Shadrack Rwakairu: A hero without a grave

At the height on the guerrilla war that ushered the NRM government into power, Shadrack Rwakairu was arrested and detained at a military facility in Kireka near Kampala.

He was arrested over his links the then rebel group; NRA, and on December 2, 1983, the day General David Oyite Ojok died in a helicopter crash, Rwakairu was brutally murdered.

Born in 1940 in Kabale to George and Nyambogo Rweniga, Rwakairu was the second born in the large family.

He attended Kaharo Primary School, but dropped out after P7 to work and support his father.

He learnt how to drive at an early age and took part in the construction of the passenger terminal at Entebbe International Airport that opened in the early 1970s.

He was part of the group that levelled the land where the terminal stands. Later, Rwakairu went into the transport business and established himself at Nasser Road.


He was recruited into the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a rebel group by Yoweri Museveni that fought against Idi Amin’s presidency.

In FRONASA, Rwakairu worked under Amama Mbabazi and participated in many activities, including ferrying the current Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to Malaba for safety when President Idi Amin wanted to arrest him for his vocal criticism of the government then.

Rwakairu was able to save some money and buy his first fuel tanker, becoming the first Ugandan to transport fuel between Mombasa and Kigali.

From this, he was able to expand his business and purchase a fleet of fuel tankers and heavy duty trucks. He secured the transport contract for all petroleum products for Fina Oils, and was able to support the UPM with fuel provisions during the 1980 elections.

His support for UPM got him into trouble with Obote government operatives. In fact, between 1981-1982, he and his wife Peace were constantly harassed at their Muyenga home by the army. The harassment was so intense that he fled Kampala for safety in Kabale.

The soldiers continued to terrorise Peace and her little children. In September 1983, Rwakairu travelled to Kampala hoping he would not be detected, but he was picked up at Kikuubo and arrested with five others.

They were held at the then dreaded Nile Mansions and later transferred to Kireka military barracks.

On the fateful day that Rwakairu died, the news of Oyite Ojok’s death triggered anger from the soldiers holding the rebel collaborators.

Out of their anger, the soldiers allegedly poured petrol in and around the room where all the prisoners were held and burnt them alive.

Efforts by Ezra Nkwasibwe – a cousin to Rwakairu and a Minister of Health in Obote’s government – to
retrieve the body of Rwakairu failed.

Rwakairu’s younger brother Safi Byamugisha and his widow continued
to request for the body for burial in vain.

Peace fled Kampala for Kabale where she briefly stayed before returning, with her three children, to the Ruhindi home in Nyakishenyi in Rukungiri district.


Before his brutal killing, Rwakairu had married Peace Ruhindi and the marriage had been blessed with three children.
Bridget Birungi Rwakairu, who is set to be given away to Andile Ramaphosa, a son to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, is their first born.

Bridget’s education began in Nyakishenyi at Nyakisoroza Primary School.
While in Primary six, she was taken to Nabbingo Primary School in Wakiso district where she sat for her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).

She completed her O’ levels at Gayaza High School and her A’ levels at Makerere College School.

Bridget holds a post-graduate degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Beijing University of Science and Technology. She also holds a BSc, Environmental Engineering from Beijing Jiaotong University.