Thursday, August 30, 2012

COULD MUSEVENI’S NAME HAVE KILLED OYITE OJOK?

When you read the article below, you wonder whether our leaders ever learn from this type experiences. The article is clear testimony is that no single person in indispensable. Anybody can come up and be so powerful, but time comes, and he/she has to go. This should be a good learning experience for anybody who bothers to learn. William Kituuka Kiwanuka ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Source: The defunct The Crusader Newspaper It will soon be 29 years since on December 3, 1983, when Ugandans woke up to the shocking news on Radio Uganda that the country’s powerful and feared army Chief of Staff, Major General David Oyite Ojok had died. It was the closest to Ugandans experiencing the death of a sitting President. Many shops in Kampala remained closed for days. People discussed in groups wondering what would happen to the country next. Many had not loved Oyite Ojok, but they knew with his death things would never be the same. Indeed, one and a half years later, the Obote II Government was overthrown. The official explanation was that Oyite Ojok’s death was a pure accident. But was it? Brigadier David Oyite Ojok was all smiles at Pece Stadium on April 11, 198. This day, like others since 1980, was celebrated to mark the fall of Idi Amin’s regime on April 11, 1979. The day was special for Oyite Ojok in another way; after the festivities, he walked out of the stadium a Major General, adding laurels to his much coveted job of Army Chief of staff. Oyite Ojok and the Army Commander of Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), then Major General Tito Okello, who became General, were just among the many army officers who were promoted. The pomp was pulsating as Oyite Ojok took turns in joining the Commander in Chief and President Apollo Milton Obote, in addressing the other with new pips. It was just another moment of glory for Obote and the men with whom he taunted the opposition with his trademark sarcasm: “where are the Ssemogerere commanders?” Witnessing the promotion was the all – powerful Vice President and Minister of Defence, Paul Muwanga. He and Obote had genuine reason to smile because they knew how their post – Amin fortunes had rested on Oyite Ojok’s shoulders – or on the hip of where he kept his pistol. But behind the public smiles lurked the serious fears and doubts by the two men over the soldier they relied on most, but was increasingly running out of control. Down south the guerilla war by Yoweri Museveni’s NRA was taking its toll. Obote and Muwanga counted on Oyite Ojok to be the prince in shining armour racing through the woods of Luweero Traingle putting out the fire. The “Liberation day” promotions in Gulu were part of an effort to boost moral among the UNLA officers, so that they could face the NRA with renewed vigour. When Museveni had just taken to the bush in February 1982, Obote proudly said, “We shall follow them there and leave them there.” But two years down the road in 1983 the NRA rebels were still alive and kicking. Frustration with Oyite Ojok’s leadership of the army offensive had crept into Obote and Muwanga. It was not that the man who dramatically escaped from Parliament in 1971 from Amin’s soldiers, only to turn up on Radio Uganda in 1979 to announce the dictator’s fall, had lost battlefield prowess. The problem was that being Chairman of the then almighty Coffee Marketing Board (CMB), Oyite Ojok increasingly had no time for the war front. He spent much of his time keeping an eye on his swelling balance in a Swiss bank. Moreover, around the same time, differences between Obote and his civilian and military lieutenants on how to end the rebellion heightened. While Obote and Oyite Ojok insisted the ‘bandits,’ as they called them, had to be militarily crashed, Muwanga and some top UNLA officers – mainly Acholi – toyed with the idea of negotiations. Late 1982 while on an eastern Uganda tour, Obote said if Museveni wanted negotiations, he should first identify his third great grand father to prove his Ugandan origins. With purported authentication from his Ankole allies, Obote branded Museveni a Rwandese immigrant and accused the Banyarwanda of fueling the rebellion in Buganda. In the same year, Obote had 25,000 people of Rwandese origin evicted from their homes in western Uganda and put in camps because they posed a security threat.
But with the military yielding nothing and with Oyite Ojok putting his coffee interests above the war effort, Muwanga and his group demanded for the resignation of the Army Chief of Staff as CMB Chairman. Obote’s wishes prevailed and some time in 1983 he replaced Oyite Ojok with another homeboy from Apac as Chairman CMB. But Obote and Muwanga had under estimated Oyite Ojok’s appetite for coffee fruits. The General went ballistic. In an angry remark to associates, he said he came footing all the way from Moshi in Tanzania to overthrow Amin while Obote and Amin flew in planes. For all his sweat, he complained, all he had got in return was chairing CMB. How could they dare take it away from him? A few days later, Otim was attacked by a group of UNLA officers and killed along with his whole family on Plot 22, Princess Ann Drive in Bugolobi! Obote was helpless and Oyite Ojok continued as CMB Chairman! But Muwanga an accomplished political schemer, - he masterminded Obote’s disputed victory in the 1980 elections and even blocked attempts to remove Oyite Ojok from the army, - was not to be outwitted. Muwanga persuaded Obote that Oyite Ojok having shown his defiance by refusing to quit the coffee board was using the money to buy arms and take power for himself. Obote was also reminded of the several occasions Oyite Ojok expressed presidential ambitions. For example while speaking at a heated district council meeting in Apac in 1982, Oyite Ojok said in Luo: “An dang a ool itingo Obote Oko ingut bwoka. Cengoro akemo mia aketo oko ping (I am tired of carrying Obote on my shoulders. One day I will be forced to put him down).” At the same council meeting, Oyite Ojok told a prominent Lango UPC politician Yonah Abwon, who had reacted to his threats that some of them were still lucky, otherwise one day, “water would dry from their bodies.” Abwon shot back and told Oyite Ojok, “water will dry from your body too.” A rift had developed between Oyite Ojok and Obote’s key minister like Joel Aliro Omara (Commerce) and Luwuliza Kirunda (Internal Affairs) and also UPC Secretary General. In one incident in 1983, Oyite Ojok clashed with Omara over a room in Lira Hotel. The Army Chief of Staff had booked the room, the most luxurious in the hotel a.k.a presidential suite and gone to his home in Apac. While Oyite Ojok was away, the Minister arrived at the hotel and demanded to take over the room, reportedly arguing that he was ‘minister’ and ‘soldiers’ are supposed to sleep in the bush. The Minister failed to take over the room and his words got to Oyite Ojok when the military supremo returned to the hotel. Oyite Ojok is said to have flown into a rage, demanding for Omara’s neck and saying that the Omara’s were ministers because of him - and the army and any time they could be sent packing for exile. Muwanga as Minister of Defence was not amused with Oyite Ojok’s threats and demanded maximum respect from the soldier. A former driver for Amin’s Vice President, Mustafa Adrisi, who later chauffeured Muwanga, told The Crusader he noticed open blood between his boss and Oyite Ojok. At one point in October 1983, Obote tried in vain to mend fences with his two main lieutenants at a meeting in Uganda Club, but Oyite Ojok stormed out of it. A bitter Muwanga complained that he had sacrificed a lot for the regime, including the love and blood of fellow Baganda who were being killed by the UNLA in the Luweero Triangle. After the meeting, Muwanga quarreled all the way to his Kololo residence, saying that he was not ready to go back to exile the second time “because” of these stupid Langi (Obote and Oyite).” The tension only got worse and apparently Muwanga convinced Obote that Oyite Ojok was a good – dog – run – amok and had to be stopped. Subsequently, Obote had an exclusive meeting with his No. 2 at the Nile Mansions, whose final resolution was to liquidate Oyite Ojok. On November 21, 1983 Obote left for the Commonwealth Conference in New Delhi, India. In 1971 when he left for a similar conference in Singapore, he left his top lieutenants with instructions to arrest Idi Amin. Amin however pulled a fast one on his boss and overthrew him instead. This time he left Muwanga with instructions to do all he could to eliminate Oyite Ojok. Interestingly, a day before he jetted out of the country for the Commonwealth meet, Obote held the last meeting with Oyite Ojok at State House Entebbe, between 3.00 and 4.00am. Immediately after the meeting Muwanga sent his driver to pick staff officer
Lt. Kiragga Kato from Entebbe. Kato was one of the most trusted UNLA officers and was close to Obote, Muwanga and Oyite Ojok. He was related to the first lady, Miria Obote. His closeness to the 1st family saw him speedily rise through the army ranks to the post of Director planning. He was a loyal officer and easily won the confidence of high ranking government officers including Oyite Ojok. But he paid major allegiance to Muwanga as a Muganda political head in government. Muwanga trusted Kato to do the job of bumping off Oyite Ojok. Kato’s assignment was simple or so it seemed. His job was to lure Oyite Ojok into a helicopter planted with a time bomb that would blow his muscular frame into ashes. On December 1, 1983, a few days after Obote’s departure for India, Muwanga offered Oyite Ojok an irresistible bait to get him into the booby – trapped chopper. He called Oyite Ojok and told him that the soldiers in Nakasongola had captured the most wanted bandit – Yoweri Museveni. Oyite Ojok could not believe it. And Muwanga said he too could not believe it until the Chief of Staff went to the battle fields and brought Museveni to Kampala himself. December 2, 1983, the Major General left for the battle front. Oyite Ojok selected his most trusted officers and left with them in two helicopters for Nakasongola. The officers included Lt. Col. Wilson Okwonga (Dr); Director of Mbuya Military Hospital, Lt. Col. Alfred Otto; the Director of Air force, Major Stephen Abili; the Director Engineering, Capt. Harry Olwoch; a pilot, Sgt. Charles Kamara who was a Staff Sergeant and Kato. Obwanga, Olwoch and Otto hailed from Kitgum district, Abili and Oyite Ojok came from Apac, Kamara came from Kabarole and Kato from Kitende, nine miles Entebbe Highway. Most of these UNLA officers had been promoted at the April 11, 198 Liberation day celebrations in Gulu. Oyite Ojok left in the 1st helicopter, and Kato traveled in the 2nd one to Nakasongola. When the team arrived, they were told of how close the UNLA officers had cornered Museveni, but the rebel leader had escaped by the skin of his teeth. Oyite and part of the team – Kato was not part of it then – boarded a surveillance gunship and visited several army detaches in the area before converging at Kisozi where the two choppers were stationed. It was during the absence of the Oyite Ojok team that Kato fixed the time bomb in the helicopter which he (Kato) had travelled in from Kampala. When it was time to depart for Kampala, Kato told Oyite Ojok that during their absence his inspection of the chopper the Chief of Staff had used earlier from Kampala revealed it was overdue for service. He therefore advised the big man to switch over to the second chopper. Oyite Ojok then selected those who would fly with him – including Kato. Kato resisted but Oyite insisted that they had to discuss military strategies aboard.
Kato entered the chopper but stationed himself near the door. He strapped his parachute to his back and sat on it. The chopper took off at 8.12pm. But just as the pilot, Capt. Henry Olwoch was picking direction. Kato dived. The other officers tried to restrain him but immediately the chopper exploded. It landed three minutes later engulfed by flame. The incident occurred between River Kafu and Nakasongola army barracks, 150km from Kampala on Gulu road. UNLA soldiers at the Kisozi detach immediately cordoned off the area. Oyite Ojok like everyone else on the chopper burnt to ashes. Oyite Ojok’s ashes were approximately by the seat on the burnt chopper on which his trademark silver pistol was found. An official statement aired on radio Uganda from the Ministry of Defence said all the officers and men of UNLA had died on the plane. The NRA/NRM rebels in Nairobi announced on BBC that they had brought the gunship down. However, when the NRA/NRM captured power, the leadership said they did not believe in assassinations. The 1st high ranking officers to arrive on the scene that very night were Paulo Muwanga, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Tito Okello and Prime Minister Otema Alimadi. But what exactly happened to Kato after the crash is the subject of three conflicting theories. The 1st is the official line: he burnt inside the chopper. The 2nd is that as the helicopter descended, its propellers hit Kato mid air throwing him about 10 metres away from the scene of the blast. His body was partially in the fire that engulfed the surrounding area. His wife identified him by the teeth. The third theory is that Kato successfully bailed out of the chopper and reported to Muwanga that the mission was accomplished, but that soon as kato finished making his report, Muwanga had him shot to conceal evidence. Kato’s wife, who by the time of this story worked in a Kampala firm, refused to discuss the matter with The Crusader. A family friend said the army refused to have the coffin opened before Kato was buried at Kitende, 9 miles along Entebbe Highway.

2 comments:

  1. Who related the helicopter story to you since all on board died?

    ReplyDelete
  2. interesting story William... just how true are these tales? what happened to Oyite Ojok's millions in the swiss bank? Since you are a man relating what you think is true maybe you can investigate the swiss bank accounts?

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