Binaisa’s death ends chronicle of Uganda’s former presidents

Saturday August 7 2010

By Jacobs Odongo Seaman


Former President Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa’s death on Thursday means Uganda is one of only a handful of democracies without a living ex-president. Former Ugandan leaders General Tito Okello Lutwa, Apollo Milton Obote, Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada and Paulo Muwanga have all perished in the last 24 years.
Unusually, Godfrey Binaisa is the only one of the five on this list to have breathed his last on home soil. He had earlier in the 1980’s exiled himself in New York, US, where he practiced law and only returned to Uganda in the 1990s to become the first and only ex-president to benefit from the provisions of the 1995 Uganda Constitution.

Milton Obote (1925-2005)
With Obote, his surviving wife, Ms Miria Kalule, the party he founded- Uganda People’s Congress and a couple of Pan Africanists like journalist Andrew Mwenda who kept petitioning the government to allow him to return home. He never lived to see Ugandan soil again, and the two-time ex-president was only returned to Uganda in a coffin after he died of kidney failure in South Africa. He was living in Zambia. In August 2005, he announced his intention to step down as leader of the UPC. On October 10, 2005, he died. To the surprise of many, the late Obote was given a state funeral, which was attended by President Museveni.

Paulo Muwanga (1924 - April 1, 1991)
He was the chairman of the governing Military Commission that deposed Godfrey Binaisa on May 12, 1980. He was the de-facto President of Uganda for a few days in May 1980 until the establishment of the Presidential Commission of Uganda. He held the office of President of Uganda between May 22 and December 15, 1980. Among the members of the commission were President Museveni, Oyite Ojok and Tito Okello who had deposed Binaisa in the May 12 1980 coup. From August 1, to August 25, 1980, he served as prime minister. Following the elections on December 10, 1980, Muwanga installed himself as the head of the Electoral Commission and declared Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress the winner.

Gen. Tito Lutwa Okello (1914–1996)
He was a Ugandan military officer and politician. He was the President of Uganda from July 26, 1985 to January 26, 1986. He was one of the commanders in the coalition between the Tanzania People’s Defense Force and the Uganda National Liberation Army, who removed Amin from power in 1979. He was selected to be the commander of the Ugandan National Liberation Army from 1980 to 1985. In July 1985, together with Bazilio Olara-Okello, Tito Okello staged the coup d’état that ousted Obote. He ruled for six months until he was overthrown by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of President Museveni. He went to exile in Kenya, where he died on June 2, 1996. His remains were repatriated and buried at his ancestral home in Kitgum District. He was 82. In January 2010, Gen. Lutwa was posthumously awarded the Kagera National Medal of Honour for fighting the Idi Amin dictatorship.

Gen. Idi Amin Dada (1925-2003)
On July 20, 2003, one of Amin’s wives, Madina, reported that he was in a coma and near death at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She pleaded with Ugandan President Museveni to allow him to return to Uganda for the remainder of his life. President Museveni replied that the former dictator would have to answer for his alleged sins. Amin died in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2003 and was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah.

Prof. Yusuf Lule (1912 - January 21, 1985)
He is the former president known for two things: He ruled for only two months between April 13 and June 20, 1979. Besides this misfortune, he also died just before the NRA, with whom his Uganda Freedom Fighters fought alongside, came to power in 1986. Lule was the leader of the Uganda National Liberation Front and was installed as President after Amin was toppled. In June 1979, following a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced Lule with Binaisa. Out of office, he led UFF, a resistance group which joined with Yoweri Museveni’s Popular Resistance Army (PRA) in 1981. The two groups combined to form the National Resistance Army (NRA). Lule did not live to witness the victory because he had died in 1985 of kidney failure.


Sir Edward Mutesa II (November 19, 1924 - November 21, 1969)
He was Kabaka of Buganda Buganda from November 22, 1939 until his death. He was the 35th Kabaka of Buganda and the first President of Uganda. Mutesa was exiled by British Governor Sir Andrew Cohen in 1953 after he opposed the unification of British East Africa which composed of Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika.
After two years in exile, Mutesa was allowed to return to the throne under a negotiated settlement which made him a constitutional monarch and gave the Baganda the right to elect representatives to the kingdom’s parliament, the Lukiiko. Under the country’s new constitution, Buganda was a semi-autonomous part of a federation. The federal Prime Minister was Obote, leader of the Uganda People’s Congress, which was in a governing coalition with the dominant Buganda regional party, Kabaka Yekka. The post of governor general was abolished in 1963 and replaced by a non-executive president, a post that Mutesa held.

The coalition between Mutesa and Obote’s parties collapsed after the 1964 referendum which transferred two counties (Buyaga and Bugangazi) from Buganda to Bunyoro. This ended in a bitter war with Obote raiding the king’s palace and exiling Mutesa. Mutesa died of alcohol poisoning in his London flat in 1969. Mutesa’s body was returned to Uganda in 1971 after the overthrow of Obote. He was given a state funeral at Kasubi Nabulagala.