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ELECTION 2022

James Wamalwa: Kenyan officer who spared Museveni from execution

NATIONAL
By Robert Amalemba | Jan 24th 2022 | 4 min read

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula (let) during the burial of James Wamalwa at Sikusi in Bungoma County. January 22, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The role of late police officer James Wamalwa in shaping Uganda’s history could perhaps be better explained by the African Union envoy to Somalia Simeon Mulongo.

Mr Mulongo says the man from Bungoma’s Sikusi village was influential in making Uganda’s history and saving the life of guerrilla movement leader Yoweri Museveni from Uganda President Idi Amin’s iron fist.

“Wamalwa arrested Museveni and two other youth, who were fighting for the liberation of Uganda then freed them with a fatherly warning that they cease to operate in outlawed groups that were keen at toppling Amin,” said Mulongo at the sidelines of Wamalwa’s funeral on Saturday.

Mulongo was at Wamalwa’s funeral representing Ugandan President Museveni and his government.

“Truth be told, if Wamalwa was not a level-headed officer, he could have handed over the youth to Amin for execution,” he said.

The envoy told mourners and later on The Standard in an exclusive interview that he was directed to the funeral with “none other than Museveni himself.”

He revealed that Museveni had a very tight relationship with Wamalwa that he preferred he uses “Rafiki” rather than “His Excellency” when addressing him.

“Mzee (Museveni) also traced and airlifted Wamalwa to Uganda on occasions where they shared notes on the liberation struggle of Uganda. While he was alive, he (Museveni) gifted him a posho mill which I hear broke down some time back,” he said.

James Wamalwa. [Courtesy]

And true to their friendship, when the head of state heard that his “saviour” had passed on, he was among the first people to console his family.

He also gave out some Sh525,000 to the family to go towards meeting funeral expenses and buying a bull for the mourners to feast.

Wamalwa, whose two wives died years ago, is survived by eight children and was laid to rest at his home in Bungoma County on Saturday.

Museveni confesses in his book Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda that he was arrested by Wamalwa in 1971 alongside Magode Ikuya, (minister for East African Affairs) and one Abwooli Malibo.

After receiving the warning from Wamalwa to desist from associating with militia activities since they were “small boys”, the three, left Bumbo forest the following day and separated at Nabumali area near Mbale town.

“Later, Malibo was arrested and executed by a firing squad in Fort Portal,” writes Museveni in the book.

The book catalogues Museveni’s life from childhood in western Uganda to the guerrilla wars which he fought in the 1970s and 1980s when he met Wamalwa, then a special branch officer in Amin’s government.

He says in the book that after Wamalwa set them free, Amin’s soldiers arrived minutes later demanding to know where they had gone so that they are executed.

When the answer Wamalwa gave was not satisfactory, they gave chase and later caught up with Malibo whom they brutally executed.

The trio was on a mission to inspect their camps in the forest that cuts across the Kenya-Uganda border as they fought the repressive regime of Amin during Uganda’s dark days.

President Yoweri Museveni. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Years after capturing power, the eighth Ugandan president went ahead to send the former Bubulo East MP Simon Mulongo to cross the border to Kenya to look for Wamalwa after fruitlessly searching for him in Uganda.

Wamalwa’s family says their father could, later on, meet Museveni in Bumbo, Entebbe State House and the State Lodge in Mbale in the 2000s.

These visits became the talk of his Sikusi village, a thing that made him get the nickname “Museveni”.

The Kimilili Boys’ High School alumni served Amin for 30 years and worked across a couple of stations in Uganda including Tororo, Kampala, Mbale, Gulu, Malaba, Soroti, Lira and Karamoja.

On the flip side, Babutu clansmen whisper that Wamalwa kept writing to the Ugandan authorities to demand his pension package “but someone must have hidden them from his friend’s desk”.

Wamalwa’s son Fred Khisa said his father died last Tuesday from a “natural cause” and thanked Museveni for playing a vital part in ensuring that his funeral was a success.

“He raised us well partly because he was a trained police officer who ensured that we were disciplined and obedient children,” he said.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, who also attended the funeral, characterized Wamalwa as an icon of professionalism and sobriety.

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