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CHANGE OF GUARDS - Uganda got its independence on October 9, 1962 from Britain after 68 years of colonial rule. However, around late 1978, Uganda was invaded by the Tanzanian army and a few Ugandan armed exiles. The invasion was in retaliation of Iddi Amin's invasion and annexation of Tanzania's Kagera region. After ejecting the Uganda army from its territory, the Tanzanian army opted to push on for the total overthrow of the Iddi Amin government. As it became more clearer that the Iddi Amin government was to fall, around March 1979 the government of Tanzania convened a conference of Ugandan exiles in its north eastern town of Moshi. The purpose of the said conference was to put in place a government structure that would fill the gap after the fall of the Iddi Amin government. The two day ( March 24 - 26) Moshi Conference came up with the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) as the political wing and its military wing, the UNLA. It also came up with the National Consultative Council (NCC) as the legislative arm of UNLF. When it came to selection of the President, the conference hit a snag. It was not until the government of Tanzania threatened to expel them from its soil that they came up with Prof. Yusuf Lule. It is widely alleged that against Nyerere's preference for Milton Obote, the choice of Prof. Lule was imposed by the British government who had footed much of the financial cost of the war. In 1976, Prof. Lule and Dr. Martin Aliker had founded another anti Iddi Amin group, the Uganda Society (U.S) in London. His group had unsuccessfully requested for arms to fight the Iddi Amin government from the then USA Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
In his last broadcast to Ugandans from Soroti, Iddi Amin warned about Uganda being returned to colonialism. On April 11, 1979 the government of Iddi Amin fell to the Tanzanian army and its overall commander, Gen. David Musuguri took over government for two days. On April 13, 1979, Prof. Luke was sworn in as the President of Uganda. He was driven to and from the swearing venue in a limousine that had the British flag, the Union Jack and not the Ugandan flag. The Moshi Conference had provided that government was to be run in accordance with the Moshi Agreement and that the President was to exercise his powers in consultation with the NCC. His executive decisions were to seek approval from the NCC. On his part, Prof. Lule ignored the NCC arguing that its role had ended with the fall of the Iddi Amin regime and that he derived his powers from the 1967 Constitution under which he had taken the Oath of Office.
Lule also accused the army of being behind the growing insecurity in the country. The bickering came to a climax around June 1979 when Prof. Lule made a cabinet reshuffle without consulting the NCC. The 24 Ministers and their 20 Deputy Ministers who would automatically become members of the NCC would outnumber the 30 member original NCC. The NCC refused to recognise the new cabinet and specifically the appointment of four individuals, Grace Ibingira, Robert Ssebunya, Serumaga and Andrew Kayiira. Behind the scenes, Prof. Lule was also accused of plotting to bring in the British army to replace the Tanzanian army. Amidst the crisis, Nyerere summoned Prof. Lule and all his Ministers to Mwanza, Tanzania. The meeting which President Lule and his delegation had thought would last a few hours and they return home was instead rescheduled without their consent. They were made to wait for Nyerere till late in the night and only to leave the following day.
According to Yoga Adhola;
"At Mwanza, Nyerere categorically told Lule that Tanzania would stick by the resolutions arrived at in Moshi; namely, that supreme power lay with the NCC. Clear as this message was, Lule did not heed nor did he realise that he had been emasculated from Tanzanian support. He still remained intransigent."
Accordingly to Prof. Kanyeihamba who was Prof. Lule's Attorney General;
Lule said; “by the way, we were supposed to be here for only two hours. Now this is the second day and we feel that we must go home to report to our people. Tonight we are going back when we finish this meeting.”
Nyerere and Obote were very annoyed. They said, “you cannot go until we have resolved these matters.” Lule said; “well you can arrest us, but we are going.”
Then Nyerere said; “you go and consult.” He had been addressing him as “President” but when he got annoyed he said; “Lule, go back and consult with your people and I must know by next Saturday what decision you have reached about Obote. Come and report to me this time not at Mwanza but in Dar es Salaam.”
After returning to Kampala, on June 20, 1979, the NCC passed a vote of no confidence in Prof. Yusuf Lule thus ending his 68 days presidency. Instead it selected Godfrey Binaisa as the new President of Uganda. Violent protests against Prof. Lule's ouster broke out in Kampala but were violently crushed by the then Minister of Defence, Yoweri Museveni. The Tanzanian army flew the deposed Prof. Lule to Dar es Salaam where he was retained at the West Wing of State House. Some quarters claimed that he had been detained and subjected to pressure to sign certain documents supporting the new government led by Binaisa. The government of Tanzania issued a media statement to the effect that Prof. Lule was in Tanzania for consultations as an honoured guest. Some circles have suggested that Nyerere said that until Lule denounced his claim to the presidency, he would not be allowed to leave the Tanzanian State House. He said he had kept Obote for eight years and had gotten into war over it, so it won't be such a problem to keep Lule. So Lule began his detention in the luxury of Tanzania's State House, attended by a chef, a maid and a valet. but despite the material comfort, it was still a detention. A Head of State's 68 days hold on power had unceremoniously ended in incarceration in a foreign country. He was to remain in that state until he left Dar es Salaam State House for exile in London where he died six years later.
On June 23 1979, the newly selected President Binaisa made his first cabinet. At a donors' conference in July 1979, Binaisa was embarrassed when he proved ignorant of when his Minister of Community Development presented a paper that suggested that Uganda's local government was being structured on the communist spying model of Nyumba Kumi (ten houses cells). It was through this Nyumba Kumi that the scarce essential commodities were being distributed yet Binaisa favoured the free market. At the head of the July OAU summit in Liberia, it became clearer that Sudan's Jaffar Nimery intended to raise the issue of Tanzania's invasion, continued occupation and intervention in the internal affairs of Uganda in violation of the OAU Charter. Sudan was at the time overburdened by 100,000 refugees who had fled Uganda following the ouster of Iddi Amin. The puppet government of Binaisa sent emissaries to Mozambique, Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Gambia and Lesotho led by Prof. Nabudere to lobby for support. On July 7, the government of Tanzania announced plans of withdrawing its troops from Uganda.
During the 14 - 16 July OAU summit in Monorovia, no seat had been reserved for the Ugandan delegation on grounds that since the Tanzanian army were still in occupation of its territory, it was not an independent state. The summit Chairman, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo insisted of reading Sudan's protest letter that criticised Tanzania for ousting Iddi Amin and the continued occupation of Uganda. President Binaisa vehemently defended Tanzania and was supported by Senegal, Malawi, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. The Uganda delegation is said to have walked out in protest. However, on the sidelines of the summit, President Binaisa lobbied for an OAU peace keeping force that would replace the subsequent withdrawal of the Tanzanian army. Unknown to Binaisa, his more powerful Chief of Staff, Gen. Oyite Ojok was in Tanzania to chart a way forward for building a new army for Uganda.
Binaisa tried to assert his authority by reshuffling the members of the more powerful Military Commission - Museveni from Ministry of Defense to Regional Cooperation on November 17th 1979. Around February 1980, Nyerere sent his then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mkapa with a letter to Binaisa. The letter contained threats of withdrawing his army if Binaisa did not fix the governance crisis in the country. Nyerere was not satisfied by Mkapa's discussion with Binaisa thus he summoned him to Dar es Salaam. Binaisa defied the instructions to come with some top members of NCC. Nyerere told off Binaisa that he wanted to see political stability in Uganda. To the displeasure of Nyerere, Binaisa left Dar es Salaam via Nairobi to meet President Moi. Before Binaisa was back in Kampala, the Chairman of NCC, Prof. Rugumayo was in Dar es Salaam meeting Nyerere. What followed was growing speculation of an impending overthrow of Binaisa.
However, later on when he moved Paul Mwanga from Ministry of Internal Affairs to Ambassador in Geneva and Oyite Ojok from army Chief of Staff to Ambassador in Algeria, the rug was pulled from under Binaisa's feet. Like it had been the case with Prof. Lule, Binaisa too was accused of plotting to bring in foreign troops to replace the Tanzanian army. On May 10, 1980, Binaisa was placed under house arrest at State House in the custody of the Tanzanian army. The Powerful Military Commission led by Paul Muwanga and deputised by Museveni took over government. During his incarceration, Binaisa secretly appealed to USA's Jimmy Carter and UK's Margaret Thatcher to prevail over Nyerere;
"Please make my brother Nyerere see reason by withdrawing recognition from the rebel government. His attitude is causing all democrats in Uganda and Africa great concern. Usually he heads the list in condemning military coups elsewhere but this time he has for no known reason transferred his affections to a military takeover."
Consequently, Binaisa was moved from State House and kept at the residence of a Tanzanian army officer in Entebbe where he remained till late December 1980 when he was released by the newly elected, President Obote. Once again, another Head of State's eleven months hold on power had ended in a six months arbitrary detention at the residence of a foreign military officer. Most hurting, Binaisa had been a hero of the struggle for independence 18 years earlier.
After ousting the Iddi Amin government, the Tanzanian army had established its base in Entebbe. Gen. David Musuguri was its military head and Nyerere also appointed his close confidant, a one Hassan Ramadhan Shekilango as his Resident Representative in Uganda - ostensibly to help in the streamlining of administrative challenges faced by the post Iddi Amin government. Back home he was also a Member of Parliament and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office in charge of Administration. He was so powerful that even the President of Uganda had to go through him to reach to Nyerere. On May 11 1980, he flew from Entebbe in a military plane accompanied by the Tanzanian Ambassador to Uganda, a one Kilumanga and four Tanzanian army officers heading for Tanzania. The delegation was going to brief Nyerere on the political and military situation in Uganda but shortly before landing in Arusha where Nyerere was waiting for them, the plane crashed killing them all.
To corroborate the above stated historical facts, here below we bring excerpts of first hand accounts by two of the several key players:
1. Daily Monitor - January 19, 2020
Role of UPC in the Removal of Iddi Amin - by Apollo Milton Obote.
(As written by Felix Ochen).
Around late 1978, Nyerere kept insisting that Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) invades Kampala in the coming three months.
“I expressed opposition to that idea. I told the president that it would be most damaging to the Tanzanian image in Africa and in the world for Tanzania to expose herself to accusations that they had become a colonial power,” Obote writes.
Nyerere came to his residence that same day.
“The president spoke to me passionately, urging me not to go to the conference without giving a clear reason for this. He told me that there would be no one at the conference who would erase what I had done for Uganda and that Kikosi Maalum was my army whose participation in the war would enable the people of Uganda to give me much praise for their liberation,”
He later learnt that the government of Tanzania had been pressured by the British to ensure that he and his UPC party did not return to power after Amin. At that point, Obote says, the Tanzanian minister supervising the conference sensed that should there be nominations and votes, Mwanga would win. He was left with no option but to direct the conference to be adjourned and then took Mwanga, Tito Okello and Lule behind the conference hall for a separate meeting.
Shortly after the conference at Moshi, Obote says president Nyerere tasked Lule to name a Cabinet. He says Nyerere had told him that as long as TPDF was still in Uganda, he would not allow the portfolios of Finance, Defence and Internal Affairs in the UNLF government to be filled by someone who was not friendly to Tanzania.
Obote claims Lule submitted the first list of his ministers to Nyerere, but they comprised of some very old people, including those who had served in the colonial government, and even Lule himself did not know whether they were still alive or dead. Obote says Nyerere rejected three ministerial lists
Around June 1979, Nyerere summoned Lule and all his Ministers to Mwanza. He also invited Obote to attend. At the meeting, Obote says he witnessed accusations and counter accusations and he would see that the UNLF leaders, for whatever reason they had become a government, had lost Nyerere’s confidence and would not last.
At lunch break, Nyerere took Obote and President Lule to a room and asked Lule whether it was true that he was planning to appoint a bishop as vice president. Lule’s answer was that the matter was still under consideration.
“I advise you to appoint Milton,” Nyerere advised.
Obote says before he could respond, Lule shot up and said although Obote had supporters in Uganda, he also had enemies and he (Lule) could not guarantee his security. He instead offered to appoint Obote ambassador to the UN so that he would go away to New York in USA. This reaction angered Nyerere who then asked Lule whether he knew who was guaranteeing his security in Uganda, to which Lule said it was TPDF.
2. Sunday Monitor - May 18, 2014
Interview with Brigadier Burton Richard Lupembe in Dar Es Salaam - by Henry Lubega.
The Baganda blamed Tanzanians for removing Yusuf Lule but we never did it. Msuguri and I witnessed the events leading to Lule’s removal; also present was Tanzanian minister of State in the prime minister’s office Hussein Shekilango. Shekilango told us at our head office in Entebbe that he had come because they had got information in Dar es Salaam that there was a problem in Kampala. While at our offices in Entebbe, Msuguri told us that he had heard that UNLF was going to have a meeting. Msuguri sent me and Shekilango to State House to go and listen in to what was being discussed. It was a heated debate and arguing within the members of the National Consultative Council and Lule.
The argument at State House was that since Lule took over power, he was pro-Baganda. He was once close to the kingship. So he was thinking of a Kabaka type of leadership. When he appointed ministers he started changing his attitude favouring the Baganda. He was asked why he was favouring Baganda and that is why they decided to go for a vote of no confidence. By that time they had arranged for Godfrey Binaisa who was in Nairobi to come and take over. As the meeting progressed in Entebbe, Binaisa flew back to Kampala. Shekilango and I called Paulo Muwanga aside and asked him what was going on and he said they had finished. “We have voted a vote of no confidence against Lule,” he said. Shekilango asked him what was to come next. Muwanga said: “We have got one guy in Kampala. We will telephone somebody and he will be brought here.” Shekilango told Muwanga: “You are wrong, you are not wrong that you have voted out Lule but you haven’t finished the job. Go back the whole world is listening to you and announce that from now on our leader will be Binaisa.”
From the conversation between Paulo Muwanga and Yoweri Museveni we heard Muwanga asking Museveni: “Is our friend already in Kampala?” and Museveni answered “Yes”. That’s how Binaisa got to Entebbe and he was introduced to the Tanzanian minister Shekilango. Binaisa would be brought to us past midnight and Muwanga introduced him to us.
After Lule, Muwanga took over but from judgment of how events unfolded later, he was there just to keep the chair for Obote.
Binaisa was a very timid person. I don’t think he thought he could rule the country. It was a Tanzanian commander - Imran Kombe - who told him: “Look you are a president now whether you like it or not people must see you, you must face the people.” Kombe arranged for him to have a rally at Kololo where a huge crowd turned up. When we got him back to Entebbe, Binaisa said: “I didn’t know so many people will be there.”
Then there was an American woman called Mrs Wells, she was so close to Binaisa. She relocated from Nairobi when Binaisa took over and she suggested to him that the Lake Victoria Hotel should be renovated for her to stay there, leaving her husband in Nairobi.
With this woman besides Binaisa things started going wrong. All of a sudden many Americans started coming to Uganda, we discovered that some of them were not coming direct from America but from West Africa. We played it low to see what would happen but kept our intelligence alert on what was happening. It was after the Kololo rally that Binaisa found the courage to tour the rest of the country. I went with him to Gulu, attending all the closed-door meetings he held while there. But whatever was being discussed, Binaisa with all his intelligence, he had to first ask Mrs Wells before he gave his views or reaction.
I started doubting Binaisa’s ability to lead, because whatever Mrs Wells said Binaisa did not object to. From Gulu we went to other places and Binaisa was doing the same thing. The second point of his weakness was when he started ignoring the old Tito Okello who was the commander of UNLA. Tito went to Msuguri and complained, saying the old man who had only come with a briefcase was now ignoring them. To make matters worse there was an internal memo in the government, saying if the army was commanded by people from the north, then the intelligence should be headed by a Muganda. This annoyed Tito and his friends. We decided that Binaisa goes and talks to his soldiers. He went and talked to them about the press reports. I was sent there by Msuguri to go and follow what was happening and report back to him.
After the address, Binaisa went back to Entebbe, and there was a sequence of events after that document.
Muwanga was staying in Entebbe when Tito came to see us about his complaints. We asked him whether he had reported to Muwanga, the head of the military commission and Museveni his deputy. We told him to go and tell Muwanga and after a few hours the two came back together. As soon as they came back to our base in the presence of Shekilango, Muwanga said: “From today we are going to strip him of his presidency.” The same evening, Muwanga went to Nile Mansions and Radio Uganda and announced that they had not stripped Binaisa of his presidency but we had trimmed his powers.
On the second or third day, they said Binaisa was no longer our president. Msuguri told me to go to State House and see if Binaisa was comfortable. The only thing Binaisa told me when I found him in the bedroom was: “Are these people going to kill me?” I said no. I assured him that we were going to arrange for his safety and that’s how we ended up taking him out of State House and entrusted his security with one of our officer’s residence in Entebbe.
We had also discovered that Binaisa was so close to the Americans while Lule was close to the British. We could see how the British were treating Lule and how the Americans were treating Binaisa. With Mrs Wells - a well-known American woman who had been in Ghana when Nkrumah was having problems, and was also in Argentina when Oscar Eduardo Alende was toppled - by his side, we thought that she wasn't a good woman to deal with. When Binaisa was removed from State House Mrs Wells fled back to Nairobi. When Muwanga came in he worked with us very well at the beginning and shortly after, some other Obote supporters and him started planning for the return of Obote. I was in Mbarara when Obote landed in Uganda. I was given instructions to receive him at Mbarara and send him to Bushenyi. The aircraft landed in Mbarara and from there he went to Bushenyi. It was a very strong ground for him. It is why his UPC people organised that he starts his rallies in Bushenyi.
The Moshi Spirit and its political platform crumbled hardly two years after its original term of office. The militarist Military Commission of Muwanga and Museveni assumed power and continued with their military race. The hardline socialists under the Gang of Four (Rugumayo, Omwony Ojok, Nabudere and Yash Tandon) founded the militant UNLD-AD and established bases in the Rwenzori mountains. Obote returned from exile in Tanzania and was elected President in December 1980. In February 1981, Museveni launched his sectarian Bush War. From captivity in Dar es Salasm, Prof. Lule had fled to exile where he founded a fighting group, the UFF. Museveni's guerrilla campaign targeted the Tanzanian army forcing it to totally withdraw from Uganda and watched the unfolding events from the comfort of their home waiting for monetary compensation from Uganda for the cost of the war. Later, Museveni tricked Lule to merge his UFF thus giving rise to the NRA. He went ahead to apply the same trick on the UNLF-AD under the command of Cheffe Ali. In 1985 the UNLA overthrew Obote and five months later Museveni overthrew the military junta. The country has endured 34 years of Museveni's communist military dictatorship. More than anybody else, Museveni is always grateful for the 'liberation' of Uganda by Tanzania.
From the aforegoing it can be concluded that the events of 1979 -1980 were embarrassing, painful and shameful. They greatly influenced what the country has gone through for the last 38 years now. As to whether, the country regained its independence, your guess is as good as mine.
INFORMATION IS POWER AND THE PROBLEM OF UGANDA IS MUSEVENISM