Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, Uganda’s first executive Prime Minister explains genesis of war with President Sir Edward Mutesa.
“They discussed the issues and they decided upon two courses of action. One was to send a Platoon to where I was in the Northern Region, with orders to arrest and bring me back dead or alive”.
“This again did not succeed, and when I returned on February 12, I immediately came to realize that the situation was very serious. The first action I took was to direct Opolot to order all Units of the Army to return to Barracks”.
“This led us to think that Ted Jones was more than a sympathizer of the plotters. He had, therefore, to be deported. That was the first writer against whom we took action during our troubles which started in 1966”.
UGANDA: They again went to the army, and troops were moved to Kampala that very night. Troops continued to come to Kampala up to the afternoon of February 7, 1966. On that day a Unit was ordered to start shelling Kampala and it disobeyed the order. When another Unit was ordered to shell Parliament building, it again refused to do so. This stand by the troops caused a great deal of panic amongst the plotters.
They discussed the issues and they decided upon two courses of action. One was to send a Platoon to where I was in the Northern Region, with orders to arrest and bring me back dead or alive. This Platoon went, their leaders were received by me, but it did not succeed in its mission. Its two officers knew of the mission, but the soldiers were not told. When the Platoon arrived at where I was, it found itself unable to carry out its mission. It returned to Kampala empty-handed, arriving in the morning hours of February 8, 1966.
The second action had therefore to be carried out, and this was the decision to request the British High Commissioner for military assistance, which was made on February 8, 1966. This again did not succeed, and when I returned on February 12, I immediately came to realize that the situation was very serious. The first action I took was to direct Opolot to order all Units of the Army to return to barracks.
This was achieved in the afternoon of Sunday, February 13. On the same day I wrote to the President informing him of what I had learnt and requested a meeting with him. I got no reaction from the President. Next day I telephoned his office, or rather where he was staying, and spoke to his Private Secretary (PS) to whom I gave a message that I wanted to see the President immediately. I was told that the President had gone to Masaka, but the fact is that he was a few steps from his secretary who was speaking to me on the phone.
Then I called a Cabinet Meeting on February 14 and I put two points to the Cabinet. The first was that any Minister who had lost confidence in me and believed in all that was said in the Parliamentary Debate on Friday, February 4, 1966, should indicate so by the process of resignation. Not one gave any such indication. The second proposal I put to the Cabinet was that I had resolved on the appointment of a Judicial Commission to investigate the allegations which were advanced in the Parliamentary debate.
You will find again in “The Desecration of My Kingdom” a statement to the effect that it was the Cabinet that forced me on this second course action. The records of the Cabinet show very clearly that those Ministers, who sought to achieve their objectives on February 4, did not like the appointment of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. They wanted a limited action on the suspension of Idi Amin. Apparently they felt that with Idi Amin out, Opolot would use the Army to achieve unconstitutional ends. I was not prepared to accept any limited action and in two further meetings these two views were very clear, but at the end my proposal for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry was accepted.
I then left for Nairobi on February 17, but on return on February 19, I came to learn of a circular by Opolot to all army Units directing them to go for field exercises with dud weapons, and giving the date of the exercise as the third week of the same February. The curious thing about this order is that Opolot actually stated that because the situation had been normal throughout February 1966 and because for some months the Army had not done exercises. February 1966 was the most suitable time for these exercises.
I ordered the cancellation of the exercises. The important point to note here is that those who made the allegations against me and the two other Ministers and Idi Amin on February 4, 1966, did not want the allegations to be inquired into by an impartial body and wanted so to speak, to jump the gun by once more attempting to effect a change of Government by using the Army. I had to, therefore, take drastic action.
All these events and happenings could not have been completely hidden from Ted Jones, but both in the “Kenya Weekly News” and “The Reporter” he advanced the theory that troops moved into Kampala by Opolot were for the purpose of safeguarding the Constitution. Evidence, even that part of it which was known to the general public in Kampala, pointed otherwise. This led us to think that Ted Jones was more than a sympathizer of the plotters. He had, therefore, to be deported. That was the first writer against whom we took action during our troubles which started in 1966.
In our next series, we shall find how Obote accuses foreign interest of interference in Ugandan affairs using the media.