The family of the late John Butagari of Kanungu District has for 32 years been seeking compensation from President Museveni for their property that was used by the National Resistance Army (NRA) fighters during the Bush war.
Mr James Butagari Kwesiga, the heir and caretaker of the estate of the late Butagari, says they have been seeking compensation and support since 1986, the year Mr Museveni captured power.
Mr Kwesiga says his father, a Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) supporter based in Kihihi, supplied food to the NRA guerrillas who had camped at their western base in Fort Portal under the command of Jim Muhwezi, later to become major general.
Mr Kwesiga says their late father’s house in Kihihi was bombed by government forces, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) soldiers, having been used as a campaigning centre for UPM that was headed by Mr Museveni. Most of the UPM party functionaries were later to reorganise into current ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party headed by Mr Museveni.
From several bundles of documents this newspaper has obtained, the First Family claims it was acknowledged by the then NRM chairman external committee, Mr Mathew N. Rukikaire, in a letter dated November 6, 1986.
“We are writing to introduce Mr John Butagari, a businessman and a long-standing supporter of the dictatorship (UPC government of the time). As a result of his support to our Movement, he became a victim of various persecution by former regimes,” Mr Rukakire’s letter to Mr Museveni reads in part.
The family claims some of the properties lost due to the war, included two buses used in the transportation and deployment of NRA troops, 10 tractors, and five milling machines.
They want government to award the family of the late Butagari with a gold medal for his contribution to the success of 1980-1986 bush war that ended with the NRA capture of State power on January 26, 1986.
In another letter dated January 2012 and addressed to President Museveni, the family states that despite letters of promise to rehabilitate their family, they continue to wait for assistance in vain.
“…as we write sorrowfully, our late Mzee passed on in 1994 before the family got any assistance from your government apart from the promises; and as we tell you, the family is living in sorrow and many applications have been forwarded to your office, but up to now there is no response,” the letter states in part.
In an earlier letter, Dr Kizza Besigye, then minister for State for Internal Affairs, wrote reminding then minister of Works, Transport and Telecommunication about an application Mr Butagari had made, seeking a bus.
In another letter dated December 30, 1992, Maj Gen Muhwezi, then director of Internal Security Organisation (ISO), wrote to then minister of Works, Transport and Telecommunications, directing him to ensure that Kinkizi General Transporters Co Ltd, a company that belonged to the late Butagari, be allocated two buses from Uganda Development Bank (UDB).
“This is to inform you that I am very familiar with this case and I add my voice to all the others that M/s Kinkizi General Transporters Co. Ltd is a deserving case and would appreciate if the two buses I understand are now with UDB were allocated to them,” Maj Gen Muhwezi wrote.
But in a hand written response, Dr Ruhakana Ruganda, then minister of Transport, wrote asking Lt Col Sserwanga Lwanga to allocate one trailer since Steyr buses weren’t available at the time.
When contacted to comment on the matter last week, Prime Minister Rugunda acknowledged the family’s claim for support is legitimate but said government is still constrained by resources.
“We salute the contribution to the struggle for liberation made by late John Butagari and his comrades. The information from the family for support is legitimate,” he said.
Instead, he advised the family to work closely with government programmes, including Operation Wealth Creation, to improve their livelihood.
However, Mr Kwesiga says the family wants to meet President Museveni in person since their efforts to reach him through several government officials have yielded no fruit.
“Our father believed in Museveni; he believed in him with his whole heart, he could die for him. We don’t think the President knows about our problem; we know that he gave wilfully some of the property, but the buses were our only source of income left, they were just taken while enroute,” he added.
A source familiar with the compensation process says “the compensation process is slow and duplicated.” He says some claims are handled by Ministry of Defence, others by the President’s Office, and others by the Ministry of Luweero Triangle. He says it is hard to know where to start from and what criteria to follow.
He suggests that the President should initiate a Commission, which will reconcile all the bodies and work together to solve the backlog.
Another source says the process was marred by fraud even when President directed that some of these people be paid, the money never reached them.