Bantariza, The Liveliest Army Spokesman Uganda Ever Had

  Shaban Bantariza! Ugandan journalists who joined the profession after 2005 may never know the fun of engaging with  a confident military spokesman. Colonel (then Major) Shaban Bantariza who took up the post in 2000, was redeployed from the spokesmanship in 2005 to join his senior colleagues as pioneer students of the Kimaka military academy.

 To Journalists who were in service by 2005, he was simply ‘Banta’ and like the name suggested, he would give banter anytime a journalist called him.   The ease of engaging the media arose from several factors. First, Bantariza was a ‘bushman’ as the NRA guerillas were referred to after they took power and formed government. So he knew  the army in and out, having engaged closely with the top command in the trenches.

When you got close enough, he could regale you with war stories of arguments of who had the privilege to chew raw cassava among the big commanders, some of them now four-star generals.   Secondly, Banta has a deep intellectual grounding, starting from all those theological studies he  undertook before picking up the gun to go and fight in the jungles of Luwero – he was actually a Catholic cleric. He belonged to the congregation of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, headquartered at Kisubi. ‘Shaban’ is just a nom de guerre adopted for security of family and relatives,  but he was never a Muslim.

“Nze ndi fulera” he would remind journalists meaning he was a reverend brother – otherwise a Frere, the French title for a brother. His congregation had links with French speaking Canadians. One of the memorable quips Banta gave journalists was when he was called upon to respond to opposition politicians claims that the ammunition factory of Nakasongola was making fake bullets.   Without wasting time, Bantariza challenged the politicians to come to Constitutional Square and they shoot at him with the fake bullets.

After graduating from the first cohort of Kimaka, Bantariza, now  risen to the rank of Colonel, had several assignments including Commandant of the Oliver Tambo Leadership College and the Kyankwazi school of political education.   He retired officially from the army in 2015.Colonel Shaban Bantariza passed on at Mulago Hospital on the night of 26-27 October, 2020.

The life and times of Col. Shaban Bantariza
Batanzira was born in Mitooma District in Uganda’s Western Region, circa 1963. He attended St. Leo’s College, Kyegobe, in Fort PortalKabarole District for his O-Level studies. He then joined the Catholic brotherhood, where he trained as an elementary school teacher.

While pursuing a course at Makerere University in 1985, he abandoned his studies and joined the National Resistance Army, led by Gen.Yoweri Museveni. He attended guerrilla bootcamp in the Kabarore area, in foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. He also attended and graduated from the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College, having studied the senior command course offered annually at the college.

While pursuing a course at Makerere University in 1985, he abandoned his studies and joined the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni. He attended guerrilla bootcamp in the Kabarore area, in foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. He also attended and graduated from the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College, having studied the senior command course offered annually at the college.
Military career
Bantariza served as the UPDF spokesperson from 2000 to 2002 and from 2003 to 2006. For a period of time, prior to February 2009, Batanzira, at the rank of lieutenant colonel, served as the commander of the Oliver Tambo Leadership School, in KawewetaNakaseke District, in Uganda’s Central Region. On 26 February 2009, he was appointed commandant of the National Leadership Institute (NALI), in KyankwanziKyankwanzi District. He served in that capacity until he was relieved of his duties on 7 October 2011.

In June 2013, he was appointed as Deputy Executive Director of the National Media Centre. On 2 July 2013, at the rank of colonel, he was arrested, charged with embezzlement and remanded to Makindye Military prison by the General Court Martial on charges of alleged fraud. After proceedings that lasted nearly three years,[ the Court Martial, chaired by Major General Levi Karuhanga, acquitted Colonel Bantariza due to lack of evidence against him, on 14 April 2015.[ On 24 June 2015, following his acquittal by the general court martial, he resumed work at the Uganda Media Centre, the president of Uganda having directed in writing that Bantariza resumes work.[
Retirement from the UPDF
On 28 September 2015, Bantariza retired from the UPDF. He continued to serve as the deputy government spokesperson until his death on the 26th of October the year 2020.

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