Uganda remembers pioneer diplomat Odaka

Thursday August 6 2015

Uganda’s Foreign minister in the Obote II

Uganda’s Foreign minister in the Obote II regime, Sam Odaka (2ndL). File PHOTO 

By Henry Lubega

Kampala- Uganda Peoples Congress party on Tuesday woke up to the sad news of the passing of Sam Odaka, a long-time member and one of the founders of the Milton Obote Foundation.

Odaka’s brother Chris Bwire said his brother succumbed to kidney failure at Kampala International Hospital, bringing an end to an illustrious 83 years of service to his country.

“We are in grief as a family,” said Mr Bwire.
As the country’s first Foreign Affairs minister, Odaka is credited with building the country’s diplomatic core from nothing.

He served as Foreign Affairs minister from 1964 to 1971 in the Obote 1 regime. When the Obote 1 regime was overthrown by Amin in 1971, Odaka fled the country and became part of the struggle to overthrow Amin.

After UPC’s win in the 1980 general election, Odaka served in the new government as minister for Planning and Economic development.

During the late 1960s when Obote and UPC announced the move to the left, a number of people, including UPC MPs, who owned businesses, feared their investments would be affected by the new socialist-inclined economic policy it was left to Odaka to go public and appealed to the people not to put wrong interpretations on the Common Man’s Charter.

However, despite his efforts, the new policy was not fully implemented and the new government was overthrown less than a year after pronouncements of the move to the left.

During his tenure as Foreign Affairs minister, Odaka represented Uganda during the talks in Addis Ababa to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, now African Union (AU).

He is credited for having extended a helping hand to Kabaka Edward Mutesa who had been forced into exile. He offered to remit funds from the Kabaka’s assets in Uganda to England as long as the Kabaka accepted the authority of the new government.

His colleague in the then government Henry Makmot says, “Odaka was a brilliant and resourceful individual, who established Uganda’s relations with the rest of the world from nothing”.

In tribute to Odaka, Uganda People’s Congress long-term member Yona Kanyomozi, who served as minister of Cooperatives in the Obote II regime, says: “I met him when I was a student in London and he was a minister in the Obote I government. I later served in Obote II government with him.
He did a lot in the formative years of the nation to establish our foreign affairs credentials.” He commends Odaka: “He did his best as minister of planning given the situation we were in after Amin.”

Mr Kanyomozi also describes Odaka as a liberal and free-spirited politician with sharp intellect who enjoyed his life to the fullest.

Another colleague, Mr Makmot says Odaka left a more lucrative career with fuel giant Esso to join politics.

“Him and a number of other people joined politics to serve the country and they served well,” says the former deputy finance minister in the Obote II regime.

Odaka was one of the founders of the Milton Obote Foundation, the business arm of the UPC party. He went on to serve the Foundation in different capacities for 40 years. By the time of his death, he had retired as chairman of the Foundation.

There will be a vigil at his home in Mbuya, a Kampala suburb and a funeral service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero, Kampala tomorrow.
Fare the well Sam Odaka.