What you need to know:
Confidant. In late 1970, Gen Idi Amin while at a mosque in Kayunga District said he feared nobody but God. This was at the peak of the tribal row in the army. The “I fear nobody but God” quote became so popular that some people believed Amin was too brave a soldier to run away from any battle. But he was exposed during the 1979 war, when he fled Uganda for fear of death and capture by the invading forces of the Ugandan exiles and the Tanzania army. Abdul Hamid Jumba-Masagazi, his confidant and former minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, escaped with him.
When the enemy forces during the 1979 war had reached Kampala City, Idi Amin fled Kampala to Arua through Jinja, Mbale, Lira and Gulu.
He then flew to Libya, a day after the fall on Kampala, April 11, 1979.
Among those he flew with from Arua airstrip in West Nile was his confidant and former minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Abdul Hamid Jumba-Masagazi.
The 77-year-old shared the events of the day they fled into exile.
“I was also trying to flee to Kenya but I was stopped at Malaba [Uganda-Kenya border] by the State Research Operatives. They told me they had an order from president Amin to bring me back and that I was to be killed if I refused. So they brought me to Jinja and the following day, took me to Arua and then together with Amin, we went to Libya,” Jumba-Masagazi said.
But while he said he could not remember others passengers on the plane to Libya apart from Amin and some of his family members, he recalls that the number of passengers was about 30 or so; which corresponds well with the figure given by other witnesses this reporter spoke to in West Nile who were present as Amin fled.
Asked what the mood was like during the flight, Jumba-Masagazi responded that there was hardly any conversation during the Arua-Tripoli non-stop journey in a C-130 military jet offered by the former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi to evacuate Amin and his immediate family.
“When we reached Libya, we were given a house to stay. We breathed a sigh of relief. But we were heavily guarded. There was no going out. We were like prisoners,” he narrated. But later, Amin, perhaps out of anger or frustration told Jumba-Masagazi to return to Uganda. “Amin sarcastically told me, ‘go back to Uganda, the Baganda will give you a job. They are back in power’.”
It was at this time that Jumba-Masagazi decided to go to Saudi-Arabia where he had contacts. “I got a job with the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia. Its president Mohammed Ali was my friend.”
But because of the poor working relations with other senior employees partly because of his colour, after two years, Jumba-Masagazi went to West Germany where he stayed until 1985 when he returned to Uganda.
In 1986, the NRM established a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violation of human rights in Uganda from October 9, 1962, to January 25, 1986.
During the hearing, Jumba-Masagazi was accused by the commissioners of concocting a letter allegedly written by former president Milton Obote while in exile in Tanzania to Archbishop of Uganda Janani Luwum asking him to join and propel a war against Amin’s regime.
It was this letter that in February 1977, led to the death of Luwum and two other ministers Erinayo Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi.
For that, Jumba-Masagazi was imprisoned but later released. When this reporter asked him about the said letter, he denied knowledge of it.
But when this reporter insisted that he admitted to the inquiry having written the fake letter but on Amin’s orders, Jumba-Masagazi said: “I don’t remember. But I could have said that.”