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A scene from the 27 guns movie. Courtesy photo

27 GUNS: The Epic Movie That Tells The Story Which Changed Uganda

27 Guns should have captured the piping ceremony at Lubiri in 1988, when NRA got their formal ranks. It was a colourful parade with the late President Habyarimana as guest of honour
posted onSeptember 12, 2018
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By Dennis Katungi

27 Guns, the blockbuster movie that premiered on Sept 09th  2018 was for me the first ever script that I have some reasonable claim to be part of. I do not remember ever watching a movie where I knew the plot, some of the actors and the story line in some detail. I was joining Secondary School when the bush war started. My family home in Kazo was a clandestine rendezvous (RV) for PRA, later on NRA recruits. 

The youngest of the 27 armed men who struck Kabamba was my Primary School classmate, the late Major Robert Kabuura. Another close family friend, the late Col. Frank Kamuninga (Kifuba), used to stay with our family in Kazo before joining Fronasa. He too was among the 27. The late Major Tumusiime Koozi, my schoolmate abandoned Secondary School to join the bush.  Col Patrick Lumumba (Musolini) the fierce Commander of NRA’s 3rd battalion was my cousin. The late Lt. Col Barihona an Uncle figure and close family friend who was my father’s best man and a Uganda Army veteran commanded NRA’s big guns the (artillery). Many of the Commanders who captured Kampala came from my village in Kazo.

 As such, after the bush war in 1986, I was privileged with access to information. Being an impressionable, inquisitive and patriotic young man, I dug out as much as possible. What actually transpired in the bush between 1981 – 1986?  In fact, when I later on read President Museveni’s Biography - The Mustard Seed, I realized how much of the bush war story I already knew. The battles, the injuries, the losses, the desperate situations of lack of food, water and other essentials of life, but more importantly, the story of utmost resilience, hope and eventual victory.  27 Guns is a must watch movie.  While as the Mustard seed beats the movie on background and detail, the action and hard hitting images are incomparable.  27 Guns brings to life the reality in a sharp 3-D picture. The suspense, the suffering, the sometimes seemingly hopeless situations, the fear, the odds and the grim reality on both sides of the protagonists i.e. the NRA & UNLA, this is a riveting plot.  NRA eventually surmounts all odds and the victory is the sweeter for they were the underdog, the so called ‘bandits’ in the jungles of Luwero Triangle. 

You have to give it to President Museveni and his original PRA architects - they were the masters of psychological warfare (PSYWAR) and basic aspects of psychological operations (PSYOPs).They have no trouble winning the hearts and minds of the people, both peasants & intellectuals who form a formidable movement and army, the NRA/NRM.

 PSYWAR & PSYOPs are modern war planning aspects taught at high level in War Colleges, where did Yoweri Museveni & his cohort learn these from to perfection?  The tactics are also known as political warfare – to denote action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people. Various techniques are used, aimed at influencing a target audience’s value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning or behavior. It is used to reinforce attitudes and behaviours to the originator’s objectives. NRA applied these successfully in Luwero & the movie brings this out.

How did a rag-tag rebel group with no rear base in a neighbouring country and no known foreign backing succeed? Joseph Kony and his LRA had an advantage on NRA in Luwero.  They had Khartoum on their side and could cross boarders & hide.  NRA was always surrounded. How did they out-wit a strong, well equipped and state resourced UNLA? You need to watch 27 Guns to find out for yourself. 

This is the story of a young man and his unlikely group of young idealists who risk all to fight for the liberation of a nation. They set off with little more than discipline, courage and hope. They are equipped with the indomitable spirit of an oppressed people who chose to do something to alter the status quo. They launch a protracted guerrilla war with only 27 Guns and gain total victory in a record five years. The trailer is captioned on Isaiah 60. ‘Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.’

27 Guns is an action packed thriller you must not miss. There are tiny bits of detail that could be changed though. I noticed ex President Milton Obote in a soliloquy – wondering ‘what this young man Yoweri Museveni was going to the bush for, since he had made him Minister of Defence. It wasn’t Obote that did.

 The UNLF government, and later on the Military Commission arising out of the Moshi conference had appointed Museveni Minister of Defence, not Obote. At that time he was still in exile and arrived in Uganda after his party UPC won the disputed elections of December 1980.  Another misplaced bit that I observed was General Tumwine being present as President Museveni swore in at Parliament in February 1986.  General Tumwine was in Nairobi as Kampala fell; he arrived a month later and as such could not have been at the swearing in ceremony.

27 Guns should have captured the piping ceremony at Lubiri in 1988, when NRA got their formal ranks. It was a colourful parade with the late President Habyarimana as guest of honour. I did not miss the eye contact between newly decorated Major General Fred Rwigyema and Habyarimana. The parade commander was the late Col. Poteri Kivuna and the goose match was riveting.

Dennis Katungi is Director, Communications & Media Relations, Uganda Media Centre.

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