In part nine of the series on the fall of Idi Amin's military government, Timothy Kalyegira explains why killings and robbery continued to thrive even when Amin whose regime many blamed for the monstrous evils: -
In the previous part of these series, we read a statement by President Godfrey Binaisa in which he expressed the collective outrage of the National Consultative Council (NCC) – Uganda’s interim parliament – at the former president Yusufu Lule’s claim that elements of the new army, the UNLA, was behind the rampant murders of prominent Ugandans. ***image1***
Lule (RIP) was removed from office on June 20, 1979. The former attorney general in the late 1960s, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, was selected to replace him. At a charged meeting at State House in Entebbe, Binaisa was hastily chosen.
Two rounds of voting were taken and Binaisa defeated Prof. Edward Rugumayo in the second round by 11 votes to 8. Since Prof. Rugumayo, the chairman of the NCC, had been among the most vocal in calling for Lule’s impeachment and was now contesting for the presidency, it should be asked of him if his opposition to Lule was out of principle or because, like any other politician, he simply wanted Lule’s job.
In a December 13, 2007 interview with The Weekly Observer, Yona Kanyomozi, an NCC member in 1979, said, “We also wanted a person with knowledge of how a government works. That is when we brought in Godfrey Binaisa.”
After Binaisa was sworn-in, he was driven to the Nile Mansions Hotel (now Serena Kampala Hotel) in a Mercedes Benz 600 presidential limousine. Seated in the car next to Binaisa was the Minister of State for Defence, one Yoweri Museveni.
In the 1970s, a Ugandan exile Andrew Kayiira founded the Uganda Freedom Union (UFU) to fight the Amin regime. The chairman of the UFU was Binaisa and the Secretary-General was the former Makerere University Guild President Olara Otunnu.
Binaisa, of course, was the attorney general who rose to national notoriety in 1966 when he advised and helped draft the April 1966 “pigeonhole” constitution on behalf of Prime Minister Milton Obote.
On July 2, 1979, the deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Kayiira, addressed a press conference in Kampala.
Speaking deliberately and cryptically, Kayiira said, “People do not understand why Lule was removed and according to public opinion, this was the first step in bringing back Obote.
People have all along, since Lule’s removal, taken it that Binaisa is the wrong man because he too will probably be booted out by the Council (the NCC) in a similar way and Obote will be given the chair… It is very difficult to join up people who were not working together before and hardly knew one another.”
In these intriguing words, Kayiira told journalists that Lule had not been removed because of any major abuse of power.
Binaisa had not been selected to replace Lule as a stooge to “warm the chair” until former president Obote returned one day to power, as most Ugandans believed.
According to Kayiira, clear from these words, the whole effort at achieving a united front to succeed Idi Amin had been a marriage of convenience. ***image2***
Unknown to Ugandans, behind the scenes there was a bitter struggle for power and, Kayiira was telling Ugandans, this so-called Uganda National Liberation Front experiment would not last.
As we have just seen, Prof. Rugumayo was part of the move to oust Lule, only to forward his name in the rounds of voting to succeed Lule. Binaisa was now the president of Uganda. And the killings continued.
July 10, 1979, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Paulo Muwanga, addressed himself to the wave of killings in Uganda at a press conference in Kampala.
“On the crime wave which has involved many killings, Mr Muwanga attributed it to some elements who have ganged themselves for political or economic reasons to bring about disorder in the country. Some killings, he said, were the making of the members of the so-called Uganda Underground Liberation Movement (UULM) whom the minister accused of freeing prisoners – most of them deadly – at Luzira during the demonstrations,” reported the Uganda Times on July 11.
For the first time, a senior government official put a name to the people or organisation behind the murders and a possible reason they were being orchestrated.
On July 12, 1979, President Binaisa met a number of doctors from Mulago Hospital, the main national referral hospital located in Kampala.
The meeting took place at State House, Entebbe. The doctors had a heartbreaking story to tell the president.
Dr James G. S. Makumbi, the Medical Superintendent of Mulago, told the Uganda Times in an interview that the killings of prominent Ugandans by unknown gunmen had now entered a new phase, with some doctors having been killed in Kampala.
The following day, July 13, Binaisa flew to Havana, Cuba, to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit.
A statement read over Radio Uganda said, “In his [Binaisa’s] absence, Mr Yoweri Museveni will be responsible for all government affairs.”
On July 15, three Mulago employees, the Assistant Security Officer, Samuel Katumwa, and two ward maids were walking back home from duty that Thursday night when they were shot dead by unknown gunmen.
That was when doctors at Mulago decided to go on strike.
In a statement the doctors said they would not return to work until the government addressed the security situation in the country.
On Wednesday night July 18, 1979, armed men went to the home of Dr Jack Barlow, along Akii-Bua Road in the Nakasero residential district of Kampala and shot him dead. He was the brother of the Inspector General of Police, David Barlow.
On July 20, Betty Mugerwa, Namugayi Muganwa and two young children Eddie Ddiba and Mary Clare Mugerwa, were shot dead by unknown gunmen.
On July 23, the home of the Chief Registrar of the High Court, Matthias Sendegeya, was attacked. A one Kalebu who resided in the house was stabbed to death by the attackers.
The assailants, when offered money and other possessions, said: “We have come to kill and not to rob.” On July 26, Dr Abuden Obace of Mulago Hospital was shot dead at his home along Malcolm X Avenue in Kololo, in Kampala, along with a relative, Olut, who was a student at the Veterinary Training Institute in Entebbe.
Narrating the ordeal, a visitor to the Obace home, Margaret Abeja, said, “They asked me whether I recognised them and when I declined to answer, they retorted, ‘We are members of the movement and we are on a mission. We have killed the person we wanted.” (Uganda Times, July 28, 1979)
The killers had told Margaret Abeja that they were “members of the movement”, thus confirming what the Interior minister Paulo Muwanga had told the July 10 press conference.
The wave of killings was orchestrated by an entity that called itself a movement or “the movement.” Could there be a clue in that?
On July 26, Wilson Magale Wobudubire was shot dead at home along William Street in Kampala.
The murder of Dr Barlow, apart from being a deeply personal tragedy, got the Inspector General of Police, David Barlow, thinking even more intensely about the violence that had engulfed Uganda since Amin’s fall.
The director-general of the newly formed National Security Service (NSS), the intelligence agency that replaced the State Research Centre (or Bureau as it is most commonly known), James Nasimolo, was a former GSU intelligence agent in the 1960s.
Nasimolo and other top NSS directors like Amon Bazira and Musoke Mutesarira wondered about this violence.
The director of Military Intelligence in the UNLA in 1979, Capt. Francis Agwa, had like Bazira and Nasimolo been a GSU agent in the 1960s.
They puzzled over the rampant murders. Clearly, this was politically motivated. That the killings, car-jackings, and armed robberies were being staged to create an atmosphere of anarchy in Uganda, there was no doubt.
But who could be behind it and what did they hope to gain? The one man who had all the answers to these puzzling questions of the violence and murders now taking place in Uganda on a daily basis, was none other than the ousted president Idi Amin.
Throughout his rule, Amin kept insisting that he was not killing Ugandans, but having been branded a mass murderer himself, nobody believed him and Ugandans angrily thought he was trying to put the blame on somebody else.
In that final broadcast on Radio Uganda on April 10, 1979 before going into exile, Amin pleaded with Ugandans to take his word for it that he was an innocent man and that he had set out to make Ugandans a happy, prosperous, and independent people, not to murder the very people who had shown him such warm support at the time of his coup in January 1971.
Ugandans, as naïve in 1979 as they still are in 2009, had welcomed the liberators from Tanzania believing that they were about to enter a period of peace and prosperity.
Yet here they were with bodies on the streets of Kampala every morning, daily funerals, and the sound of gunfire night after night and nobody could explain why exactly what had been going on under Amin, in the same way, had continued well into the UNLF governments of Lule and Binaisa.
There were very few people in 1979 with the presence of mind to ask a simple but profoundly disturbing question: could the people now gunning down citizens have been the same people who, all along, were murdering and kidnapping people in the Amin days?
This leads us to the questions I have been asking since 2007 while challenging Ugandans to compile a list of only 600 names of Amin’s victims.