Friday, August 24, 2007


On Wednesday and Thursday this week, the Daily Monitor published a challenge to my recent three-part Sunday Monitor report on the inside story of the 1971 military coup that brought Idi Amin to power.
The challenge came from Brig. George Nyero, the Commanding Officer of the Military Police from 1968 to 1971. He questioned many parts of my story on the coup.Nyero blames Amin for the murders of the Commanding Officer of the First Infantry Brigade, Brig. Pierino Yere Okoya and his wife Anna Akello Okoya.
There are essential details that Brig. Nyero skipped, the most important of which was the meeting of the National Defence Council that took place in August 1969 at State House Entebbe. In that meeting, the Quarter-Master General of the Uganda Army, Lt. Col. David Oyite-Ojok, urged President Milton Obote to dismiss Amin.
Brig. Okoya objected to Oyite-Ojok’s charges. After listening to Okoya’s rebuttal, President Obote agreed with his view that Amin should not be dismissed. That Okoya spoke out in defence of Amin and that way saved Amin’s career is vital in understanding the whole question of who murdered Okoya. Why would Amin, grateful for Okoya’s defence of him during the State House meeting, go ahead and murder Okoya only weeks later?
Also, Brig. Nyero mentioned that Amin and Oyite-Ojok were friends and respected each other. He mentioned the incident in which Oyite-Ojok appears at Amin's house shortly after the attempt on Obote's life in December 1969 to inform him of the attack. (Other sources say it was Colonel Albertino Langoya who went to Amin's house.)
Amin, on seeing the army officer, escapes by scaling the wall. Why would Amin flee when this officer, a few ranks his junior, appears at his house? To Nyero and many others, who didn't know the Amin-Oyite Ojok tensions, this escape by Amin suggests guilt.
But then, if Amin was involved in the attempt on Obote’s life--- and his escape from his house was the proof --- why would he flee from one part of Kampala to another? Why not flee Uganda altogether, since to be implicated in the assassination attempt would surely lead to his being court martialled?
Then in August 1985, the elderly father of the late Brig. Okoya told a tribal meeting in Gulu that he knew that his son was not murdered by Amin, a claim repeated by a latter head of state General Tito Okello in August 1985 and in Gulu in February 1994.
Perhaps the most compelling overview of the Okoya murder appeared in a book published in 1976 justifying the Israeli side to the raid on Entebbe airport. Written by Yehuda Ofer, the deputy editor of the Israeli airforce magazine, the book titled Operation Thunder: The Entebbe Raid: The Israeli’s Own Story, narrated Okoya’s murder on page 60:
“One day when a Ugandan brigadier-general named [Okoya], a member of the Acholi tribe, had been murdered, President Obote planned to exploit the assassination to oust Amin, and he started the rumour that the [army] Chief of Staff had been involved in it. Idi Amin was then in Cairo...The Uganda minister of defence, Felix Onama...investigated the matter and learned that Obote was planning to detain Amin on his return to Uganda on the trumped-up charge of having assassinated the brigadier-general.”
The Israelis would know. In the 1960s, they had a heavy intelligence and military presence in Uganda, training the Uganda Army and Airforce as well as the intellgence agency, the General Service Unit.
This statement in Ofer’s book is significant because it was written in 1976, four years after Amin fell out with the Israelis and had become a sworn enemy of the Jewish state, as well as during one of the gravest national crises for Israel, with dozens of hostages held at Entebbe.
If Amin had killed Okoya, the Israelis would certainly have known about it from their Ugandan informers in the army and the government. A book published after the 1976 Entebbe hostage crisis, in mentioning this murder, would surely have emphasised Amin’s guilt in order to further demonstrate to the world his brutality and justify Israel’s raid on Entebbe. But the Israelis did not. Why?
Incidentally --- and most astonishing of all --- both this book by Yehuda Ofer and another 1976 book, 90 Minutes At Entebbe, by William Stevenson, although seeking to validate Israel’s raid on Entebbe and as far as possible blacken Amin’s international image, do not portray Amin as a murderer. All they do is portray Amin as an erratic, charming leader full of empty boasting.
Throughout the 1970s, Israeli’s foreign counterintelligence agency, Mossad, had a network of informers inside Uganda. Why would these books, cleared by Israel’s military censor, neglect to mention Amin’s killing of 500,000 Ugandans? There is so much about the Amin legacy as we have come to believe it, that simply does not ring true.
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