I think there is no distortion of history when one says NRA overthrew or caused the overthrow of the Obote II government.On the contrary, the UPC approach of hiding their head in the sand as a major political and military crisis developed has contributed to UPC members being misled about the state of affairs in mid 1985.
It was the same reason UPC’s Administrative Secretary Professor Kagenda Atwooki could leave Kampala in early July 1985 to go to Fort Portal and ‘prepare to contest for elections for parliament in December” without even realizing that Fort Portal had already fallen to the NRA and had to be stopped in Mubende by UNLA soldiers who told that indeed Fort Portal was ‘under the control of the enemy” . That story was all over Uganda House, Kampala and Makerere to the extent that Prof. Kagenda Atwooki actually became a butt of jokes for being someone who could not even read the signs tat is goenrment was collapsing.
The internal collapse of the Obote army was directly related to losses they had sustained in Luwero, where Acholi officers started questioning why the majority of those dying at the front were Acholi.
It was the same reason Brigadier Smith Opon Acak went with a huge wooden bar and nailed shut Brigadier Langoya’s office at Republic House.
These were the events preceding the infamous ‘uncoordinated movement of troops’ as captured by the Vice President and Minister of Defence then.
The bombing of the house of Major Ocero Nangai and the detention of Odong Latek and others, forced Lutwa to take take a decision and call some Lango elders including Yoweri Hunter Wacha Olwol (still alive), to ask Obote to convene a meeting of senior leaders from te two tribes. A meeting was called and guests made to wait till mid nigt only for Obote to turn up and postpone it, forcing Lutwa to lose his. The next day Lutwa took a diversionary trip to Moroto, on the pretext of meeting troops there for a previously arranged program, then went on to Gulu were Bazilio had already hardened his position and was swearing never to return to exile again; which merely hastened the fall of the Obote goernment.
You know fully well that when Bazilio Okello decided that they (Acholi officers and men) were not going to take it anymore and started mobilising troops in Gulu in reaction to orders that were issued to arrest him, Fort Portal had already fallen to Commander Chefe Ali (Elijah Twine) and Commander Fred Rwigyema (Emmanuel Giisa).
Indeed local UPC leaders in Gulu; Yusuf Adek (still alive and you can call him) and Seerino Lanek told Bazilio they could still reconcile him with Obote but Bazilio said Obote had made the army weak and should come to Gulu if he wanted reconciliation. Adek and Lanek actually were given passage to Kampala but could not see Obote for reasons yet unknown.
Or perhaps you did not know but these were the facts. Indeed, Major Okwera of the surrendered UNLA unit in Fort Portal convinced NRA commanders that he can go and talk Bazilio Okello into some form of another ‘solution’ and went straight to Gulu, via Hoima and Masindi, by-passing Kampala. Unfortunately for him, Bazilio had already ordered that any soldiers coming in groups from South of Karuma Bridge were possibly sent by Obote to arrest him and should be shot on sight. That was how Okwera was ambushed and killed near Karuma.
Forget the false stories that Museveni had already fled to Sweden and NRA was fleeing to Zaire by 1985. Only the previous year NRA had in the most humiliating defeat to UNLA, overrun UNLA’s 15th Battlaion and School of Artillery in Masindi, taking almost the entire armoury of UNLA on 20th Febraury 1984. They actually spent nearly the whole day in town before leaving for Luwero Triangle. I happened to be in Masindi that day and saw with my own eyes what happened and straight away knew that Obote was in trouble despite what his politicians and army officers might be telling him.
Here I am referring to the stories peddled then and later and now by Obote’s supporters, as being being mere propaganda. It is true of course that Museveni went to Sweden in March 1985 to see his family which ad been relocated there several months before from Kampala.
If you read the literature of the war quite well, you can even ask Col. Samson Mande who now lives in Sweden and opposes Museveni, that it was a High Command decision that Museveni goes and does some diplomatic work for the NRM/A in Europe since the war was entering a decisive stage. In fact seeing is family was the lesser in importance for Museveni European sojourn at the time but apparently helped with mitigating costs of his stay in Euroe
The NRA firepower had been increased by nearly half only in the previous months through the overruning of Masindi Barracks on 20 February 1984 and you say such a force was weak and now on the verge of defeat?
On 17th March, 1985, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Television crew interviewed Museveni on the compound of his wife in Gotenberg, Sweden and he said ” Even now we can kick Obote out of Kampala any time if we want but we do not and will do it at the right time……Tbut there are already signs his own army, having suffered heavily from our victories, may be too tired and can remove him themselves…they may pull it off but but it does not matter to us. We shall remove them when the time comes not too far from now”.
I do know of course that some of us have horned the skills of covering up the truth for so long they actually believe that the more time you tell lies, the more likely it will be believed.
Of course for those of us who studied in Bunyoro and sometimes had to go to Kampala via Luwero to visit family and relatives already had to contend with the spectre of using the road that already been nicknamed by many in northern Uganda as ‘Lam Dogi’ (Kampala-Gulu iway up to around Kafu. Lam Dogi literally meant ‘pray to your God or ancestors before using that road’, because of te numerous ambuses wic killed among oters, my uncle, a UNLA soldier and Ms Achola, sister NRM’s man in Apac District Sam Opio Oceng. Achola was particularly very close to Obote personally.
Again, I happened to be in Masindi and saw just as the Bazilio troops came and took over Masindi without a shot on 25 July 1985 and moved on to Kampala the next day. The talk was that ‘Obote weko Acholi ka too kun Opon tye ka denge ki mato whisky kun mako dok bene nywaro lutino Acholi ki Kampala” (Obote is leaving the Acholi to die at the war front while Opon is boasting around, drinking whisky and arresting and abusing Acholi in Kampala!)
It was never a DP coup because DP had already been emasculated in Kampala and all their Busoga MPs made to ‘cross the floor to UPC’ but Andrew Adimola and Fr. Jon Scalabrini in Gulu and Dr enry Obonyo and oters in Kampala, just took advantage of a situation that was already irreversibly bad to stake some claim to the proceedings.
Did you even know that President Obote in a panicky mode actually sent Prime Minister Otema Allimadi and Dr John Luwuliza Kirunda to Dar es Salaam that last week, to ask Nyerere to deploy TPDF to rescue him and instead Nyerere kept the Obote delegation under virtual detention in a Dar hotel?. Ask Peter Otai in London. Major Butiku (Nyerere’s Personal Assistant at the time) is still alive and you can ask him or Bernard Membe or Prof. Philemon Sarungi or Prof Juma Kapuya about why Nyerere did that.
Therefore any military strategist would tell you that it did not matter by whose bullets Obote was forced out. His army could not have forced him out if they were having it well against the NRA. The only argument could be that perhaps a united UNLA would have taken the NRA a little longer and a few more months to dislodge. But UNLA, whether under Obote or Lutwa-Bazilio, would have fallen all in good time. I had so many relatives in that UNLA and that was their assessment too, though the politicians in Kampala at the time behaved as if nothing serious was going on.
Did you know that even after Kampala had fallen many UPC leaders in northern Uganda never understood that there was a big fallout within UNLA?
This unseriousness could be seen by the farcical visit to Masindi on 20th Februay 1985, by Peter Otai, Chris Rwakasisi, Brig. Smith Opon Acak, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu and Ogenga Otunnu, to ‘commemorate’ the humiliation of UNLA the previous year by NRA at Masindi where their prescription for the humiliation was to appoint a ‘UPC man’ Captain Robert Ssekidde as the new battalion commander to replace the disgraced Major Tom Mukwana, and giving everyone who turned up at Masindi Hotel free beers. They were addressing the symptoms of the malaise, in my view.
For your information, I have many friends who are DP supporters but I have never been a DP supporter just as I have never been a UPC supporter though I have relatives who supported or support UPC. Joseph Ochieno is my friend and I follow his comments in and on European TVs and radios and he even bought me dinner sometime in London.
By the 1980 elections, I was too young to vote but the elections found me visiting a relative somewhere in Apac South Constituency. Truth be told, if I was of voting age, I would have voted UPC in 1980 because of crowd mentality and all that and because I actually thought then that Obote was the answer to our problems, especially after Amin.
But even then no nobody in that constituency exercised their vote because somebody detained DP candidate (and Moses Ocen’s father (Akbar Adoko Nekyon) at a ‘person-specific road block’ on the nomination day soh e could not get nominated and Henry Bobson Milton Okello Makmot ‘went through unopposed’ , as John Peter Onebe read out results on Radio Uganda.
Point being that whether one likes and support Museveni or not, it does not cover up the fact that he caused the fall of Obote, directly and indirectly. The generals he finally kicked out in 1986 were only months before ‘Obote’s generals’ only reinforced by a motley crew of Amin generals, Buganda federalists etc keen to join anything anti-Obote, who promptly changed sides!
This false belief in the strength of a leader made some local UPC leaders in Lango to go around getting cows from locals promising that Obote was coming back in a few weeks and had indeed made it easier by luring Museveni from the bush into Kampala and Museveni would now be removed even more easily.
Emmanuel Amute, Okello Etot, Otim Opul, Boi Oli and others actually did this, even when their rebel group operating in Lango had already been nicknamed by locals as ‘Cel Ibong’ (shoot and ransack the pockets).
They would tell people that proof that Obote was about to return was that he had in a coded message, sent thousands of bicycles then being sold in Lango region with the trademark name Road Master Industries (RMI). They said the RMI mark actually stood for ‘Remove Museveni Immediately’ and the Luo coded version was ‘Ryem Museveni Ilo'(RMI) or ‘case Museveni from Power’.
UAH in Paris
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