Engola: A giant tree has fallen in Lango

Col (rtd) Charles Okello Engola Macodwogo (Late). Photo/ Courtesy

What you need to know:

Leaders in Lango say the State minister for labour was a no nonsense man who helped bring peace to the region.

He was a man of truth, a bulldozer and peacemaker. These are the words used by some of his constituents to describe Col (rtd) Charles Okello Engola Macodwogo, the Member of Parliament for Oyam North, Oyam District, who was gunned down at his residence in Kyanja, Kampala, yesterday morning.

The State Minister for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations was shot dead – allegedly by one of his bodyguards – at around 8am, bringing an abrupt end to his 64 years on earth. 

Col Engola was just boarding his official vehicle to go to work when the bodyguard opened fire from close quarters. The bullets struck him in the stomach and lower limbs, according to police. 

“He was shot at his residence in Kyanja by one of his bodyguards who allegedly fired several shots at close range. He fled from the scene up to the trading centre at Kyanja, Ring Road where he entered a salon and also shot himself dead,” police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, told journalists in Kampala.

As grief spread across Lango Sub-region at the shocking news of the colonel’s fatal shooting, Mr Geoffrey Ocen, Amolatar LC5 chairperson, mourned Engola, saying Lango is deeply saddened by the tragic events of yesterday morning. 

“A great tree has fallen and Lango is poorer for this loss,” Mr Ocen, whose district, like Oyam, was also carved out of the older Apac District between 2005 and 2006, said.

 “I convey the deep sympathies of the Amolatar District local government and the people of Amolatar to His Excellency, the President, Cabinet, his wife, children, the family, his clan, and above all the people of Lango,” Mr Ocen said in a statement. 

“We urge the government to do a thorough investigation about the motive of the murder. We are anxiously waiting as the people of Lango,” he said, adding; “May his soul rest in perfect peace in the bosom of the Almighty until the last day of resurrection, when we shall meet again. Amen!”

The district chair urged investigators to trace whoever the alleged killer had communicated with over the last 10 days.

Nobody knows yet what the motive of the shooting could be but rumours are swirling about how and why the minister was shot. 

Col Dr Francis Ongia, the chairperson of one of the government’s poverty alleviation initiatives, Operation Wealth Creation, in Amolatar, however, observed yesterday that there are rumours suggesting the bodyguard complained about unpaid salary.

“The soldier could be having medical or mental illness which was not detected early enough.  On this issue of salary I think the UPDF is trying its best to address the welfare of the troops better than ever before,” he said.

Col Ongia noted that this “soldier had not even spent two months with Hon Engola.  So, what pay would he have been demanding for? Haven’t you ever done a job freely for this country without pay?”

Although at times known to be fiery-tempered, the minister will be remembered for cherishing the truth, Mr Augustine Opio, a retired civil servant who worked with him when Engola was the area LC5 chairman.

“He didn’t like corruption and above all, he fought for peace during the insurgency in northern Uganda,” Mr Opio said.

Mr Charles Osendro, a youth leader in the Otikokin clan who worked closely with Engola, described him as “a bulldozer and a peacemaker”. 

Before his death, the deceased had deputised former Minister of State for housing, Sam Engola, as the Otikokin clan chief. In that role, he is remembered for striving for peaceful co-existence in the community.

“He was a no-nonsense man, a bulldozer and a peacemaker,” Mr Osendro said, adding that although Col Engola loved cracking jokes, he did look kindly upon troublemakers.

“Whenever there was a serious conflict involving clan members, he would be sent to handle it,” he added.

Mr Osendro said Engola will be dearly missed by many people, especially the underprivileged children whom he had been supporting in school.

“He did not only support his clan members, but gave a helping hand to anybody who approached him for help,” the Otikokin youth leader said.  

On August 18, 2018, Col Engola organised a thanksgiving ceremony. President Museveni was the chief guest and he spoke in glowing terms about the minister’s service to the country. 

Engola had been commanding officer of the army’s 501 Brigade in Opit, in present day Omoro District as the UPDF battled rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army. From the President’s speech, the colonel carried out this assignment with some distinction.

“I congratulate Col Okello Engola for fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army. Some people were supporting the rebels; they wanted Uganda to be like Somalia, to be like Congo, to be like South Sudan.  The result of a country being like that is what you see. We have now got one million South Sudanese here in refugee camps,” Mr Museveni said at Tetugu Primary School in Iceme Sub-county.

The President noted that rebellion can destroy a nation. 

“These South Sudanese who are here, are they not wasting time? Instead of being in their country, building their country! Therefore, those who supported the rebellion were really wasting our time. This is apart from the people who died and so on,” the President said.

“So I want to salute people like Col Engola and other army officers and the Amuka boys (paramilitary), the civilians who said rubbish, don’t waste our time.”

His name Macodwogo, which in the local language means ‘the light or fire is back’, was telling of his character.  

He was a man of some courage who was also not shy about recounting his achievements, especially his efforts in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fight – which he felt had not yet been properly recognised. 

“The money that the government was wasting for fueling the tanks, mambas and buffalos (armoured fighting vehicles) to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army was saved by my intervention,” Col Engola told Daily Monitor in an interview at his office on July 22, 2014. 

“Many people have been given medals for their contribution to development in this country, Can you imagine, and nobody thinks about me.”

So, obviously beneath the conciliatory demeanoor was burning a fire of unrequited endeavour. Indeed, his passions at times got the better of him.

 Engola will be remembered for shooting dead three of his neighbour’s cows.

 The then Oyam District police commander, Okot Araa, confirmed the crime at his Awangi home village in Iceme Sub-county. The colonel was angry that the animals, which belonged to the late George Kuranimo Opota, were destroying his lemons, oranges and pineapples.

Also, former Inspector General of Government, Ms Irene Mulyagonja Kakooza, had recommended that appropriate action be taken against Engola for allegedly breaching the Leadership Code Act.

In a March 18, 2013 letter to the minister of Local Government and the Inspector General of Government (IGG) said Engola engaged in prohibited acts, contrary to section 12 (1) of the Leadership Code Act.  The section prohibits a leader in public office from accepting a contract from a government body which could result in conflict of interest.

 There were other run-ins with colleagues in authority. 

He one time exasperated then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga so much so that he was referred to the committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline for failing to present ministerial statements.

For a politician, Engola could be said to have just entered his prime.


He was born on October 12, 1958 to Chief (Jago) Nasan Engola and Ketula Engola of Awangi Village, Iceme Sub-county in Oyam District. He attended a local primary school in Iceme and, according to his profile on the website of  Parliament, he obtained his high school certificate from Soroti Secondary School. 

His first degree, a Bachelor of Development Studies, was awarded by Kampala International University (KIU) in 2010. His second degree, a Master of Public Administration and Management, was also obtained from KIU, in 2013.

It is not known when he joined the army but the colonel retired in 2007.  During the 2006 General Election, Okello Engola contested for the LCV chair in Oyam on the ruling NRM political party ticket. He won in a landslide getting 93 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2011, serving Oyam District as chair for a continuous 10 years.

In 2016, he was elected as Oyam North MP, a position he held until his death.

He was appointed Minister of State for Defence on June 6, 2016, replacing Gen Jeje Odongo, who was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs.

Five years later, the colonel was appointed State minister for Labour in 2021, a position he has occupied until his death. 

The late Col Charles Okello Engola Macodwogo is survived by a widow and four children.