The National Resistance Army (NRA) radio call crackled at 10pm.
Edirisa Kamoga, an army signaller, then 19–years–old, received it.
NRA’s division in Mbale wanted to know how the soldiers in Pabbo, 375 kilometres north of Kampala were faring.
Just then, gunshots reverberated in the air in Pabbo.
Kamoga believes the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels fired the shots since it happened during the insurgency, in 1991 to be specific.
An NRA soldier responded with a Rocket Propelled Grenade, which brushed the radio call aerial Kamoga had looped on a tree.
It sparked and triggered an electric current, which flowed to the receiver Kamoga was holding to his ear.
Kamoga blacked out.
“I regained consciousness in Lacor Hospital,” he says.
In 1992, the NRA discharged him from the army.
The NRA attributed it to “reduction in establishment”.
Thirty–six per cent of the soldiers the NRA discharged between 1992 and 1995 were on account of reduction in establishment.
The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) Act, 2005 entitles officers or militants discharged on such grounds to pension in lieu of gratuity.
The act also provides that the pension shall be paid monthly.
However, 24 years since the army demobilised Kamoga, the government has never given him even one month’s pension.
“They [army officials] keep telling me I will be attended to the following month. They even tell me to make sure I maintain the minimum balance on my bank account so that my account, to which they will send the money, is not closed. But when I check to the account, I find only the minimum balance I put there. Months have turned into years and yet I have not received even a cent and yet I was a soldier. I became ill during the bush war. I know of soldiers who were not even injured but who have since been paid their dues. For the time I was in the army, I never had an opportunity to laze around Kampala,” Kamoga says.
And it is affecting him.
A landlady in Bombo, which is 37 kilometres north of Kampala, has now kicked him out of the tenement he was renting.
He owes her Shs320, 000 for eight months rent.
Kamoga, his wife Aisha Nanyonga, 34, and two children, now sleep in the lawns and the waiting areas of Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala.
It is now one month since they started sleeping within the precincts of Mulago.
“It is cold at night. Our children cough a lot as a result of the weather. Many times, we are told [by the hospital's guards] to leave this place. But we have no where else to go. I cannot go back to my mother’s home; she is taking care of our two elder children in Kyaggwe, Mukono. Our household items are in the tenement we were renting in Bombo,” Nanyonga says.
To survive, the family goes to the nearby Mulago Hospital Mosque for alms from fasting Muslims.
And to answer nature’s call, the Kamogas go to public toilets.
“I request those concerned to help my husband to get paid so that we, too, can live a decent life. My husband fought to get the National Resistance Movement in power,” Nanyonga adds.
UPDF spokesperson Colonel Paddy Ankunda says if Kamoga has not been paid since he was discharged, there could be a problem.
He, therefore, urges Kamoga to bring the matter to the attention of UPDF’s Directorate of Pensions and Gratuity for investigation and solution, whicn Kamoga says he has done time and again and still his problem has not been solved.
“Running to the media won’t help him; the media will not pay [the arrears],” Col. Ankunda says.
The army owes about 30, 000 veterans’ arrears, he said.
In December 2015, while campaigning for reelection, President Museveni said at a press conference in Jinja Municipality that the bill for the veterans was Shs1.5 trillion.
Of that, he said the government had so far paid Shs1 trillion (US$443.262 million - going by the Saturday, June 25, 2016 Bank of Uganda Dollar to Shilling exchange rate).
The President did not say when the Shs500 billion ($147.754 million) would be cleared.
Mr Museveni was responding to former army commander Major General (retired) Mugisha Muntu who said many former soldiers have not yet been paid their dues.
Maj. Gen. Muntu said he is one of those who have not been paid.
Kamoga, who now and then bleeds from the ears and mouth, needs his money to buy drugs.
According to a Chieftaincy of Medical Services internal memo, Kamoga suffered head injuries during the insurgency.
Since then, he has been in and out of hospitals such as Bombo Military Hospital, Mbuya, Mulago, and the Aga Khan in Kenya.
In May this year, medics in Bombo wheeled him to Butabika Mental Hospital in Kampala Capital City.
After a night in the facility, Kamoga left for Mulago.
“Some people in the army want me certified insane so that I do not claim for my money,” Kamoga says.
Kamoga later went back to Butabika for review since army doctor Ocen had recommended so.
According to a June 15, 2016 Butabika medical form, Kamoga is “mentally calm and cooperative”.
Butabika though referred him to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.
However, Kamoga says he will not see the specialist he was referred to, claiming he is part of the team of officers who want to deny him his pension.
“I cannot return to Bombo; if they could send me to Butabika, this time they could inject me with something that might kill me,” Kamoga says.
13 August 1985 – Kamoga is conscripted into the NRA
17 April 1991 – Kamoga sustains head injuries while in Pabbo
30 June 1992 – the NRA discharges him
36, 000 – officers the NRA discharged between 1992 to 1995
Shs134, 000 ($39.5) – the monthly salary Kamoga was earning at the time he was demobilised