I will hand over the Jeep to my son

Thursday September 02 2021
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Okee says his Jeep, which he drives thrice a month, once towed a 10-tonne truck of charcoal. PHOTO /Roland R. Nasasira

By Roland D. Nasasira

Dusman Okee’s love for Jeeps was born in 1978 when he approached and touched Ali Fadur’s Jeep. 

Fadur, who had visited the Simba Battalion Barracks in Mbarara, then gave Okee a coin to buy sweets after sitting in the car.

About three years ago, Okee the Pader Resident District Commissioner crossed paths with Jean Tooley as he went about field work in Karamoja Sub-region. Tooley had brought a 1971 Jeep on a hunting expedition in Moroto District.

“I asked him to consider me first when selling off the Jeep.  It was not well maintained and I spent Shs12 million to give it its current look,” Okee recalls.

This involved repainting it green for two reasons; attractiveness and originality because like the Hummer, the Jeep is associated with the military.

Car history

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According to Okee, World War I had challenges of transportation of military weapons and soldiers. The Allied powers of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union together with the German army used heavy trucks that could not easily maneuver through the rough terrains of the war jungle.

One of the engineers, Okee narrates, invented the Willys Jeep and that was how the Americans started manufacturing the car much later. It was tested and found not only to be swift, reliable and could carry heavy artillery but soldiers also were in position to mount a machine gun on it. It would also tow heavy war weapons into battle fields.

Following the Willys franchise, different car brands such as Ford acquired copyright to reproduce the Jeep. But Okee argues that most reproduction was done by Mitsubishi whose Jeeps were mostly used during the America-Vietnam war because of their high reliability levels.

Features of the car

Okee’s Mitsubishi Jeep runs on a 2600cc engine size. It has both the two wheel and four wheel drive systems, and the extra lock drive which gives it extra power to go through any kind of rough terrain. Each tyre in the two wheel drive operates independent of the other, more like a hand grabbing from different angles.

“When you engage the lock drive system, this car will drive out of gullies or trenches. Once, I towed a 10-tonne charcoal truck that had got stuck by engaging its lock system,” Okee recalls. 

Its speedometers maxes out around 140km/hour but the maximum Okee has driven it is 100km/hour. Even then, he says it remains very stable, strong, attractive and reliable and covers 10km using one litre of diesel.

“It was originally built to perform. Its strength gives it reliability for stability. Being a manual car, it can easily be repaired anywhere by anybody as long as they have knowledge of car mechanics,” Okee says.

Apart from the windscreen that can be collapsed, one can mount a tarpaulin to serve as a car roof if needed. The only feature Okee’s Jeep lacks is the modern Google map.

 “It also has four gears, with the fifth being the reverse mode. The unique aspect about this Jeep is that you can easily engage the reverse mode when you fail to move forward and use its strongest reverse gear to move. I enjoy its power and performance more when I drive off-road. I once crossed a swamp with it and the water reached my waist area. I only suffered with washing off the mud,” he says.

Jeep, the ladies wine    

Three categories of people love Okee’s Jeep; women, children and those above 70.

“When I drive this car, many people especially young girls and women crowd all over it and take selfies. Some women ask for my contact in presence of their husbands to schedule a ride in this car but I hope it I does not one day break people’s marriages. I do not know why women love this car,” Okee explains.

Bonding with civilians

Apart from Covid-19 (the front number plate is VACCINATE to create vaccination awareness) Okee uses the Jeep to demystify the belief that the army is not detached from civilians.

“Army men come from civilians and there has to be a bond and close relationship between the two parties. It is why I allow the public to take photos on the car whenever I drive it,” he says.

Socially, when Okee’s mood is down, driving the Jeep is the antidote. The smiles he receives from the public are enough to lift up his moods. He drives it thrice in a month with his children and sometimes soldiers on board.

“All my children love the car but I will reserve it for my son when he grows up. He has seen how people admire the car every time I drive it and I am sure he will keep it dearly because it is here to stay,” Okee concludes.

He spends Shs480,000 on service and maintenance every two months. Oil is what consumes the lion’s share of service and maintenance. 

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