Mustafa Adrisi: The man who defied Amin to save students

Monday July 29 2013

Gen Mustafa Adrisi (R) with his son Adrisi Toto at Mulago hospital, where

Gen Mustafa Adrisi (R) with his son Adrisi Toto at Mulago hospital, where he was admitted in February with chest pain and sugar imbalance. The former Vice President during Idi Amin’s regime, died yesterday. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KIGGUNDU 

By TABU BUTAGIRA

Former Vice President Mustpha Adrisi, 91, died yesterday morning at Mulago Hospital, where he had been in critical condition for days.

The cause of his death was not immediately clear, but he had previously suffered from diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer, according to family members.

His burial is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

Profile

“If any government has very bad intelligence operatives who churn out misinformation to victimise people, such a government would be on a time bomb and regret its actions in the future, when they are irreversible”.

These were the words of wisdom that Gen Mustapha Abataki Adrisi, who died at Mulago hospital yesterday, shared with the Daily Monitor in February 2008, as he walked down the memory lane to chronicle his eventful life of serving as Vice President to Idi Amin, and the underlying reason their government crumbled in April 1979.

Adrisi only studied to the level of lower primary. He, however, had a trail-blazing military career through which he was parachuted not just to army commander but also VP, the country’s second most important political office.

It was luck, but at a cost. The feat slapped at his doorway after surviving two attempted assassination plots: The first in a stage-managed car accident in Mukono in 1976 in which he fractured his leg and sustained a deep cut to the face, and a failed trap in Murchison Falls National Park.

By the time of the second attempt, the former VP was on a security radar for allegedly scheming to topple Amin; an accusation he said was made up by foreigners, who dominated the Intelligence services.

Dozens of Congolese and Sudanese nationals at the time occupied the top echelons of Amin’s dreaded security and intelligence outfits, including the State Research Bureau, creating competition and rift with the President’s kinsmen in equally top positions.

Intrigue, therefore, became a high value currency for bypassing protocol and trading security as well as political business.

According to Adrisi, power-obsessed top military and intelligence gurus became uncontrollable and unilaterally picked up, killed or made individuals they had scores to settle with - sometimes over women or just ownership of a nice car – disappear, and justified the murders to Amin, and he accepted them, as necessary in the national security interest.

It is on this basis that the ex-VP was to be killed in Murchison Falls Park as he headed to wed his wife Sauda, but a contact within security leaked to him information about the trap, and he avoided taking the West Nile highway that branches off Karuma and instead plied to Yumbe via Gulu, Adjumani and Yumbe.

He cheated those planned deaths to live up to the ripe age of 91, but his final years on earth were of discomforting bother; spending most of the better part of the last couple of years in-and-out of Mulago hospital’s Private Wing ward, debilitated by diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer.

Old age too exacerbated his failing health.

“Yes, he died [yesterday] morning,” the hospital spokesperson, Mr Enock Kusasira, said, but declined to disclose cause of his death, arguing that doing so would be “unprofessional”.

Although Adrisi was a Muslim, his burial will not be rushed as would under Islamic custom because of his eminent status. The government, which has been footing his hospital bill, decided to accord him a State funeral.

“He was a very nice and wonderful person who loved peace; he was patriotic,” said Koboko MP Ahmed Awongo, in whose constituency the deceased will, according to preliminary arrangements, be interred on Wednesday.

Daring leader
Adrisi’s daring acts included defying Amin in 1976 and ordering the release of about 26 Makerere University students, including the then Guild President Olara Otunnu, from incarceration at Makindye Military barracks for spearheading a demonstration on campus against government excesses.

“The Vice President said these are unarmed students, why have you imprisoned them at the barracks and surrounded the university with armoured military vehicles?” recalls Arua Resident District Commissioner Ibrahim Abiriga, then a military police officer.

He visited Makindye barracks, overlooked a parade mounted to honour him, and directed the Commandant, Col Gabriel Yuga, to ensure the detained were on campus by the time he reaches Makerere to address them. And it happened.

The late Adrisi’s contemporaries are fast diminishing. That perhaps explains why the government assigned deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali, a military General and former Finance minister in Amin’s cabinet, to coordinate his burial arrangements.

Gen Ali was reported throughout most of yesterday chairing meetings at his Kampala offices between government officials and Adrisi’s family to hammer out the burial arrangement.

To Mr Abiriga, the General has gone to rest: “God has done good to take him because he has suffered a lot with complicated sicknesses. “Let us pray for his family, and that his soul rests in peace.”

Upon return from exile from Sudan in or around 1987, Mustapha and his large family lived a fairly quiet life, and on monthly state stipend, in the Anyafiyo suburb of Arua town.

The government offered him a Land Cruiser and paid up tuition for his children.

In return, he often canvassed votes for President Museveni during elections, helped broker the peace deal with Maj Gen Ali Bamuze-led Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) II rebels and it was understood Museveni consulted him before appointing people from West Nile to some key government positions.

“I did not have a personal problem with him even when he was our army commander,” Gen Bamuze, who was absorbed into UPDF after abdicating rebellion, said of Adrisi’s leadership.

His body is expected to lie in State tomorrow before burial in Keri, Koboko District, close to the border with Yumbe District, where the ex-vice president hailed from.

Timeline
1951: British colonialists draft Mustapha Adrisi Abataki into army, trains at Nanyuki in Kenya.
1952: Promoted to Lance Corporal and later Corporal after additional training in Nakuru and participating in suppressing Mau Mau rebellion.
• Moved to Police Cadet Trainee’s school in Entebbe as Regimental Sargent Major, promoted to Lieutenant while on leave.
• Moved to Captain after re-training by Israelis.

Appointed 2IC for Mbarara barracks.

Served as Instructor Military Police and 2IC for Mbuya army h/q.

1971: Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, skipping rank of Major.

1973: Made Colonel and Brigade Commander in Mbale. Appointed Lt Col and Chief of Staff of Uganda Army.

1975: Elevated to General and Army Commander, skipping three ranks of Brigadier, Maj Gen and Lt Gen, later appointed Vice President and Defence minister.

April 1979: Amin is overthrown, Adrisi flees to Sudan.

1987: Returns from exile and lives in Arua on state stipend.

2010-2013: In-and-out of Mulago hospital with diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer.

July 28, 2013: Dies at Mulago hospital.

[email protected]

Advertisement