How the issue of Owiny Kibul came about when Obote was in Exile in Tanzania

1. In March, 1971, Dr Obote received an invitation from the Sudanese Government to go to Khartoum where a European mercenary was due to stand trial but not as a witness to the trial. The background is that in 1970 the OAU passed a resolution which called for the arrests by Governments of the Member States of the mercenaries then known to be operating in Africa and the deportation of any arrested mercenary to the country where the mercenary was known to have been operating. A European mercenary who was known to be operating in Southern Sudan crossed into Uganda and was arrested and deported to Sudan.

2. When Dr Obote discussed the invitation with President Nyerere, the latter expressed much pleasure with it and urged Dr Obote to accept the invitation without delay. The President Nyerere saw the invitation as offering an opportunity to enable Dr Obote to raise a guerrilla army while in Sudan. There were reports at that time of the arrests in Uganda of some people who had tried to travel to Tanzania for military training. Before leaving for Khartoum, Dr Obote contacted UPC leaders in Uganda and discussed with them how best men could go to Sudan for military training. It was not a propitious proposition because there was at that time a war in Southern Sudan between the Southern Sudanese and the Government in Khartoum.

3. It was in that same March, 1971 that Dr Obote went to Khartoum with ten members of Staff. Dr Obote remained in Sudan until June 1972.

4. In Khartoum, Dr Obote asked President Nimieri to allow him to recruit men from Uganda and bring them to Sudan. Dr Obote also asked for facilities for the Sudanese army to train the men as a guerrilla army. The request was referred to the Sudanese army and the response was that it was very unsafe to enter Uganda from Southern Sudan and doubly dangerous to bring men to Sudan through the same route.

5. Dr Obote’s response to the army report, was to ask for his Staff to be allowed to go to Oraba Market (North of Koboko) where Dr Obote knew the people of Uganda, Zaire and Sudan sold and bought goods. This was investigated and was found to be a safe route.

6. Dr Obote then held discussions with his Staff and told them what he knew of the Oraba Market, principally that from the market it was easy at normal times to go to Koboko and then to Arua and from Arua to Gulu, Kitgum, Lira, Apac and Masindi Districts. The discussions led to the agreement that the recruiting area should cover the whole of the Northern region plus Teso and Masindi Districts. But there was one very serious draw-back; There was no money. It was suggested that selected senior UPC members be contacted to raise money. Dr Obote rejected that suggestion to write to Party leaders in the recruiting area and ask for monetary contributions. All members of Dr Obote’s Staff volunteered to go to Oraba and then to Uganda but Dr Obote only selected seven, one of whom was to remain at or near Oraba to receive the recruits.

7. After discussions how the recruitment was to be done was dissected, Dr Obote wrote letters to UPC leaders in the recruitment area. Each letter had something known to Dr Obote and the leader as a way of proving that the letter was from Dr Obote himself. A way to conceal the letters in the clothes worn by the recruiters was devised. UPC leaders to whom Dr Obote wrote were allotted tasks such as either themselves or assigning trusted Party members to escort the recruiters to another leader, return with recruits and escort them towards West Nile to Party leaders there. Leaders in west Nile were, when going to Oraba with the escorts and recruits to wear a designated scarf for identification.

8. The recruitment operation was very successful. None of the recruits or Party leaders ran into trouble and all the six Staff members returned to Sudan safely. 700 men were recruited and they were taken by the Sudanese army to a place known as Owiny-Kibul South of Juba.

Owiny-Kibul means the rest of the party supporters would be alerted when the drum is sounded at appropriate latter time. The whole operation was secretive, not told to all.

Charles Eliba


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Owiny kibul has historical significance to the daily struggles of ugandans to liberate themselves from myriad of problems.when our bodies are in chains our souls grow wings.
    Let ugandans always remember where they came
    from that will help to fore stall any complacence.
    Barasa wandabi

  2. John mark,

    I don’t so much believe in that coined story of the name of our land Owiny-Ki Bul. That is a way to mix up our traditional story of the name of the place. Our elders are still alive and they have the record of how Owiny-Ki Bul got that its name and the people of Uganda should not think they can us more about our ancestral land.

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