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Day May 5, 2013

Wasn’t Amin Forced to Rule At Gun Point?

OBIT IDI AMINAs a military convoy was approaching Major General Idi Amin’s residence, he received information about the impending arrest and jumped over the back fence to escape.

While the military searched his house, Amin first took refuge at the neighbors and from there, proceeded to Kenya.

Obote was president of Uganda at the time and had implicated the Army General in a defense scandal where Amin was accused of having misappropriated public funds.

But for the military man, these were trumped up charges and the real purpose of the arrest was to eliminate him.

There were rumors of a so-called “Lango Master Plan” where the army and government officers of the Luo tribe (Acholis and Langis) were said to be preparing a genocide-like purge of the government of Uganda so that they would take full control of the country.

Obote called Amin back and reassured him. Soon after, Amin was promoted to be the most senior officer in the army.

This promotion brought a new uproar from senior Luo officers in the army and government. One of their arguments was that Lt. Colonel Oyite Ojok who was Army Quarter Master General at the time, was more educated than Amin and therefore deserved the promotion.

Oyite Ojok was also one of their own, a Luo.

President Obote now faced serious decent from his own tribesmen and had to appease them lest they turned their weapons against him.

By 1971, rumors about the impending Master Plan were rife again. Top on the list for elimination was Major General Idi Amin Dada, the head of the army.

He had to be eliminated for the plan to succeed.

Those seeking for his neck claimed to Obote that Amin had planned the assassination attempt on the President in Lugogo in 1969.

They also told the President that the death of Brigadier Okoya and his wife in Gulu was planned and implemented by Amin. They however failed to link the military man to the double murder when matters.

Indeed it was discovered that Idi Amin had actually been at his hometown of Arua at the time of the Brigadiers death.

With all the accusing fingers trying to blame Amin, and with President Milton Obote under pressure from his fellow Luo tribesmen, the Master Plan quickly gathered momentum in a series of secret meetings.

Tensions started rising within the army, including even with the families of officers in the barracks’.

During the line up for rations, wives and children of the Luo officers would openly threaten those of the other tribes, pushing them out of the line and warning them about the impending purge whereby the Luo’s would rule Uganda.

In the Master Plan, the soldiers from the West Nile region of Uganda had to be eliminated since they were in big numbers in the army. And Amin, a known combatant and fighter, was from West Nile.

In a last meeting before travelling to the Common wealth meeting of Singapore, Obote is said to have agreed to the implementation of the Master Plan to take place while he was on the official trip abroad from the 14th to the 24th of January.

23rd January 1971 was code named “Bloody Sunday” for what was going to happen on that day, and Obote would be away at the time and therefore not be seen to have a hand in it.

Amin and many Uganda Army officers and soldiers were now in mortal danger.

Lt Col Okwang, a Luo and Commanding Officer of Lubiri military barracks was tasked to handle the implementation of the operation in his barracks. One Captain Keneri a sniper specialist was tasked to clear Amin upon his arrival back from Egypt were he (Amin) had gone for treatment.

With events in motion, Obote left for the Commonwealth meeting.

Amin got to know of the assassination attempt and avoided it. He then called a press conference on the 16th of January 1971 to announce the attempt on his life by elements close to Obote.

This brought more sympathy to Amin within the army and the country at large as he was already the most popular military officer in Uganda. Soldiers had always revered him for his hands on approach and his ability to easily mix and associate with the common man.

Minister Byagagaire on Amin's right hand side

Minister Byagagaire on Amin’s right hand side

In the streets, people were genuinely concerned about what was happening in the leadership of the country and also what was happening against Idi Amin.

Suddenly on the 23rd of January, (the date for Bloody Sunday of the Master Plan) new developments started unfolding in the Lubiri barracks, the main military facility in the capital Kampala and former official residence of King Muteesa II, deposed first president of Uganda and King of Buganda.

Senior Luo officers in the facility started disarming all soldiers hailing from the other parts of Uganda and ordered them to take the day off.

Luo soldiers were brought in to replace them particularly on guard duty.

Sgt Major Musa Yaoga who was from West Nile, was duty officer in charge of the security of Lubiri Barracks. He was summarily detained to avoid any mishap of the plan.

At the time, many soldiers were just glad to be released from duty so as to enjoy their free time in the nearby Kisenyi bars.

At around 16:00, an announcement was made to the effect that Johny’s mess, where all the lowly ranked soldiers usually had their meals from, was to be the venue of an important officers meeting. All soldiers were ordered to stay away from the venue and instead gather unarmed at the Officers mess where they would be confined.

The meeting took place in the evening after 7pm and involved only Luo military officers.

When the meeting was over, the confined soldiers saw these officers and their kinsmen lining up at the armory to pick weapons and ammunition.

When other soldiers who had avoided being locked in the officers mess tried to join the line for their duty weapons, they were told off and also sent for confinement.

Suspicions now peaked within the military facility. People’s worst fears about the Master Plan were becoming reality right in front of their eyes. And they, in Lubiri, were about to become the first victims.

One soldier, Private Lubari from West Nile, escaped from the barracks and headed for nearby Kisenyi suburb where his comrades who had been relieved of guard duty were enjoying the evening.

He alerted them of what was happening in the barracks and mentioned that the Luo soldiers were now picking weapons from the armory and also disarming and locking up everyone else.

This group from Kisenyi got up and dashed back to the barracks to see what was happening.

Upon arrival, the quarter guard at the entrance of the barracks had been blocked and no one was allowed to enter the barracks.

The group returning from Kisenyi then suddenly received oncoming fire from the armed soldiers and had to retreat. But they only went around the barracks’ and climbed over the perimeter wall under the cover of darkness.

They then proceeded quietly to the area where all the Armored Personnel Carriers at the facility were parked.

One Private Musa Gala jumped in one of the APC vehicles. There were no keys to start the vehicle as all keys were usually kept together with all weapons at the armory.

He found a six inch nail and a key-like opener of tinned beef, fidgeted with that for a while to start the vehicle.

Suddenly, the APC roared into life.

His other comrades gathered around the vehicle for cover as Gala drove the vehicle through the compound.
Destination? The Armory.

Upon reaching there, the Private rammed the vehicle through the armory door shattering the buildings front wall with it.

His comrades dashed into the premises and helped themselves with weapons and ammunition.

Others grabbed the keys of the remaining military vehicles and very soon, several Armoured Personnel Carriers with heavy machine gun fire supported by foot soldiers armed to the teeth, were attacking the Luo soldiers in every corner of the barracks and liberating colleagues.

It is at this point that Amin is contacted from the communication system of one of the APC’s and told of what was happening at the barracks.

He orders the soldier to report to his official residence known as the Command Post for a debriefing.

After being told of unfolding events, Amin orders the Corporal to place the APC strategically in the middle of the road leading to the premises so as to prevent any would be attackers from gaining access to the residence.

Meanwhile, Sgt Major Musa Yoga, who had been released by his comrades from the Lubiri lock-ups, was now commanding the fight inside the barracks.

Some of the Luos fled for their lives, others got arrested and some were killed or injured in the firefight.

After clearing the facility, Yoga proceeded to deploy military vehicles with support troops into the city.

Two APC’s were sent to Parliament. Another two deployed to Amins residence in Kololo, a few at Radio Uganda, some at the Main Post Office and others patrolling the city.

More military vehicles were then sent to the towns of Jinja, Masaka, Mubende and Mbarara.

Amin, as Army Chief, quickly contacted all the commanders around the country ensuring that all military facilities were calm and that there would be no further fire fights.

On the 24th of January, everything seemed relatively quiet and a decision had to be taken as to what to do next.

Obote was to return soon, and for the Lubiri soldiers, that meant getting back to square one where their lives would once again be in danger.

It is at this point that one Sgt Major, requested Amin to lead the country. A request that Amin immediately rejected.

The soldiers also immediately turned their guns on Amin saying they would rather kill him and themselves if Amin didn’t take over as President.

Faced with the inevitable, (they were now all in the same boat anyway), all other imaginable options seemed worse for Amin and the officers from Lubiri.

Amin agreed to be president.

The Sgt Major then went on air on radio Uganda on the 25th of January to announce the military take-over led by Major General Idi Amin Dada.

The so called Master Plan had failed upon implementation and many Luo officers and soldiers were to suffer the backlash of their planned genocide after the take-over.

It is only later in the 90’s that elders from West Nile and those from Luo tribes were able to sit together, forgive each other and put that cycle of violence and retribution to rest.

But while many in Uganda and around the world today believe that Amin instigated a Military Coup against Apollo Milton Obote, what actually happened was an act of self defense by a bunch of soldiers from Lubiri barracks who had been enjoying a day off in the nearby Kisenyi suburb.

The Coup of 1971 was an incredibly ethnic development, and it didn’t belong to Amin. The coup belonged to Private Musa Gala, Sgt Major Aswa, Sgt Major Musa Yoaga. Corporal Lubari, Abdalatif, and around 200 other soldiers of all tribes and religions of Uganda who had feared for their lives and had to fight and take-over in order to survive Bloody Sunday.

by Hussein Juruga Lumumba Amin

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