Dear Ugandans at heart,
I personally advised the late General David Oyite Ojok to arrest Bazilio Okello and if necessary kill him. This was in a 5 hour meeting I had with him and students of the UPC youth league in Lira Hotel in 1981. I also discussed with him a number of different issues, he was very engaging, a truly nice person and at the end of our meeting, he asked me to write a letter that he would pass on to President Obote since he could not himself make such a decision. President Obote never responded to my letter, I think because at the time I was involved in a student protest at the Law Development Centre of which I was the President of the Student’s Union. But this cancer of Bazilio was allowed to go on with totally disastrous consequences. This is my one major criticism of President Obote. In my letter to President Obote, I told him he needed to do three things:
Professionalize the army and that meant retiring people like Tito Okello and arresting Bazilio or killing him. And I said the army needed more educated people in its ranks, at the time the foot soldiers were mainly Acholi 90% of whom lacked even basic education and were largely illiterate.
End human rights abuses in the Buganda area. I told him very bluntly to remove all Acholi soldiers from Luwero and to replace them with soldiers from other regions of Uganda, particularly from Buganda itself, from Lango and from Teso and to recruit others from western Uganda. My reasoning was that the Acholi soldiers had totally destroyed the image and reputation of the UNLA in Buganda by their acts of vandalism, rape of civilians and plain terrorism. And I also advised for President Obote to arrest a notorious criminal likle Agetta who was responsible for the killing of so many innocent Baganda civilians including a couple at the Wandegeya roundabout after just a simple traffic accident. He shot them dead.
I advised President Obote to change his government in order to give it a cleaner image; for eg I said he needed to get rid of Masette Kuya who was always drunk in public.This is just a summary of what I wrote then.
President Obote implemented some of my suggestions, like for e.g, putting Colonel Ogole in charge of the Luwero brigade and recruitment of a completely new Special Forces unit formed mainly of soldiers from Teso and Eastern Uganda. But it was too late because Bazilio had already begun his rebellion.
After General Oyite died in a helicopter crash and colonel Ogole had defeated the bandit NRA forces in Luwero, Museveni had fled back to Sweden, but President Obote, instead of ordering the arrest or killing of Bazilio Okello did nothing.
I met President Obote at the crisis in 1985 and I told him, it was necessary to crush the Bazilio led rebellion in the north. Otherwise everything that Colonel Ogole had acheived in Luwero in defeating the NRA would be worthless. His argument all along was that he would never allow the Langi and Acholi to fight each, that he would rather leave power rather than see them fight each other. And he was very firm in that belief. Later on when Bazilio and his renegade soldiers stormed Kampala, it was people like Rwakasisi who actually saved President Obote because Bazilio would have killed him. And Rwakasisi payed a very heavy price. A Very heavy price.
I don’t have a copy of this letter because at the time I wrote it by hand and then took it to my sister to type, my sister who was so scared of typing such a document and never kept a copy but posted my letter to David Oyite Ojok. Maybe UPC headquarters will one day unearth it.
First UPC was not intent on murdering Ugandan people. It wanted to save the Ugandan people by improving their social and economic situation but its good intentions were interrupted by NRA bandits led by Museveni who embarked on a terrorist campaign composed of mainly murder. The main reason why the NRA was formed was to murder Ugandans and to loot its resources.
So faced with such a situation where there were several armed terrorists on the loose, creating all manner of havoc and chaos, robbing banks, blowing up electricity pillons, raping women and children, what did you expect the UPC government to do, but except to confront the terrorism? Any responsible government would take the measures that the UPC government did.
In the fight against terrorism, some crimes were committed by UNLA soldiers. And my advice to the government at the time was to improve discipline in the army, to better their living conditions and to professionalise the entire army itself by retiring octogenarian military commanders like Tito Okello and getting rid of Bazilio Okello altogether.
Around 200,000 people were murdered in Luwero, but this figure could have even been higher if Colonel Ogole had not managed to push Museveni and his NRA bandit forces out of Luwero. You have heard several times Otaffirre boasting that they would kill innocent civilians in the night-time and then blame it on the UNLA. Without firm action by Colonel Ogole maybe another 100,000 lives or more would have been lost, courtesy of the NRA brutal campaign of murder and terror.
My struggles within the UPC and against NRA bandit policy of murder and terror certainly saved hundreds of lives. And since then, I have played a very influential role internationally in combating the NRA terrorism, when they finally occupied Uganda when Bazilio and Otunnu handed over power to them. They wasted no time and immediately embarked on a war of extermination in eastern and northern Uganda and put virtually entire peasant communities in internment in gestapo concentration camps. They extended this terrorism to Rwanda, where 1 million people lost their lives and later on to DR Congo where more than 3 million people have lost their lives. This NRA bandit army set out on a course to wipe out entire communities and I did my best to alert the entire world about the program that was being inflicted on totally innocent Ugandan civilians and to help to stop it. I was tireless in these efforts.
As for Dr Mamdani, he was my friend, and I tried to help him out as a lawyer and not as a politician. I have not been in contact with Professor Mamdani for a long time, but I did work with him in the 1980’s when we co-edited FORWARD magazine, on and off quarterly marxist magazine. We had no money to publish the magazine on a regular basis and so a lot of the articles were written either by myself, Mamdani and a few other people in western Uganda and in Kampala, as well as students from Makerere University.
He did some research work on peasants in Lango for may be one month during which time he stayed in my home in Dokolo. Later on, he got into trouble with the UPC government and I remember him bringing some of his documents and stuff to me for safe-keeping on the night he fled again into exile.
I tried to find out from my UPC contacts why Professor Mamdani was considered a dangerous man. And I told them Dr Mamdani is a critic and there was no need to neither restrict nor sanction him. I took some legal measures to defend him when he was in exile. Professor Mamdani recommended me to be Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, when Rakiyya Ommar and others resigned over the dispute on American intervention in Somalia, a job I did not eventually get, I think it was a muganda man based in Washington who was appointed to the post.
Later on Professor Mamdani recommended me to several conferences and it was in one of these conferences in Nairobi, after my presentation on the human rights situation in Uganda, that the late Dr Okii-Ooko Ombaka, then the Director of the newly established Public Law Institute, approached me and told me there was a position for a Human Rights Lawyer in the Philippines if I was willing to take it. I said I would take it, because at that point, I had nowhere to go, I had just completed my Master’s degree in the UK and had no intention of going back to Uganda. Dr Ombaka took me to the late Professor Atieno Odhiambo, who was on the governing board of this international human rights organisation and he agreed to recommend my appointment to his board. They were very impressed with my conference presentation. So I ended up in the Philippines.
Much as I collaborated with Dr Mamdani, I don’t consider myself as his cadre. I have openly criticised Professor Mamdani before, but that has not stopped me from cooperating with him. I don’t think Dr Mamdani himself aspires for political power. But the truth is that he has influenced hundreds of students over the many years that he has been a teacher, and definitely a lot of these students will become leaders, whether in the UPC or other political parties. So UPC has nothing to be frightened of, we should debate him instead. Afterall, as I have narrated above, the man has interacted with me over many years at an intellectual, political and personal level.
George O Pacu-Otto