Gen Olara Okello given 15-gun salute

Monday February 16 2015

 

By RISDEL KASASIRA & SAM KOMAKECH

Kitgum- Gun fire shook the serene flat plains of Madi Opei, Lamwo District, in whose midst many sons and daughters of Acholi lie.

To the passerby and residents in far flung villages, the deafening gun sound could have been mistaken as resumption of the ebbing Lords Resistance Army rebellion that ravaged Acholi several years ago.

But this was the culmination of ceremonies by the Special Forces of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces to send off another of Acholi’s sons, Lt Gen Bazilio Olara Okello, with full military honours.

Under the command of Capt Moses Kaniini, the army accorded Lt Gen Olara Okello a 15-gun salute, in a reburial on Saturday afternoon.

Gen Olara Okello died in exile in Sudan on January 9, 1990, and was buried in Omdurman near Khartoum.
His remains were returned to the country last Thursday.
The reburial was attended by some UPDF top brass and local politicians.

The casket draped in national colours was heavily guarded by the military police, the same force that forced him into exile in 1986. A military drum was sounded 15 times before a red flag was raised to flag off the 15-gun salute.

Clad in ceremonial military attire, eight colonels “stood to attention”, tightly holding onto their swords. They drew them, pointed them into the sky as pallbearers led by Brig Charles Otema Awany carried the casket to the grave.

As the casket was lowered, a soldier sounded the bugle- the last post-to announce the demise of a general as part of the military burial ceremonies. The clergy led by Vicar General of Gulu-Archdiocese Mathew Odong led prayers for the repose of his soul.
The reburial invoked emotions among relatives and residents who lived when Gen Olara Okello and his men were in charge of the nation.

However, by granting him a befitting send off by his former adversaries, was a sign of reconciliation between his family and the current government.

Gen Museveni commanded the National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels, now UPDF, that toppled the UNLA troops commanded by Gen Olara Okello. When the NRA took power in January 1986, Lt Gen Olara Okello fled to Sudan where he sought asylum. He later succumbed to diabetes and was buried in Omdurman, Sudan.

Speakers described Gen Olara Okello as a courageous fighter.

Gen Olara Okello commanded troops that staged a coup against former president Milton Obote and was in charge of the country as de facto head of state between July 27 and 29 before handing over power to the Gen Tito Okello Lutwa.
Gen Olara Okello left behind two widows, 19 children and 31 grandchildren.

The salutes

According the commonwealth military burial customs, a four-star general is given 17 gun salute, 15 for a three-star (Lieutenant General), 13 for a two-star (Major General), 11 for a one-star (Brigadier). A President is given 21-gun salute.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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