Tuesday, September 4, 2007



In order to hold effective discussions about events that occurred in Uganda during my dad’s regime, I strongly feel that it is necessary to trace the history of Uganda from the end of the Stone Age culture to the present. Consequently, I am pleased to present information I have gathered through archival, library and internet research and personal accounts, for consideration during discussions with Ugandans and other people interested in having discussions about dad’s rule in Uganda. I have taken some of the information from my book project titled “Rembi’s Mystical Legacy: An Ethnographic Chronicle” and share a few highlights below:


These sections provide some history of Uganda from the end of the Stone Age Culture to 1922.


This section provides a Chronology of events from the time dad joined the army to the time he overthrew Apollo Milton Obote in a Military Coup on January 25, 1971. Highlights include but are not limited to:

· The start of dad’s Military Career in the mid 1940s.

· The time in 1953 when dad was directed to fight the Mau Mau uprising of Kenya - at this time, he was viewed as “very quiet, well mannered, respectful and loyal” - one of several NCOs who show outstanding qualities of leadership, bravery and resourcefulness.

· The time in 1954 when Queen Elizabeth II opened the Owen Falls Dam in Jinja, Uganda - Dad and his 4th Battalion, were part of the festivities.

· The time in 1954 when dad joined a special training school in Nakuru, Kenya – he continued to show exemplary behaviour, gain a certain degree of formal education including a basic knowledge of English. He is promoted to Sergeant.

· The time in 1954 – when dad excelled in Athletics, including sprinting. He also won the heavy weight championships and National Title.

· The time in or about 1958, when one of dad’s British commanders Grahame wrote, “As a platoon commander, however, I found him (Idi Amin Dada) first-class.

· The time in 1958 when dad was promoted to Warrant Officer Platoon Commander.

· The time in 1959 when dad and other Ugandans were promoted to the ranks of Second Lieutenant by the British and Army Battalions were organized along Tribal Lines.

· The time on March 1, 1961 when dad was commissioned Lieutenant and served in “C” Company of the Uganda Rifles (formerly a company charged with disarming a section of the cattle rustling Turkana Tribe. Years later, dad was falsely accused of killing three Turkana tribesmen. During this time, dad also acted as Deputy Company Commander.

· The time between 1961 and 1964 when a series of events occurred in the Belgium Congo involving Tshombe, Lumumba, Cyrille Adoula, Kizenga, Joseph Kasongo, Colonel Mobutu, etc – Lumumba was killed, Obote attempted to help Congolese rebels avenge Lumumba’s death.

· The time in 1962 when Uganda attained Independence from the British and surrounding events. On October 9, 1962 Uganda attained Independence from the British. Ka’baka Mutesa, King of the Baganda became Uganda’s President - The Baganda rejoiced deliriously. Obote became the First Prime Minister of Independent Uganda.

· The time in 1963 when rifts emerged between Obote and Mutesa II and surrounding events. Dad continued to be an exemplary soldier.

· The time in 1963 when Major (later, Lt. Colonel Rogers) left Uganda and Dad arranged a cocktail party for him.

· The time in 1963 when Obote promoted dad to the rank of Major, goes to Israel and takes dad along. Dad demonstrated the African gift of silence, didn’t talk about the Israel arrangement (“Obote requested the Israeli government to send a six-man team from Israel, to carry out primary patrol training in Teso District”; Obote had turned down an arrangement for British officers to conduct the training).

· The time in 1963 when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was born.

· The time in 1963 when a Mutiny was in the Brewing.

· The time in 1964 when Mutinies ran wild and surrounding circumstances. Obote called 450 Scottish Guards and troops of the Staffordshire Regiment to crush the uprising. Dad summoned some of the British Officers and the UR troops and addressed them. One British officer observed that “It was the most moving speech and a sincere one. “Amin dwelt on our [British-Uganda] traditional ties and fully expected us to rise to the occasion”. Dad was promoted to Lt. Colonel and demanded of the soldiers the behavior they learnt from the British. Dad helped calm things down and restored order. He was held in high esteem.

· The time in 1964 when Obote openly advocated a “one-party” state in Uganda – he needed the support of the Army and named dad commander.

· The time in 1964 when Bob Astles was Dad’s Pilot in the Congo. He was rescued by dad from a Congolese prison.

· The time in 1964 when Patrice Lumumba was killed and surrounding circumstances and events.

· The time in 1964 when dad was falsely accused of financial gain through corruption – this would continue in future years.

· The time in 1964 when Obote needed the army to advance his political goals and came to the aid of Congo rebels, assisted by dad. He increasingly turned to dad for help – he invited dad to state functions, ordered that he be given a Mercedes Benz by the state.

· The time in 1964 when refugees flooded Uganda from the Sudan.

· The time between 1965 and 1966 when Daudi Ochieng, Leader of the Opposition produced photocopies of dad’s bank account for February 1965, with deposits of up to £17,000. He alleged financial gain from corruption in Congo Operations and recommended that dad be suspended from the army. Obote was implicated too and opposed the motion to suspend dad from the army and he denied the allegations made against dad and him in a Press Conference.

· The time in 1966 when five Ministers were arrested and Obote assumed “all powers of Government”. Dad took over the command of the Army and Airforce and assured Obote of the loyalty of the Ugandan troops. There were Political Crises and dad found himself right in the middle of these crises.

· The time in 1966 when Obote assumed the power of President and Vice President. There was more trouble with the Ka’baka (King of the Baganda). There was also a Judicial Inquiry into the Congo Affair (allegations of corruption against dad, Obote and others).

· The time in 1966 when Obote suspended the Uganda Constitution and declared himself President. He also declared a new Constitution and faced opposition from the Baganda. There was Political Trouble, popularly known as the Ka’baka Uprising. Obote ordered an attack on the RoyalPalace. During several of our regular chats with dad, he told us that in the thick of battle, he threw a smoke screen which shielded the Ka’baka and the Ka’baka escaped amidst a heavy shower by taxi where he and his ADC Captain Katende, drove away to the Congo and then to Bujumbura in Burundi. Following the escape orchestrated by dad, the Ka’baka lived in exile. Dad claimed that his action was in memory of the close relationship between the Buganda Royal Family and his Mother, my grandmother Aisha Aate, in the past.

· The time in 1967 when there were more events relating to Uganda’s politics and there was a continuing Anyanya rebellion in the Sudan. Obote announced a move to the left with a view to rapid Africanisation. He relied heavily on his tribesmen in the Uganda Army.

· The time in 1967 when the historic East African community was formed.

· The time between 1969 and 1970 when a) Obote visited Koboko with dad b) an assassination attempt was made on Obote c) there was Inflation in Uganda and the common man was becoming even poorer. Obote and Adoko had sought to divide the army along tribal lines. Obote and others falsely accused dad of being behind the assassination attempt on Obote. All parties were dissolved except Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress (UPC). There was Political trouble in Uganda. There was trouble in the Army and Murder. There were false allegations levied against dad for Murder.

· The time in 1970 when there were plans to hasten the Africanisation of commerce, trade and industry. There were over 40,000 Asians who held British passports in Uganda. Obote angered Ugandans by his Nakivubo Pronouncement relating to Socialism. Obote put the Indian tycoon, Jayant Madhivani, to be head of the new state-run Exports and Import Department. A new Immigration Act was due to effect relating to non-Ugandan Asians.

· The time in 1970 when there was an increasing rift between Obote and dad and other events. Obote placed dad under house arrest and planned against him.

· The time on January 25, 1971 when dad overthrew Obote while he was in Singapore attending a Conference of commonwealth Heads of State and Governments and events immediately preceding the Military Coup, including jubilation on Kampala streets.

· The time between 1971 and 1979 when dad ruled in Uganda and related events including dad expelling the non-Ugandan Asians.

· Events that unfolded prior to dad’s overthrow in 1979.

· The time in 1979 when dad was overthrown.

· Events that continue to unfold in Uganda from 1979 when dad was overthrown to the present, including the war in Northern Uganda (www.ugandarising.com).

How Amin's arrest triggered off the mutiny and takeover




In this third and final part of an exclusive report, the Sunday Monitor brings you never-before-published details of the military coup in 1971 that brought Idi Amin to power and changed the course of Ugandan history

Last Sunday, in the second part of this series about the January 1971 Amin coup, we left off at a point when president Milton Obote had given orders for the arrest of Amin as the Head of State was leaving Entebbe Airport for the Commonwealth meeting in Singapore on January 24.

After a meeting in the home of the Inspector-General of Police, Wilson Erinayo Oryema, the army's Quartermaster-General, Lt. Col. David Oyite-Ojok, had decided to take up the principal role of arresting Amin and keeping Uganda under control until the return of Obote from the Commonwealth summit in Singapore.

On the Sunday morning of January 24, 1971, Oyite-Ojok work up, had breakfast, and dressed up in an olive green shirt, olive green trousers, black shoes, and a green jungle hat.

Shortly after 4p.m, he entered his green Land Rover with a Fitted-For-Field radio (FFR) and his driver and headed to the Malire Regimental Base at Lubiri. The driver parked next to the pole hosting the Ugandan flag and Oyite-Ojok jumped out and walked to the Quarter Guard. Something seemed to be bothering him, as he looked angry and lost in thought.

He summoned the Guard Commander, a corporal, and told him to sound the fire alarm bugle. The corporal sounded the bugle and immediately soldiers, as they had been trained, started rushing to the scene. Soldiers who had been out of the barracks returned to base.

When the gathering of men was almost complete, the Regimental Sergeant Major Otuchi Ogwang ordered the soldiers into silence and to listen to Lt. Col. Oyite-Ojok. It was just past five O'clock. Oyite-Ojok then started addressing them-in Luo, which most soldiers could not understand.

When it was slightly past 7p.m, Oyite-Ojok told Captain Charles Nsumba to order all commissioned officers to report to the nearby Officers’ Mess (the present offices of the Joint Clinical Research Centre at Mengo that had once been the home of the Buganda prime minister).

He then jumped back into his Land Rover and drove away. The Acholi and Langi soldiers began assembling in the staff canteen, a hall occasionally used for dances and parties.

Captain Nsumba and other officers Lt. Abdallahtif, Lt. Elly Eseni, Lt. Dusman Sabuni, Captain Isaac Lumago, Lt. Kenneth Onzima, 2nd Lt. Juma Ali (later better known as "Butabika") and the Malire Paymaster 2nd Lt. James Obbo, refused to go to the Mess as Oyite-Ojok had ordered.

The mood was now changing and suspicion was growing. As the remaining soldiers who were not Acholi or Langi milled about, puzzled by the strange turn of events, one of them called Sergeant Major Musa Eyega, the deputy Platoon Commander of Malire's A Company, stood up and announced that if anybody was from West Nile, a Mukiga, Muganda, Japadhola, Munyankore or any other tribe, they should "join us or perish."

Eyega declared that, from what he could see, there was about to be a bloody purge of the army. It started dawning on the soldiers that this might have to do with the animosity towards the Army Commander Major General Idi Amin.

Eyega then selected a few men under him to get weapons. The A Company was the section of the Malire Regiment that manned the main battle tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APSs), jeeps and missiles.

Lance Corporal Dralega, the section commander of the Reconnaissance Platoon, drove a jeep armed with a Vickers Medium Machine Gun (MMG) to the scene. Assuming that the Acholi and Langi troops would take over the armoury, Dralega led his hand-picked men toward the armoury where, to their surprise, they found a sharpshooter called Corporal Vincent Ogwang and five other soldiers already in battle positions. They had already been deployed there by Oyite-Ojok.

Ogwang and his men opened fire in self-defence at Dralega and his men. A Lugbara Corporal nicknamed "Ojwuku" (after the Nigerian Ibo secessionist leader) crawled on the ground to avoid the fire and seized a gun from one of Ogwang's men and used it to shoot another in the group.

Dralega then set the jeep in gear one, stepped onto the clutch, then leapt out of it, causing it to roar into the armoury, where it crashed. Dralega and his men then seized several rifles.

The action lasted close to two hours and then toward 9 p.m. Eyega and his men then stormed the staff canteen where they put all the assembled Acholi and Langi under arrest. They were overpowered and told to surrender whatever weapon, piece of metal, or anything as tiny as a pin to Eyega's men.

As the Malire men found out, Oyite-Ojok in his address in Luo, had told the Acholi and Langi that shortly before departing to Singapore for the inaugural Commonwealth Heads of State and Government meeting, President Obote had ordered Oyite-Ojok to arrest Amin and purge the army of soldiers thought to be loyal to the army commander.

Eyega then ordered all shooting to be halted immediately in order not to alert any other troops in Kampala to what was taking place at the Malire Regiment barracks. Meanwhile, the Commanding Officer of Malire, Lt. Col. Agustino Akwangu, had arrived at the barracks. On his way from the barracks and back to town, Lt. Col. Oyite-Ojok had dropped by Lt. Col. Akwangu's home not far from the barracks and told him to go and take charge of the situation.

Akwangu, a Langi, arrived in his green Land Rover covered with a weather proof tarpaulin cloth accompanied by two escorts. He was immediately seized and one of the mutinying soldiers immediately charged at Akwangu and cut off his head with a bayonet. Akwangu's adjutant, Lt. Francis Dhutho, an Alur, climbed over the wall and fled towards the Kabaka's lake.

Events now started getting out of hand and Eyega became worried about how the Luo soldiers in the other barracks in Uganda would respond to this most unexpected mutiny. He contacted some colleagues with better experience and training to come in and help him out. They agreed and came in to give the mutiny professional leadership.

The following junior officers came to Eyega's rescue: Second Lieutenants Muki, Juma ("Butabika") Ali, Mawa, Moses Ali, Juma Oris, Isaac Maliyamungu; Lieutenants Kenneth Onzima; Capt. Francis Ogubi, a Samia, Capt. Patrick Kimumwe from Busoga; the Commander of the A Company Capt. Isaac Lumago and Capt. Jackson Avidria both from West Nile; Capt. Sostene, Capt. Nsumba and Lt. Maliyamungu, the deputy commander of Malire's A Company.

They were to be joined later by Capt. Michael Kalyesubula and 2nd Lt. Francis Kakooza, both Baganda. Also involved in the mutiny at this stage was Capt. Mustapha Adrisi, the commander of Malire's Headquarters Company (later Vice President under Amin.) and Adrisi's deputy, Lt. Elly Aseni.

The second lieutenants had been sent to Britain for officer cadet courses in 1968 at the RoyalMilitaryAcademy at Sandhurst and commissioned in July 1970 by President Obote. This group of junior officers then took over from Eyega and started directing the mutiny. This group of junior officers --- realising that what they had on their hands now was clearly a mutiny that was steadily turning into the beginnings of a coup --- decided to contact their colleagues in other units across Uganda.

They started with Jinja, the second most important military centre in the country after Kampala. A soldier dressed in civilian clothes was given a Vespa scooter and told to head to Jinja and deliver a secret message to one of the men there, Company Commander Capt. Charles Arube, a Sandhurst-trained officer and from the same Kakwa tribe as Idi Amin.

The soldier, Sgt. Juma Dralega, once in Jinja, called Arube from a public phone booth and told him he had an extremely urgent message that he needed to pass on. He then rode to the King George VI barracks and gave the message to Capt. Arube.

The officers and men of Malire in Kampala had switched off their military communication equipment and were observing strict radio silence. The army's daily newsletter called "Part One Order" that was usually distributed to all units in the country to keep officers and men abreast of news in the army, was also suspended.

Arube then took over in Jinja and sounded the bugle and all Acholi and Langi officers and men were put under arrest. A policeman from Jinja's central police station was told to bring dozens of handcuffs, which he later delivered in a sack, driving a Peugeot 404 car to the barracks. All the Acholi and Langi soldiers were peacefully locked up, as had been done in Kampala.

This procedure was repeated in other major military barracks across the country: Major William Ndahendekire in Mbale, Major Yusuf Gowan and Capt. John Simba, a Mukiga, took over the Simba Battalion barracks in Mbarara and immediately sent reinforcements to Kampala.

Two Iteso pilots, Capt. Emadit and Major Joseph Esimu, coordinated the coup at the Gulu Air Force base. All this activity of subduing troops potentially loyal to Oyite-Ojok went on between 5p.m. on Sunday January 24, 1971 and 6 a.m. the following day, January 25, 1971.

The facts above dispute the long-held belief that the coup that brought Amin to power was staged by illiterate and mostly Muslim soldiers from West Nile. A case in point: Far from being an illiterate officer as Henry Kyemba's book A State Of Blood describes Isaac Maliyamungu, the latter had attended BomboSudaneseSecondary School and later completed his O'Level at NamilyangoCollege before joining the army.

At the Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala in February 1977 during the rally at which the Anglican Archbishop and two cabinet ministers were accused of being part of a plot to oust Amin's government, Maliyamungu stood just behind the shoulders of the alleged conspirators to ensure they did not omit a single line of the confession statements they were reading at the parade. Only a reasonably educated person can read and understand such complex statements in English.

By 10p.m. on January 24, 1971, Radio Uganda had been taken over by men in two APCs and the technicians on duty ordered to play martial music continuously. That was when most of the country realised that something dramatic was underway. The coup was by now also taking on an international dimension.

Major Robert ("Bob") Astles, a British national, long time resident in Uganda and friend to both Obote and Amin was in a secret location in Kampala handling the more complicated phase of the maneouvres.

Astles sent messages back and forth between Uganda and Kenya to unidentified British Major at the joint British-Kenyan army base at Nanyuki, a trading centre in central Kenya.

The messages between this British Major and Astles were sent to Amin and passed on to the Chief Signaller of the Uganda Army, Lt. Col. Michael Ombia who was based in Jinja and who, along with men under him, had changed the radio frequency used by the Uganda Army and the coup plotters communicated via a new frequency that only they could log onto.

At the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, an Israeli General called Rabin had set up a temporary communication centre and was coordinating tactical information with the British via Colonel Baruch Bar-Lev. Bar-Lev, who was the head of the Israeli military training team in Uganda, coordinated the coup from his home along Princess Anne Drive in Bugolobi, a residential district to the east of Kampala.

A flurry of orders went from the British Major to Astles, Amin, Ombia, from Ombia to Capt. Francis Bakabulindi, the chief signaller at the army headquarters at Mbuya, then on to other army units along with the Malire Regiment.

It remains unclear to this day whether the General Rabin coordinating the Anglo-Israeli hand in the coup from Nairobi's Hilton Hotel was the chief of staff of the Israeli army, General Yitzhak Rabin, who later became Prime Minister.

After Radio Uganda was secured, the Chief Medical Officer of the Uganda Army, Col. Dr. Gideon Nsiiko Bogere drove to the Malire barracks. He said Amin, still in a secret location, had called him and asked him to check on the progress at Malire.

Seeing that the coup was progressing well, Col. Bogere asked the soldiers what they would explain to the world if they were asked why they had staged the coup.
That was when the Malire troops realised that they had succeeded but had not thought about a formal statement. They quickly set up a team of men to draft a statement to be read over Radio Uganda.

Although he was a Langi, the Chief Clerk of Malire, Sgt. Major John Ogole (later a Brigade commander in the in 1980s in the UNLA), was deemed reasonable and was brought from the room where the detained Acholi and Langi men were still locked up and requested to write a draft statement explaining why the army had overthrown Obote. Ogole, with the help of men under him like Corporal John Murangira, a Munyankore, Sgt. Isaac Bakka, Sgt. Shadrak Remo, Capt. Jackson Avudira, Capt. Abdul Kisuule, Capt. Stephen Amimi, thought out reasons for the coup.

Ogole, who had been taking down notes by hand then had the reasons compiled to 18 and typed using typewriters in the room as other soldiers watched. That afternoon, at 2:30 p.m, Amin --- who had not been seen in public since the day President Obote was seen off at EntebbeInternationalAirport en route to Singapore --- arrived at the Malire headquarters driving himself in an open jeep and seated next to him was a Malire staff officer named Capt. Valentine Ocima.

As Amin entered the barracks, soldiers stood up and applauded him, quietly chanting "Jogoo! Jogoo!" (Hero! Hero!). He then addressed them and thanked them for their part in the coup.

A junior officer from the army headquarters at Bulange called Warrant Officer Sam Wilfred Aswa was dispatched to Radio Uganda carrying the freshly typed 18-reasons statement. At 3:45 p.m., Aswa read a short statement on Radio Uganda:

"Here is a message from the soldiers of the Uganda Army....", whereupon he read out the eighteen reasons for the overthrow of the government of President Obote.

Just after 6p.m., the Inspector General of Police --- Wilson Erinayo Oryema, an Alur by tribe but whose family had settled in Acholi and who had done much to shield Amin from harm in the preceding few months --- came on the airwaves of Radio Uganda to endorse the coup.

"I, the Inspector General of Police. Mr E.W. Oryema, have met Major-General Idi Amin Dada, the Commander of the Uganda Army and Air Force. After discussion today, the twenty-fifth day of January 1971, I have agreed that from today the army has taken over the government and it’s now the military government..."

By then, one of the largest crowds ever seen in Uganda was taking shape in Kampala, with hundreds of thousands of hysterical men and women flooding the streets to welcome the military coup.

That same day, the British government announced that it had recognised the military government. The following day, the only two countries in Africa that were never colonised, Ethiopia and Liberia, became the second and third to recognise Amin's government.

Idi Amin was now in power.

SOURCE: Interview with Rev. Isaac Bakka, former Chaplain of the Uganda Army, 1976-79; material from the Uganda Argus (1971); The People (1972), and Voice of Uganda (1972) newspapers; Internet research; correspondence with Sunday Monitor readers; the Uganda Almanac. [Bravo} peace From Vancouver Western Canada. Sept.4,2007.

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