BY GEORGE OKELLO
Grace Akullo of the CID went to my primary school in Dokolo; it seems she has her work cut out working in a den of thieves. I dont give her 1 more year in the role because the corruption and sleaze in the NRA is slowing but inexorably creeping towards her.
Unfortunately, she does not have fans in Dokolo, so her expected downfall will be welcomed by many. I am still the hero of our primary school, although I left many years ago. The NRA corrupts everyone who touches it. An example is the late Comrade Omwony-Ojwok. The man was so principled when he was with us here in London, but towards his death while serving as a Minister in the NRA, he was as heavily involved in the corruption as anyone else, giving as well as he was taking. I was shocked when someone told me a Chinese Telecoms company had given him millions of shillings to operate the mobile network in the north-eastern Uganda region.
UCRA was started by Omwony Ojwok, Damba Nambago (since returned to Ugada), Wafula Kangala, Steven Irumba ( returned to Uganda to be Prime Minister of Tooro Kingom-served two terms), Mr Idro (Executive in Barclays Bank) and myself. We started in a small office next to Higbury and Islington provided by the British Communist Party for free since we did not have any money to pay rent. The organisation was managed for many years by Damba Nambago and my cousin Omara Awany, while Omwony-Ojwok and I remained on the Board. It grew in size and attracted funding to allow Damba to move it to the Selby Centre in Haringey where they are still based. Omwony and I left UCRA to set up Uganda Mpya in Brixton, with me as Chairman. Uganda Mpya still exists with its offices at 365 Brixton Road, opposite Brixton police station, although I left its Board to set up another organisation in South East London.
Omwony-Ojwok was a very charismatic leader who was respected by almost everybody in London. He would be found in all the early exile organisations like the Uganda Group for Human Rights where Ugandans used to meet every Sunday. He and I edited the political weekly “Uganda Mpya” when we left the Board of UCRA. We were all very
surprised and badly shaken when Omwony-Ojwok decided to return to Uganda, first to head the Uganda Aids Commission and later to join the NRA as Minister. He kept his return a secret from us for many months, but a week before he returned, we summoned Omwony Ojwok to a political meeting at Uganda Mpya to explain himself. He explained that indeed he was returning to Uganda, said he had been in exile all his life since he left Uganda in 1971 after the Amin coup, he had a disabled mother in London who could no longer cope with life in the UK, with the loneliness and isolation and most importantly, he assured us he had not abandoned his revolutionary past.
Once in Uganda, Omwony reduced contact, and although he was returning to London frequently, I would only find out after he had left. It became clear he was avoiding me,but the last time I heard he was in London, I got in contact with his son and told him I would come to see him the next day. Instead he phoned me and we agreed to meet at Michael mem’s joint AFAB in Deptford. I thought we were going to have a political meeting on a one to one basis and give Omwony Ojwok an opportunity to explain the very drastic politcal actions he had taken. Moreover rumours regarding corruption had already began circulating about him which I wanted to question him about. Unbeknown to me, Omwony Ojwok had also invited other people for the meeting, and instead of a one to one, there were now about 30 people and there was no chance that we could have any private conversation. I was very annoyed and walked out after 10 minutes never to see or talk to Omwony-Ojwok again. He died a few months later.
Omwony-Ojowk was very instrumental in mobilising Ugandans in the UK in the days after the NRA took over power. The refugees who came at the time, especialy Acholi refugees will remember his indomitable spirit and open door policy. He always kept everyone going despite the odds and helped many Ugandans get employment in the UK, including myself. My first job in the UK was at the Brixton Community Law Centre which I got through Omwony-Ojwok since he was already very well known in Brixton politics and knew the Councillors who were the Trustees of the Law Centre. He made quiet recommendations which eased my interview process.
I noticed very early Omwony-Ojwok’s association with the NRA/M. I used to meet Dan Nabudere as he was a frequent visitor to London before he returned home from exile. The UNLA-AD had a relationship of sorts with the NRA but at the time I thought that was just part of its policy of negotiating with all political forces. Because all our meetings and activities in London were built around the understanding of removing the NRA from power and we, based in London, would form a transitional government to restore constitutional order in Uganda. This was the basis on which me as a member of the UPC collaborated with the UNLF-AD. I think the UNLF-AD in the end realised they did not have a political base in Uganda, and since they could not lead any armed struggle in Uganda, some of them decided to join the enemy instead. I think this is what happened with Comrade Omwony-Ojwok. I agree they could also used honey pot operations to trap him- he had a weakness with women.