Howard Openjuru was cast in the limelight when he was arrested and accused of being leader of a shadowy rebel group, the Uganda Homeland Liberation Force. But not much is known about Openjuru.
An Old Boy (OB) of St Aloysius College Nyapea says Openjuru was Entertainment Prefect in 1995.
Nyapea, a boys-only boarding high school, lies some 8kms north-west of Paidha Town in Zombo District, West Nile sub-region.
The OB, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of circumstances, says Openjuru Jr used to send some students from the college to trek to Paidha Town, to hire movies.
These were both social and war movies, among them Rambo, the series of action films.
But scanty is known of Openjuru Jr and his early life and primary education.
But what is clear is that Openjuru Jr, 44, hails from Solia village, Central Ward of Paidha Town Council in Okoro County, Zombo District.
For both Ordinary and Advanced-Level Education, Openjuru Jr went to Nyapea from 1993 to1998, concluding with pre-university entrance subject combination of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM).
His peers say Openjuru Jr has always been close to his father, Mr John Openjuru Sr, alias Jomax, 73, a businessman in Paidha Town.
Naturally, he then joined his father in business in Paidha Town, but his acquaintances say the two later became detached by distance.
A Facebook page with more or less an identical name, Howard Jakernga Openjuru, indicates that after sitting the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE), Openjuru joined the University of Plymouth in the UK, where he pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007.
But last week, Openjuru Jr was arrested together with his father, Openjuru Sr, and several other suspects from Butema cell in Njeru South Ward Njeru Central Division in Njeru Municipality on the banks of River Nile, near Uganda’s industrial hub of Jinja City.
The UPDF Commander Land Forces, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, confirmed the arrest in a tweet on October 16.
“Ugandan intelligence has arrested the leader of the so-called Uganda Homeland Liberation Force, Openjuru Howard, inside the country. It was a carefully planned operation that took many months. CMI is proving that it is a truly excellent intelligence service. Uganda ni hatari!”
Six other suspects were also arrested by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
But it remains unclear how Openjuru got entangled in the activities for which he has been accused.
Neither did the joint security task teams explain Openjuru’s suspected rebel collaboration and links to the militant Islamists Allied Democratic Forces rebel groups, with bases in DR Congo. The security teams could not also explain how Openjru Jr, who together with his co-accused from Paidha and Njeru, are largely Christians, are reportedly linked to the Islamist militant ADF.
Paidha in Zombo District, lies on the international border with DR Congo.
On Facebook, Howard Jakernga Openjuru’s account is listed under Government, Politics and Advocacy, with 364 thousand likes.
On his page, Openjuru signs off his writings as Leader of Uganda Homeland Liberation Movement/Force (UHLM/F).
We could not establish whether Howard Openjuru is the self-same Howard Jakernga Openjuru.
But both the security agencies and Openjuru on Facebook identify his father as John Openjuru, alias Jomax.
The same Openjuru signals his political views through Facebook posts as seeking to ‘Make Uganda a better country after Museveni’s horror. Working towards achieving a united Africa, poverty-free Africa, 100 per cent literacy in Africa and stopping the looting in Africa. Nobody must be left behind in the development of Africa.”
His last Facebook post was on October 14, two days before his arrest, preaching unity of purpose in the Alur Kingdom.
The same message denounces government for interference in traditional kingdoms and commonwealth of sub-nations of Uganda.
Howard Jakernga Openjuru also invokes the holy spirit that he claims will bring fundamental change, namely peace, unity and love without making life hard for each other in the Alur Kingdom, Uganda, and Africa.
In his last tweet on October 15, at 9.20am, a day before arrest, Openjuru wrote: “If I was a Ugandan and a foreigner, I will be cautious, and avoid dealing and investing unnecessary until the revolution ….is over. At the moment, it is going to be a difficult time for Ugandans and Africans because change is coming to affect peoples’ lives.”
In 2016, Openjuru Jr was arrested at his retail shop in Paidha Town in 2016, and was charged before the General Court Martial in 2018 on offences relating to security. The case was registered as UPDF/GCM/017/2016.
He was released on bail on February 26, 2018, as his father, Openjuru Sr, stood surety. But soon after, Openjuru Jr reportedly jumped bail and disappeared to live in Europe.
But on Facebook, the account holder with identical name, has been launching a series of tirades, with the posts chiefly denouncing the Museveni regime.
Again the name Openjuru, featured prominently during the March 20, 2020 attack on UPDF barracks in Oduk village in Zombo Town Council in West Nile. At the time, the Resident District Commissioner for Zombo, Mr Andrew Kajoyingi, told the press: “These youths were secretly picked up from here [on pretext] that they were going to work in some coffee plantation in Kiryadongo [District]. Little did we know there would be such a subversive movement in the district. Our intelligence report indicates that it is led by Howard Openjuru.”
But the security team led by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) officers denied the group belonged to Openjuru Jr and tasked the RDC to explain his source of information. Shortly that day, the Facebook persona, Howard Jakernga Openjuru, again posted more messages, denouncing the attack that led to the killings of UPDF soldiers and burning down of some 15 huts in the barracks.
“These people who brought very senseless and unnecessary attack in Zombo District must be condemned for the stupidity. You start a war you can’t defend …. and think you are serious. Worst still, it is your home where your family, friends and relatives are. That is committing suicide,” Jakernga Openjuru wrote.
But in a climb down, much as Jakernga Openjuru condemns the attack, he also assures “we have our revolution coming … but it will not be a stupid one like that…”
In sum, the million-dollar question remains, whether Howard Openjuru Jr, 44, son of businessman John Openjuru, alias Jomax, 73, of Paidha in Okoro County, Zombo District, is the self-same Howard Jakernga Openjuru, the self-confessed leader of Uganda Homeland Liberation Movement/Force (UHLM/F)?