producer at the national broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation -UBC said UPC has lost a great man who was at the forefront in the struggle to overthrow Idi Amin and return Milton Obote from exile.

Though Rurangaranga is praised as a famous man – businessman, politician and statesman – a man who gave life-long service to his country and to his community, he brutalized and murdered some of those who opposed him politically.

EARLY LIFE

Born in Kajara County, Ntungamo district to Yakobo Ruzindana around 84 years ago, Rurangaranga’s family later migrated and settled in Rukondo, Kitagata sub-county, at mile 72, along Kasese-Ishaka-Ntungamo highway.

He trained as a Grade 11 teacher in Fort Portal and after married his child sweetheart Maama Joy Kikaiha around 1961.

He taught at Kitagata Central Primary School (P5) between 1962-1968, however some of his surviving students say his used to dodge classes to concentrate on his political career.

In the same years, he became the councillor for Kitagata sub-county to Ankole Kingdom before he was elevated to the position of Chairman Education committee, Ankole Kingdom.

While in the Kingdom, he lobbied so much and influenced the establishment of Kitagata Hospital around 1968.

IDI AMIN

After Idi Amin ascending to power, Rurangaranga quit police and started a transport company called Kitagata Bus Service. His first car was a Peugeot 403 that would transport passengers from Kitagata to Mbarara and back.

Later the business grew; he bought buses that would ply Bushenyi-Kampala route.  Because of the bad state of roads then, it would take a bus 12 hours to move from Bushenyi to Kampala. Currently,
it takes 5 hours.

Around 1972, Tanzania forces backing up UNLF of Dr. Milton Obote raided western Uganda, Mbarara in particular and caused a lot of damage.

This enraged Amin who ordered the execution all of prominent UPC supporters in Mbarara. Rurangaranga was grabbed from Mbarara, shot and dumped in R. Rwizi.  He was later rescued by a one Katago, then an employee of East Africa Posts & Telecommunications.

He was smuggled in a coffin to Kenya from where he received treatment till he recovered and started to teach kids of rich Asians in Nairobi.

In 1978, he crossed to Tanzania and joined Obote’s UNLF officially. Obote was the founding leader of UPC, a party he led from 1959 until his death in 2005. It is his party that formed a government in 1962 after Uganda attained her independence.

Obote’s government was overthrown in the 1971 military coup that brought General Idi Amin to power. With support from Tanzania, however, Obote mobilised the Uganda exiled groups that over threw Amin out in April 1979.

Rurangaranga played a significant role in the war as one of the commanders of Kikosi Maalum, the biggest fighting group during the war.

In his document on ‘The role played by UPC in the removal of Idi Amin’, Obote spoke fondly about Rurangaranga.

“Before the UNLF itself was formed, I had, as UPC leaders, sent Teams to Masaka and Ankole Districts to mobilise the people to support the war efforts for the overthrow of Amin. The leader of the Masaka team was Samwiri Mugwisa. The leaders of the Ankole team were Chris Rwakasisi and Major Edward Rurangaranga. I had also sent before the formation of the UNLF a team of Economists under the leadership of Joseph Okune to Masaka to observe, assess and report on the war damage to the economy and infrastructure,” Obote said, a adding “On 11 April, 1979 when Kampala fell to the Kikosi Maalum and TPDF, Museveni was in Fort Portal staying with Princess Elizabeth Bagaya in the Omukama’s Palace which the TPDF who had captured the Town never damaged at all.

On that same day, the President of the UNLF and all his ministers who attended the Conference at which the UNLF was formed except Museveni were, like me, in Dar es Salaam.”

Other commanders of Kikosi Maalum included Lt. Col. David Oyite Ojok who later became a Major General and Chief of Staff of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) before his death in a plane crash in December 1983.

The group also had Col Tito Okello Lutwa and Major Bazilio Olara Okello among others. Lutwa was later elevated to the rank of General and appointed UNLA Army Commander while Bazilio Okello
was promoted to Brigadier. It is these two who spearheaded the July 1985 coup that overthrew Obote, for the second time.

When on May 27, 1980 Obote stepped on Ugandan soil for the first time in nine years, Rurangaranga was on hand to welcome him, first at Nyakisharara Airfield in Mbarara and then in Bushenyi where the UPC leader addressed his first rally. Since then, Obote would visit Bushenyi annually on May 27th.

RURANGARANGA IN CABINET

After the controversial general elections in December 1980, Obote appointed Rurangaranga to cabinet as state minister for Local Government. He had earlier served as the Bushenyi district commissioner in the military commission of Paul Muwanga before he was elected MP for
Bushenyi West constituency, a position he occupied till the fall of UPC in 1985.

CRACKS IN UPC

According to political Observers, the fall of UPC began with disagreements between Rurangaranga and his colleagues; Prof Ephraim Kamuntu , Prof Adonia Tiberondwa,  and Prof. Yonasani Kanyomozi. The latter belonged to UPC science because they were highly educated while the former belonged to UPC syndicate-of the semi-educated. The syndicate UPC accused Science UPC of supporting NRA rebels of Yoweri Museveni.

These cracks led to the coup of 1985. Infact Rurangaranga was later vindicated as UPC science members like Ephraim Kamuntu took up positions in Museveni government.

EXILED

After the fall of Obote, Rurangaranga fled to Kenya. He was later extradited back home and charged with three counts of murder.

He was accused of murdering three Democratic Party (DP) supporters who were shot and their bodies dumped in R. Rusindura. Rurangaraga had accused the trio of masterminding the murder of
Begumanya, a parish chief and UPC stalwart. However, court set him.

RURANGARANGA BACK TO ZERO

On return from prison, Rurangaranga had been ‘reduced to ground zero’. As soon as the government fell, people descended on his home and stole everything. A story is told of how some overzealous looters had to spend a night in his bed.

It had taken them a week to break into until they landed on a gun and fired several bullets into the door. The looting was so agonizing that plunderers would descend on a cow and cut off some of it’s fresh, roast and eat when the cow was still alive, whimpering in pain.

A man that had amassed a lot of wealth; had a fleet of Mercedes Benzes to drop kids at school found nothing, not even roofings on his 8-bedroom house.

He became a born again, re-joined politics and became Bushenyi district Councillor for Kitgata Sub-county and later UPC chairman.

He embarked on a recovery journey and by the time of his death he was completing a building he had abandoned in Kitagata Town Council after the 1985 coup.

LEGACY

While still in government, Rurangaraga worked with the church and influenced the establishment of a government aided school in each sub-county.

Some of these schools included Kitagata SSSS, Kabira Technical Institute, Mahungye SSS, Kasaana Girls SSS, Bugongi SSS, Kabushaho SSS, Nyakishojwa SSS among others.

However, when NRM government came to power, most of these schools were closed. For example Kasana SSS was turned into a farm school. Infact on his maiden visit at school after he was released from prison, Rurangaranga had this to say “Museveni must be a special man! I left beautiful girls in this school but now it’s occupied by pigs!”

Such was the comicality that chacterised most of his speeches. While doing this, Rurangaranga stepped on many toes especially of his opponents. He terrorized all those he believed belonged to the Democratic Party. The brutal murder of three DP supporters dented his political image so much and the attack on his home was orchestrated by this group.

On top of that, he grabbed properties and land that were strategic to his interests and he wouldn’t mind whether the property belonged to UPC supporters.

If his government did fall, he would now own the entire Kitagata Town Council, looking at the speed at which he was using his proxies to grab land.

FAMILY LIFE

He was not a womanizer like today’s politicians. He only re-married after the death his first wife Mama Joy Kikaiha. He died peacefully talking to his current wife Margaret Rurangaranga, who also happened to be a professional nurse.

He is survived by seven kids; four girls and three boys. He owns several properties in Kitagata, Mbarara, Ishaka and Kampala. Whereas other UPC leaders like Prof Ephraim Kamuntu licked NRM and took up ministerial positions, Rurangaranga stuck to his UPC and died by it.

He lived by the UPC sword and died by it! Sleep well Ekikondanjonjo!!

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