Uganda celebrates Independence Day with a heavy fog of political uncertainty

Uganda turns 59 years old as an independent country

A coalition between the UPC-KY alliance of Milton Obote and Mutesa collapsed soon after followed by a bitter power struggle that erupted in 1966 with a furious Baganda king “inviting” foreign troops and attempting to kick “Obote’s government” out of Kampala

By The Weekly Vision Online

Uganda turns 59 years old as an independent country on October 9 2021 with Kenya’s neighbour to the west still dogged by questions of whether a peaceful transfer of power is possible, having exchanged eight presidents all through violent regime change.

Former colonial power Britain granted Uganda independence at the Kololo historical airstrip more than 5 decades ago. With the British colonial Union Jack being lowered and the Cranes of independent Uganda was raised. The overnight “ngalabe” dancing by Baganda dancers celebrating the occasion marked the historic event, with power handed to president Edward Mutesa and prime minister Milton Obote.

But the coalition between the UPC-KY alliance of Milton Obote and Mutesa never lasted. A bitter power struggle erupted in 1966 with a furious Baganda king “inviting” foreign troops and attempting to kick “Obote’s government” out of Kampala.

Idi Amin staged a bloody military coup against Obote on January 25, 1971, he was away in Singapore at the time attending a Commonwealth summit. The Baganda danced themselves lame at Obote’s overthrow showering Amin with all manner of gifts including giving him a “third wife” and hard cash equivalent to his weight

Mr Obote reacted decisively warning that “Sir Edward” had abused his powers inviting foreign troops “without authority”. Colonel Idi Amin then led a siege by government troops to subdue the King at the Mengo palace where guards put up a 6-hour fierce resistance. Hundreds were killed and scores injured.

It would take almost 2 decades for another election to be held in Kampala after Idi Amin’s January 25 1971 bloody military coup against Obote who was in Singapore attending a Common-wealth summit. The Baganda danced themselves lame at Obote’s overthrow showering the heavily built Idi Amin with all manner of gifts including giving him a “third wife” and hard cash equivalent to his weight!

They later lived to regret after Idi Amin unleashed one of Africa’s most brutal dictatorships, butchering the respected chief justice Benedicto Kiwanuka for “defying” Amins 72-hour order to all Asians to leave Uganda at once. It took a combined force of Tanzanian troops and Uganda rebels to dislodge the dictator from Kampala waging a fierce cross border 9-month battle. The war Amin had wrongly assumed to be a walkover turned into his worst nightmare forcing his soldiers to flee precision-guided Laser missiles raining from the sky.

He had quite unwisely tried to annex the Kagera salient in the border town of Mutukula where he hoisted the Uganda flag. His troops had killed, raped and brutalised Tanzanians in Kagera, a crime Nyerere promised he would ruthlessly deal with, and he did. By April 1979 the curtain fell on Idi Amin ending nearly 9 years of nightmarish fascist misrule. 

At the general elections held in December 1980, the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) carried the day, making history by returning Obote to power becoming the first African civilian president overthrown by the military to regain power through elections

Enter Professor Yusuf Kironde Lule. The soft-spoken academician was sworn in but only lasted 68 days before being replaced by the former attorney general under Obote 1 Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa. In May 1980 exiled Obote who had spent 8 and half years in neighbouring Tanzania returned to Uganda landing in Bushenyi.

In the hotly contested December 1980 general elections, the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) carried the day, making history by returning Obote to power becoming the first African civilian president overthrown by the military to regain power through elections.

But Yoweri Museveni who also contested the poll under his Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) party dismissed the 1980 election results claiming results were rigged to favour Obote and moved to the bush, Museveni’s UPM came a distant 4th after UPC, DP, and CP.

December 1985, rebel government soldiers under Tito Okello and Bazilio Olara Okello overthrew Obote for a second time. The Okellos claimed they were ‘fed up” with the Luwero bush war against Museveni’s NRA guerrillas that was waging a bitter 5-year war that claimed at least 400,000 lives.

Museveni’s NRA surprised government troops who had lowered their guard by capturing Kampala and on January 25 1986, Museveni was sworn in as the country’s 8th president, he has been in power for a record 36 years.

Museveni, 78, is one of Africa’s longest-ruling strongmen and has made no plans for either retiring the way Nyerere did in Tanzania or Moi in Kenya. Nor has he groomed any successor but has concentrated power in his Ankole speaking tribesmen.

His son heads the army while his wife is education minister as his uncle is prime minister. Plus, a host of others many with close links to Rwanda’s Tutsi tribe. Is it possible that the landlocked country once described by British second world war hero Winston Churchill as the pearl of Africa can produce its 9th president through peaceful means? Only time will tell.

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