I don’t know who told some Ugandans that the Police, Army and Prisons Officers were gathered at today’s Bulange by Amin however, whoever it is might have been told by someone else who had exaggerated the story. In other words, The story is false.
In 1977 all units of the Uganda Army, Uganda Air Force including the Military Police, with an exception of the General Headquarters of the Uganda Armed Forces received an order from the Command Post issued by President Amin himself that the Acholi and Langi had to be killed. It was nolonger a secret as military trucks and buses kept bringing the widows and their children to the Uganda Transport Company (UTC) Bus parks. Many widows and their children from the Western and Central Regions were left at the Kampala UTC Bus park, near Nakivubo to take buses to Gulu or Kitgum. I was at the General Headquarters Uganda Armed Forces, ” The Republic House”, as it was known then. It is the Bulange of the Kingdom of Buganda today. The order was ”Top Secret”, so that even the General Headquarters and its Intelligence personel were left in ” darkness’.
I was personally shocked when one evening I passed by the UTC park place in Kampala. This I did because I had received a phone call from a very close friend who was with the 2nd. Paratroopers Battalion in Fort Portal. The friend had told me about the killings and that the women and their children were being transported to Kampala. At my arrival at the UTC park, the place was overcrowded by women and children. I could easily notice that these were either Acholi or Langi. While looking around, I recognized a Sergeant Okello of the 2nd. Para. Battalion trying to get away.
I quickly followed him where he was trying to hide. He later told me that he was actually trying to hide from me. He told me that he was heading for Gulu, but the UTC officials had announced that the bus to Gulu would be available the following morning. Realizing that he was hungry, scared and unsure to get the bus to Gulu, let alone being recognized as an Acholi deserter by the State Research Bureau ( SRB ) agents who might have killed him with minimum delay, I took him to the Army Sports Club (formally known as Lohana Club). I had a room which I used as my dressing room whenever I went for boxing or volley ball practice. I instructed the chief cook (a civilian) to bring some food to my room, which he did and Sergeant Okello ate and slept in my dressing room. I instucted him not to open the door for anyone and promised him that I would personally take him to the UTC park the following morning. Before I left him he told me a lot which I verified with other colleague from his Battalion. The following morning, I came and the Chief Cook brought some breakfast to Sgt.Okello, after which I took him to the Bus park where he boarded the bus to Gulu. I met him at the ” Bulange” after Amin’s fall.
In the same year, 1977 after the killings of the Acholi and Langi, as I mentioned above, all the Officers and Men of the General Headquarters were summoned for a ” Briefing ” by the General Staff Officer, in – charge of Training and Operations, Brig. General Isaac Maliyamungu and the Commandant of the General Headquarters, Uganda Armed Forces, Lt. Colonel Pangarasio Onek. Brig. Gen. Maliyamungu said that he was surprised by the cowardice of the Acholi and Langi Officers and men who came to work, but simply diappeared before time, or sometimes came late and left before time. Lt. Colonel Pangarasio Onek turned and saluted saying, ”Iko watu wanachomachoma ao chindano kwa matako yao.” ( in a better translation, ”There are people who are scaring them.” )
At that moment Brig. Gen. Maliyamungu told the Acholi and Langi Officers and Men to name without fear anyone who has scared them. Maliyamungu promised to ”deal” with such a person whether he is an Officer or not. He instructed Captain Taban, the Adjutant of the General H/Qs UAF to write down all the names mentioned. Some hands were already up, most likely to name those responsible. One soldier was picked, stood up and saluted. The moment he started to speak, Brig. Gen. Maliyamungu instructed the soldier to sit. Maliyamungu said that some Acholi and Langi would be scared to talk in the presence of other tribes. At that juncture, he ordered all Officers and Men from other tribes to vacate the room. He again said that the Acholi and Langi must talk freely and name anyone responsible for their fear. At that moment I sensed danger. I told those seated near me, ” Let’s get out, you are not politicians.” Those who remained behind were overwhelmed by the troops who were hiding, but entered after we had vacated the room. We could hear them screaming. Lt. Colonel Pangarasio was not harmed. One of the soldiers who heeded my call to vacate the room was Sergeant Ouma, who later became one of the Body Guards of Brig. General David Oyite Ojok. He also saved my life when I was supposed to be murdered, that I was a ” Museveni Guerrilla.”
By the time Idi Amin took power in 1971, Dr, A. Milton Obote was very unpopular, but the Armed Forces, Police and Prison Services had a very large number of Officers from the Acholi and Langi. If the killings you mentioned occured to the Acholi and Langi Officers stationed around Kampala area, I think those stationed upcountry would have known, the consequence of which would have been a mutiny that would have collapsed the government. What I think happened, was that the Acholi and Langi officers and men were systematically picked from many army, police, prisons’ barracks and murdered. Those who survived the 1971 killing believed that those killed were Dr. Obote’s loyalists. I was at Kamuli College Namasagali at the time and many people were killed there and thrown in the River Nile. The Army Officers came to our college in the evenings and told us to walk quietly from our night preps (classes) to the dormitories. We were told by the Officers that the Army would be conducting military exercises and that we should not be alarmed. Later in the night, we heard gun fire that lasted about an hour. That happened on several occasions. The College dining room was situated close to the River Nile and we could see very clearly across the Nile to Bugerere side. The following morning from the supposedly military exercise, we were shocked to see many dead bodies floating on the Nile. Most of them were dressed in military uniform. As some dead bodies were stuck close to the dining room, some members of our College Staff used the school boat to push them across the river to the Bugerere side.
I am not saying for sure that Ugandans told about this did not happen, but the probability seems doubtful, as many Langi and Acholi, especially Acholi remained in their posts until years later. Many who were convinced that they had nothing to do with the deposed President Obote did not run into exile, and that’s why upon his return to power in 1980, Dr. Obote did not trust the Acholi. That was very clear when Brig. General David Oyite Ojok died and could not be replaced by any of the most high ranking Acholi officers
With this, I hope that more people who know the truth about what transpired during and after Idi Amin’s rule should come forward and let us know. It is only the knowledge of the truth that will heal our hearts.
May God Bless Uganda.
Byaruhanga, Jonny Rubin.
former UPDF Officer/residing in Europe