MYTHS AND REALITIES: OBOTE’S 1968 LETTER TO A LONDON FRIEND-Part Nine

 

obote

Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, explaining circumstances which led to the 1966 revolution.

“On that day I received a letter from Mengo informing me that a group of left-wingers (Communists) were intending to overthrow the Government of Uganda and the Kabaka’s Government on or about October 9 (Independent Day) 1965”.

“He came to Kampala on October 7, 1965 and on return to Jinja contacted a number of officers, including two who were on open charge and therefore not on duty, to draw arms and to report to Brigadier Opolot at Army Headquarters in Kampala”.

“That was the first time a part of the Uganda Army began to be used for political purposes and objectives. The first objective was to fulfill what the UPC would not do namely, arrange for an affiance between the Party and KY change its policy and leadership”.

GULU-UGANDA: In my absence between May and August the Executive met to consider the proposal to increase Buganda’s membership of the National Council and rejected it. The same matter was again brought in October, when it was once more rejected. The idea of increasing Buganda’s membership of the National Council, was not so much as to give a unit of some two million people fair representation- in any case the UPC’s share of that population was very big- but it was one of getting into the National Council persons who were KY in spirit and UPC in body, for the purpose of changing the Party policy and leadership. When this proposal was rejected in October a new development which reached its height in February 1966 and which was the basic reason for the deportation of Mr. Jones began to emerge.

It was on October 7, 1965, when five incidences occurred and whether they constituted a coincidence or not at that time, they have now been proved not to be a matter of coincidence. On that day I received a letter from Mengo informing me that a group of left-wingers (Communists) were intending to overthrow the Government of Uganda and the Kabaka’s Government on or about October 9 (Independent Day) 1965. The letter requested me to issue a statement condemning any such plot and that I state my position.

The second incidence was a letter written to the Minister of Internal Affairs by the late Daudi Ocheng, with a copy to me, saying that the Minister should send a senior Police Officer to take a statement from an unnamed person regarding the activities of an Army Officer, Idi Amin. The author of the letter added that it was his expectation that, on taking the statement Government would immediately suspend Idi Amin.

Again on the same day, at the end of a Cabinet Meeting, I heard Grace Ibingira saying that he had discovered a plot to assassinate him on Independence Anniversary celebrations. He was addressing no particular Minister and added that others would be equally assassinated. This was such a serious statement that I immediately ordered him and the Minister of Internal Affairs to remain behind, and called the Inspector-General of Police so that we could go through the allegations.  We did this from midnight for two hours and arrangements were made by Police that very night to get onto the persons who were alleged to be plotting to assassinate Ibingira. The Police did not find any evidence to establish the allegation.

The forth matter was a report by the then Commander of the Uganda Army, Shaban Opolot, to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense, to the effect that Opolot had received information that Baganda were plotting to assassinate him and also that the soldiers from the Congo would attack the Headquarters of the Uganda Army during Independence Anniversary celebrations. This story was fully investigated and the Police found nothing in it.

The fifth incidence concerned the activities of a then Major in the Uganda Armed Forces, Katabarwa, brother of Grace Ibingira, who was the Commander of the Training Wing stationed in Jinja. He came to Kampala on October 7, 1965 and on return to Jinja contacted a number of officers, including two who were on open charge and therefore not on duty, to draw arms and to report to Brigadier Opolot at Army Headquarters in Kampala.

His orders were obeyed and seven officers came to Kampala on October 8, 1965 heavily armed and one of them went to a football field with the boot of his car full of various arms. These officers and a few others were stationed in Kampala and virtually took over the control of the Army Headquarters.

On October 9, 1965, after the Trooping of the Colors, there was a party at the Makindye Presidential Lodge. Both the Minister responsible for Defense or me knew that a Company of the Army was to be stationed around the Lodge, and the guests were very much in fear when they saw troops everywhere, fully armed. The next day I raised the whole matter with the then President. I went to inform him of what I had learnt since October 7, and also to tell him that neither the Minister nor myself knew of the deployment of forces at the Presidential Lodge, but when I raised the matter with the President he merely waved me off and said he was himself going to discuss the matter with Opolot, and added that as Commander-in-Chief he preferred to discuss matters of this kind with the Army Commander rather than with a civilian Prime Minister.

That was the first time a part of the Uganda Army began to be used for political purposes and objectives. The first objective was to fulfill what the UPC would not do namely, arrange for an affiance between the Party and KY change its policy and leadership. The plotters apparently expected the Army to assist in doing it but the Army did nothing of the kind.

In our next series we shall see how Kabaka Mutesa and Army Commander, Brigadier Opolot tried to out maneuver Obote

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