People & Power
Lt Col Ogole: The man who gave Museveni’s NRA a bloody nose
Posted Sunday, May 11 2014 at 01:00
On April 30, 2014, Lt Col John Charles Ogole died in a London hospital of prostate cancer. The man, who fled the country 29 years ago after the Obote II government fell to mutineers, has been living in the UK. Sunday Monitor’s Faustin Mugabe profiles the man who forced NRA rebels out of Luweero to the Rwenzori mountains.
Even in death, Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Ogole’s battle with Museveni’s regime is not about to end. From the Luweero Bush War, to running to exile and now in the casket, the wish of Ogole was never to deal, in whatever way, with Museveni. And that is why his family decided to hold his funeral service in London yesterday and keep his body there until further notice despite earlier reports that the body would be flown into the country on May 17 and buried on May 19.
“John’s body will be kept in London until the appropriate time comes when he can be buried at his home in Loro Atidi in conditions that fulfill his dying wish,” the statement issued by Ms Margaret Apio, Col Ogole’s younger sister, read in part.
On April 30, 2014, Colonel Ogole died in a London hospital. He succumbed to prostate cancer which he had battled for some time, according to his relatives. Ogole, who first fled to Tanzania when the Obote II regime fell to a military coup on July 27, 1985, had been living in London.
Although little is known about his rise through rank and file in the national army of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) which was formed in 1979 after the fall of the brute president Idi Amin, what is well documented and known is that Ogole commanded an operation designed to rout out the National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels led by Yoweri Museveni operating in the Luweero Triangle in central Uganda.
On February 6, 1981, Museveni launched a war against Obote’s government on the pretext that the December 10, 1980 general election had been rigged in favour of Obote.
From as early as March 1981, every effort was made to defeat Museveni and his ‘bandits’ as Obote often called the rebels; but to no avail. Instead, the rebels were attracting more and more converts into their ranks; as the war theatre also expanded in territory almost every month.
In September in 1983, Major General David Oyite-Ojok launched an operation to defeat rebels in Luweero. The orders were to capture or kill rebel leader Museveni.
On the evening of December 2, 1983, the operation commander and Chief-of-Staff Major-General David Oyite-Ojok died in a helicopter crash in Luweero. His death not only demoralised the soldiers, but also precipitated the tribal rift in army that partly engineered the 1985 coup.
With the death of Oyite-Ojok, Obote, like most African leaders then, wanted a ‘home pillar’ to lean on militarily. Ogole, then a captain, a fellow Langi, suited the slot because he also had the desire to annihilate the rebels from Luweero since a win over the NRA rebels would guarantee a long life of the UPC regime. Ogole, an American trained soldier, was thus assigned to start from where Oyite had stopped.
In the military you don’t credit your enemy neither do you accept his account of events especially the death toll. Ogole, unlike retired Brigadier Bernard Rwehururu did in his book Cross to gun, in which he revealed how he commanded soldiers of the Uganda Army (UA) during the 1979 war that killed hundreds of thousands of the invading Tanzanian forces around the Sembabule sector, the world shall never know how deadly he was during the many battles he commanded against the NRA rebels because he never published a book to reveal his side of the story in Luweero.
Nevertheless, it is remembered that because of continuous attacks from the Special Forces commanded by Ogole, the NRA was forced to withdraw first from Bulemezi to Ssingo and later from Bulemezi in Luweero to Rwenzori Mountains far in western Uganda.
In the Uganda People’s Defence Forces magazine Tarehe Sita of March 1998, Major (now Brigadier) Proscovia Nalweyiso revealed of the war situation in 1984 which forced them to withdraw to Rwenzori Mountains from Bulemezi in Luweero during a trek that lasted a full month.
They started the journey on March 24, 1984 and reached Fort Portal on April 24, 1984 to evacuate the sick, women and elderly to the Rwenzori.
She said: “Hari erikuwa mbaya’ translated as ‘the situation was dire”. Nalweyiso added: “Others were allowed to go back to Luweero with the help of the Red Cross”. This was after the rebels had come under continuous shelling by the enemy forces commanded by Ogole. Beside, Ogole had used the scorched-earth policy to deny rebels as well as the locals, food. The locals were the source of cattle and food stuffs that the rebels depended on.
If Ogole had published his encounter with the rebels in Luweero, his book would have been a good comparison with President Museveni’s Sowing the Mustard Seed book. On page 160, President Museveni wrote of the NRA encounter with Ogole.
He said: “On our way back from Hoima, we learned that Obote had launched another offensive in the areas of Matugga and Singo. This Obote’s third major offensive was led by John Ogole using 5,000 soldiers… The enemy flooded the area with several units dug in.
Well defended units like these were dangerous to attack and in any case, they would yield us no spare guns, so wherever possible, we ignored them, preferring to bypass their positions and attack the areas behind them”.
It is clear from the Sowing the Mustard seed that after the death of Oyite-Ojok, it was Ogole and his special brigade that gave NRA headache.