Amin, Obote II and Museveni
Amin’s years (1971-79) are the darkest in Uganda’s history. Born in January 1928 of a muslim father and Christian mother, he moved to Lugazi in Buganda. Barely literate, he ascended to unprecedented heights which began when he joined the Kings African Rifles in 1946 and fought for Britain against the Mau Mau a local insurgent group in Kenya opposed to colonial rule and white settlements and became one of the first two Africans in Uganda to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He attended training school in Nakuru and while there he killed three people without any provocation but true to the proverb that says, a leopard is still a leopard even if it hides it’s spots. Amin was a physcopath who was only saved from being tried for murder by Obote.
By 1966, he was second in command of the Ugandan army and the 1966 constitutional crisis worked to his favour for he was promoted to the rank of commander of the Uganda Army. It was Amin who stormed the Lubiri, bundled Baganda loyalists into trucks and co- ordinate the mass detentions that followed the banning of DP in 1969.
Nevertheless, Ugandans jubilated when he took over for that is how unpopular Obote had become. Basking in praises and adulation sang to him, Amin even had Mutesa’s preserved body returned to Uganda and Buganda for burial. The 18 months spell of sanity was actually the brief lucidity of a madman. For Amin’s madness and blood thirst reared it’s ugly head. First he expelled all Asians from Uganda and nationalized their properties. Then he embarked on a purge of the army of the Acholi and Lango majority that by the end of 1973, thirteen of the 23 officers who held a rank of lieutenant- colonel and above had at the time of Amin’s coup had been murdered. By the end of 1972, eight of the 20 members of Obote’s 1971 cabinet were dead and four fled into exile. Benedicto Kiwanuka was detained and murdered as well as the vice- chancellor of Makerere University. Their killings drew world condemnation but who could stop a madman in the full bout of madness?
By 1974, Amin’s reign of terror was felt every where in Uganda and an estimated 300,000 Ugandans were killed often brutally by Amin and the State Research Bureau. Specifically targeted were northern tribes, rival politicians, intellectuals and anyone else perceived by Amin to be a threat. Suprisingly, in a manner characteristic of the ostrich’s habit of burying it’s head in the sand, African leaders save for one, turned a blind eye to Amin’s character flaws and tyranny and backed him for the presidency of the Organisation of African unity (OAU) which Amin got in 1975. Only Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere was the sole dissenting voice of truth and reason when he castigated the African leaders for being hypocritical in their criticism of white racist regimes of southern Africa and ignore similarly cruel regimes in black Africa. Consequently, he granted exile Obote and Museveni and in a display of public condemnation, refused to attend the 1975 OAU summit in Kampala.
Amins star was to fade and fall when attacked Tanzania in 1978 and bombed the towns of Bukoba and Musoma. But for a seasoned soldier, he had bitten off more than he could chew for Tanzania and a number of Ugandan exiles retarliated by invading Uganda and in April 1979 the self- proclaimed conqueror of the British empire was driven out of Kampala to exile never to return for he died in exile in August of 2003 of multiple organ failure.
After Amin, a brutalized nation and people sighed with relief and were filled with a fervent hope that it was the dawn of a new beginning but it wasn’t to be for Uganda’s political arena was yet again controlled by UPC which installed professor Lule as a stand in president a position he held for only 68 days and was replaced by Godfrey Binaisa who fared a little better and lasted 8 months. Thereafter the position was assumed by UPC loyalists Paulo Muwanga and David Oyite – Ojok who set December 1980 as the election date.
The main rivals for the election were DP, UPC and UPM a new party led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. UPC won the deeply flawed election that took place in an atmosphere of intimidation and corruption. A disillusioned Museveni felt that not only had his party been cheated of an election but the people too, and fearing history repeating itself under Obote, he formed a ragtag National Resistance Army made up of orphan’s of Obote and Amin’s tyrannous regimes and retreated to the Luwero Triangle suggested to Obote negotiation with Museveni but the president snubbed his advice. Misfortune sometimes has the uncanny way of repeating itself in exactly the same circumstances for Obote was once again toppled by his Army commander on 27th July and forced into exile.
Okello then assumed the presidency and appointed Paulo Muwanga as prime minister. DP then allied itself with Okello hoping to stop the killings in the Luwero Triangle. Museveni too in August 1985 agreed to co- operate with Okello provided the excesses of the army were checked. NRA then entered negotiations with Okello but these proved unfruitful and Museveni went back to the bush from where he emerged on 26th January 1986, stormed Kampala, Okello surrendered the presidency and Museveni was sworn in as president.