Apparently, a reluctant Egyptian pilot had to be commandeered and he was paid cash down in hard currency so that he could accept to fly the president’s children out of the country to safety. The bombardment was only 20 miles away then. The Boeing 707 cargo plane had recently come in from one of its expensive cargo transport flights taking coffee to the USA and he (the pilot) was very tired. It had no seats whatsoever.
So, some 60 to 80 seats were hurriedly placed in the plane to accommodate probably 60 persons who were given blankets against the cold emanating from the bare aluminum floor. I had actually been hurriedly discharged from Mulago Hospital following a sprain of my ankle and still had an itchy plaster on.
The Boeing 707 managed to take off under strange circumstances, due to the fact that artillery shellfire was now raining into the airport area. It was on the night of March 27! The bodyguards were forced to place four cars around the plane and they raced down the runway like lighting for the pilot until we were airborne!
What an uncomfortable ride to safety this was, all the way to Tripoli, Libya!
The plane ride to Tripoli was rough and uncomfortable. I have often reflected about what could have gone wrong with a plane that had no seats and was flown by a reluctant Egyptian pilot that had to be commandeered and paid in hard currency, before accepting to fly the President’s children out of the country to safety. I have often wondered what would have happened if the Egyptian pilot didn’t honour the hefty bribe he received from dad to fly us out of Uganda to safety but decided not to dwell on the predicament. Some say it was the fatigue that built the reluctance and no civilian pilot wants to work under a war situation, which was understandable under the circumstance.
We left behind some very prized items. I still see in my mind’s eye an ornate golden Mantle Clock left in my dad’s State House bedroom that had been given to dad by Tito of Yugoslavia on one of his last state visits to the Balkans. That visit holds a lot of meaning to me since dad had promised me that if my grades improved, he would take me on his next visit abroad. My grades did improve but my brother Lumumba was chosen on that particular trip and I remember my kid brother feeding a giraffe in the Belgrade Zoo on a photo shoot with the World War II hero. I remember asking my stepmother Mama Sarah if she had remembered to bring the Mantle Clock and she regretted that it had stayed in State House Entebbe.
Continues next week in Saturday Monitor.
‘Memories of our last hours in Uganda’
I will never forget the last days of our stay in Uganda due to the constant boom-boom sound made by the “Saba-Saba BM21” artillery fired into the capital Kampala by the liberators. Having been picked up from dad’s residence in Nakasero where we were residing at the time, we were all gathered at Command Post in Kololo, another of dad’s residences.
Then we set off in a convoy towards Munyonyo (Cape Town View) and used the Garuga detour towards Entebbe, coming out near Kajansi since some liberation troops had already cut off – and probably laid an ambush – on the main road probably around the Lubowa Estates area. We arrived at the old colonial residences (State House Entebbe), to await the planned flight to Tripoli, Libya.
Mama Sarah Kyolaba had preferred to stay at Nakasero Lodge in Kampala even though she and dad’s other wife, Mama Madina, previously jointly shifted to State House Entebbe, which has a better defense position following attempts to raid the Kampala residences by insurgents.
In 1978, Mama Madina had left for Iraq together with Mama Nabirye, the presidential bodyguard dad married the same year, 1978, for medical treatment. Mama Nabirye had previously been in residence at the Cape Town View Resort before leaving for Iraq.
Mama Madina had a detached retina while the expectant bride, Mama Nabirye, went for precautionary tests. After the fall of dad’s government, the two women ended up first in Central Africa then in Paris, France after the fall of Jean Bedel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic and dad’s friend, also in 1979.
My sister Zam Zam (Mama Nabirye’s daughter) was born in Bangui the capital of the Central African Republic on the night of the Military coup against Bokassa. Then she and Mama Madina left together for Mobutu’s Kinshasa in 1979 via Paris, France where Catherine Bokassa had taken refuge.
Friendship with gaddafi
Idi Amin and Muammar Gaddafi struck up a friendship. After Idi Amin’s government was overthrown in Uganda, Muammar Gaddafi welcomed him and his entourage into Libya where the Libyan government took care of them for several months. On the little known occasion relating to Amin threatening to walk to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if Gaddafi did not offer him safe passage to the holy land of Sunni Islam, Amin had felt betrayed by Gaddafi because Gaddafi wanted to be the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity in 1979.
To increase his chances of getting elected to the chairmanship of the OAU, Gaddafi had to “befriend” Julius Nyerere, the President of Tanzania who was responsible for Amin’s ouster from power in Uganda.