People & Power

A witness’ account of Col Ogole’s last day in war

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Gen David Sejusa and Ogole (R) in a meeting i

Gen David Sejusa and Ogole (R) in a meeting in London last year. courtesy photo 

By  JOHN MUTO-ONO P’LAJUR

Posted  Sunday, May 11  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

When Maj Kizza came back from briefing Col Ogole, he deployed three of us, under his commander, to drive in one of our office cars, to the front line of government forces still loyal to Obote at Kafu River Bridge on Kampala-Gulu High way, at the junction to Masindi town.

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GULU- I was a personal assistant to the Director of Military Intelligence and Security, Maj Louis Richard Kizza, after we came out from two years of training in various disciplines. I even accompanied him on his first mission to identify the site for setting up the base for 50 Brigade headquarters, which we identified at Katikamu Sub-county headquarters, near Wobulenzi Town Council in Luweero District.

At Katikamu, I was in-charge of the Military Intelligence room and my daily briefing included, but not limited to, updating operational map, receiving intelligence reports/messages from all UNLA units deployed across Luweero Triangle, processing and writing intelligence briefs for the Director on Intelligence Services, interrogating and writing statements of prisoners.

I would accompany the Brigade Commander whenever he moved out to visit the UNLA units under his command with Maj Kizza by his side, during which visits we sometimes survived NRA ambushes.

On this particular day, Friday, July 26, 1985, the 50 Special Brigade headquarters had already been transferred from Katikamu near Wobulenzi Town to Bombo main barracks. All prisoners, who had been transferred to Bombo when we left Katikamu, had either been released to go home or transferred to Upper Prison, Luzira.

The day was just like any other working day for me, which begins with checking messages, updating map and writing intelligence briefs for my boss. There were two disturbing facts: “All the units sent in “N.T.R” reports, meaning there was nothing to report about”. This was not usual, because almost at all times in the past, there was something to report about NRA movements and activities.
Karuma fall
The second disturbing fact was that the mutineers, who had begun marching in a convoy from Gulu in northern Uganda en-route to Kampala to capture power from Milton Obote, had already crushed through Karuma Bridge roadblock and had captured Masindi Military Barracks without any resistance that night.

When Maj Kizza came back from briefing Col Ogole, he deployed three of us, under his commander, to drive in one of our office cars, to the front line of government forces still loyal to Obote at Kafu River Bridge on Kampala-Gulu High way, at the junction to Masindi town.
At about 11am, we were already at Kafu Bridge, chatting with the soldiers at the front line.
“Go and tell Ogole that we UNLA soldiers are not going to fight with fellow UNLA soldiers. For us at the front line here, reconnaissance groups from the two sides meet and even drink kwete (local brew made from maize flour).” One soldier told us. When we returned to Bombo barracks at around 2pm, we filed our report and quoted the soldier verbatim and our director took it to Col Ogole, who was with the Chief-of Staff, Brig Smith Opon-Acak, at the Command Post.
I think there were a series of consultations between Bombo and Kampala after our report, because at around 5pm, we began to see anti-air-craft guns and the soldiers, led by their unit commanders, who were deployed to fight the NRA in Luweero Triangle, coming back from operation against NRA to Bombo barracks.

At around 6pm, Brig Opon addressed the troops, and he ordered them to deploy their guns on Gulu highway to face the new threat coming from Masindi. Their target was to defend Nakasongola barracks at all costs, not to let it fall to the mutineers. “Myero wayeru kwidi ki ii obwol”, he said in Luo, meaning “We must sort out the bad ones (Maggots) from the good ones (mushroom) so that the mushroom could be eaten”.

By 7pm , after the troops had begun to be deployed according to the new order, both Brig Opon and Col Ogole left Bombo barracks together by road to Kampala. They were accompanied by Maj Kizza, my immediate boss. This time, I was left in Bombo- something which was unusual. That was the last time I saw the two senior UNLA officers, but not the last order from Ogole.

Bombo barracks that night was left in the hands of the Administrative Officer (Admin Officer), Maj Mityero (a Mugisu). Under him, was the Regimental Sergeant Major (RM) Okwir a.k.a. Karak. He is the father of a Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) Senior Officer Paul Lukech. There was no electricity in Bombo that night and a quiet and tense atmosphere prevailed over the barracks with most soldiers eagerly waiting to join hands with the mutineers, who were expected to reach Bombo barracks within the next two days, judging by their speed of movement.

As we sat waiting in the dark with a group of soldiers and discussing the mutiny, I was suddenly called to the Admin’s office by the RSM Okwir. This was about 11pm. In the office, I found Maj Mityero with a bag full of operational fund money of the Brigade which was not yet spent on his desk. It was Shs23 million.

He said I was to accompany him to Nile Mansion in Kampala that very night to take the money to Col Ogole, who, he said, was waiting for the cash at Nile Mansion urgently. I did not hesitate, nor went back to my office to pick up my gun, but I said, “let us go.” I had my pistol on, and was wearing full military uniform and army shoes.

Without suspecting their motive, the group of soldiers with whom we were chatting tried to highjack the money by standing on our way.

Maj Mityero, who was on the steering wheel, panicked when he saw the group of soldiers standing on his way, but I literally ordered him to drive straight into the group because I knew they would not fire a shot because they wouldn’t want to cause commotion in the barracks. The trick worked and we drove straight to Nile Mansion without incident.
Ogole nowhere
Once at the Nile Mansion, we introduced ourselves and the receptionist ushered us into a room from where we would wait for Col Ogole. It was already past mid-night when we arrived at our waiting room. Although Maj Mityero was in constant communication with him through walkie-talkie, Col Ogole, who would always ask us to wait for him patiently, never showed up and by morning, I could not wait any longer.

By 8am the next day, Saturday, July 27, 1985, I requested to travel back to Bombo by public means (taxi) because I wanted the mutineers to find me inside Bombo barracks. Maj Mityero drove me to the Wandegeya-Gayaza roundabout and gave me Shs4,000 for transport back to Bombo. That was the last time I saw him.

A police Land Rover then came and we drove towards Bombo, with the hope that I would reach safely. I was wrong. Just as we turned the corner to the junction to Bombo Town Council road block, we saw the convoy of the mutineers already lining up to march to Kampala. It was too late to turn back and I asked the driver to drive on to the mutineers and park in front of them without fear.

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