People & Power
Why Oyite-Ojok and Museveni developed bad blood in the ‘80s
Posted Sunday, December 22 2013 at 02:00
Thirty years later. In this second part of our three-part series on the life and times of Maj Gen David Oyite Ojok, one of Uganda’s most celebrated military men, Sunday Monitor’s Timothy Kalyegira looks at why the man who met an untimely death in 1980, developed a bad relationship with Museveni.
When the Uganda Army invaded Tanzania in late 1978 and Tanzania declared war on Uganda, Kikoosi Maalum, the pro-Obote’s fighting group, was one of the exile forces that joined the Tanzanian army and Jeshi Wanainchi (JW) militia.
Lt Col Oyite-Ojok, along with the former commanding officer of the army’s artillery school at Masindi, Col Tito Okello, led Kikoosi Maalum while the former General Service Unit (GSU) intelligence operative, Yoweri Museveni, led the second major group, the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA).
As Amin’s government fell on April 11, 1979, Oyite-Ojok was among the advance Tanzanian units in Kampala. He was asked to make the announcement of the fall of the regime but did not know how to go about the protocol.
Standing in the streets of Kampala, he asked a telecommunications engineer, Chris Opio, to get him through to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by phone. With all radio and telephone links cut off at that time, Opio set up the phone link and Oyite-Ojok spoke to Obote.
Announcing Amin fall
He explained that he was in Kampala and sought Obote’s advice on the announcement over Radio Uganda. As Obote dictated the message, Oyite-Ojok scribbled the words on an envelope he was handed by a soldier.
That was how millions of anxious Ugandans on April 11 came to hear Lt Col David Oyite-Ojok announce that the “fascist regime of Idi Amin is no longer in power.”
At the swearing-in of the cabinet of president Yusufu Lule at the Parliament Buildings in Kampala, Oyite-Ojok, dressed in battle fatigues and wearing a steel helmet, was introduced as the new Army Chief of Staff.
Following the ceremonies at the Parliament, Oyite-Ojok was lifted shoulder-high by the crowd and paraded through the streets of Kampala. When the liberation forces reached the town of Lira in Oyite-Ojok’s Lango place of birth, a crowd also lifted him shoulder-high.
It is not clear if these public displays of affection for Oyite-Ojok were the spontaneous reaction of a grateful public unable to believe that the Amin nightmare was over, or they were somehow staged to reinforce Oyite-Ojok’s military and war hero image.
According to former president Obote, writing in 1990, Museveni, who had been one of the leading anti-Amin guerrillas in the 1970s, had badly wanted to be the one to issue the announcement of Amin’s fall and when he heard Oyite-Ojok make the broadcast, Museveni, at that time in Fort Portal with the western axis of the liberation forces), lost his temper.
From this point on, there grew a rivalry between Oyite-Ojok and Museveni in the post-Amin UNLF government and army, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
Starting in late May 1979, just weeks after the fall of Idi Amin, a wave of insecurity gripped Kampala.
There were almost daily car robberies, break-ins into shops, mysterious fires and even more sinister, the systematic gunning down of prominent bankers, civil servants, medical doctors, army officers, engineers and others in the respectable professional ranks.
A rumour started spreading -alleging - that this hooliganism was the work of Oyite-Ojok, the new Minister of Internal Affairs Paulo Muwanga and a UPC stalwart Chris Rwakasisi to make Uganda seem ungovernable and by that, prepare the way for the return to power of Obote as the only man who could restore the peace and order.
Other reports, by the UNLA military intelligence and police, claimed that these acts of banditry and violent robbery were actually being perpetuated by Museveni’s FRONASA in order to blame them on these pro-Obote loyalists and thus deepen the Baganda’s and other Ugandans’ hatred of Obote in order that he never stands a chance of returning to power again.