Away and back home. Dr Adriko is a historical member of the NRM, who by the time he retired from politics had become deputy Prime Minister. The chancellor of Kyambogo University tells Sunday Monitor’s Henry Lubega about life in exile and his way back to the government.
Dr Eric Tiyo Adriko found himself going to exile in 1979 because of his tribe not his connection with the regime then. As the 1979 Liberation War gathered steam, people from West Nile were to pay the price of the regime that had become a smoldering edifice.
With all that had happened in the country during the nine years of Idi Amin’s rule, some of us were guilty by association or by tribe.
Just because we came from the same region with the then president, we were deemed guilty of the regime’s atrocities. That was the situation in 1979 and by then I had no strong political inclination, but the popular belief or the conventional wisdom was that people associated with Amin’s tribe were Anyanya.
A good number of us coming from West Nile felt threatened that a new group was coming in and we were likely to be in danger. By then not only those in Kampala had fled but even in West Nile, the region became depopulated.
Even the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) Refugee Status Reports of 1980 showed that the biggest contingent of refugees at that time came from Uganda, more than one million Ugandans were in exile by then.
By this time, I had established a consulting firm called Adriko and Associates Consulting Engineers in 1971. This was immediately after my return from England where I had completed a PhD in mechanical engineering. I then started the faculty of Technology at Makerere University in 1973 and also opened up a distillery in my home town of Arua.
As the war raged, the message coming out from the public was like fire which could not distinguish between dry and green grass. What mattered to the public was one coming from the same region as Amin was. One had no belief to say me I was good I have no reason to flee the country. We were all guilty by tribe.
I did not wait for Kampala to fall, so in late February 1979, I left the country with my family by road to Kenya, and fortunately the journey was not eventful.
All that I went with was the intellectual property, which enabled me and my family to survive in a foreign country. For those who were in Kampala, Kenya was the nearest destination.
Initially, we were at the mercies of our friends as we looked for ways of finding our bearings. My only advantage was that I was one of the nine Ugandans who represented Uganda at the East African Legislative Assembly. Others were Senteza Kajjubi, (later professor) Sebana Kizito, Ntege, and Nyeko.
It was mainly Kenyan friends who came to our rescue to start a life because many of the Ugandans there were needy.
One such person was a gentleman called Kieni Who was the manager of Fair View Hotel who accommodated me and my family for the first night. With the intellectual property as my only asset in hand, I set up another consulting company in association with some Kenyans, and that’s what kept me going for the 10 years that I spent in exile until the fall of Obote’s second regime.
However, while in exile you can hardly divorce yourself from exile politics, and that’s what really helped us get back home because we could not stop thinking about home.
In 1979, we formed the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) in Sudan with Moses Ali (now General) as its chairman and I as the secretary general, with the biggest membership concentration in Sudan. The aim of the front had nothing to do with Amin but to get back home. Our being from West Nile had nothing to do with Amin; people didn’t like us calling us Anyanyas.
As the secretary general, I was responsible for reaching out to other organisations that had similar interests of coming back home. This was about two to three years before the conventional fighting forces were on the ground.
When other forces came into being, we got in touch with them, making Nairobi a very strategic place for us to coordinate our operations.
Earlier the UNRF was not that conventional as people were spread in different parts of the world. I was in Kenya, the chairman was in Pakistan, and the fighters were in Sudan although the bulk of them were within West Nile. This made coordination difficult.
At first, we were working alone, until 1982 when we established a working relationship through a memorandum of understanding with Yoweri Museveni’s group then called Movement for the People for the Struggle of Political Rights (MOSPOR). I signed on behalf of UNRF and Matthew Rukikaire signed on behalf of MOSPOR.
Subsequently, there were meetings following that signing of the memorandum, leading to the final meeting where an agreement was to be signed at Bony Katatumba’s residence in Nairobi to form National Resistance Movement but unfortunately that meeting did not take place at the last hour. Many people had gathered there, including Moses Ali, Emilio Mondo, BarakiKirya, Francis Bwengye, SamNjuba, and I.
Under the understanding with MOSPOR, we organised with Amama Mbabazi ,who was very instrumental, to have a European TV crew from ITV come and shoot a documentary in West Nile to be broadcast in Europe as a way of publicising our cause to the rest of the world.
Our bulk of fighters were concentrated in West Nile and we managed to construct an airstrip to help with the delivery of supplies.
The former army commander, James Kazini, was our liaison officer between the forces and those who were not on the battlefield, and he later became a link between our group and the NRA forces.
As Tito Okello-Lutwa moved to take over Kampala in 1985, there was cooperation between our men on the ground and his group and when Kampala fell, we were allowed to return home.
But it was not only UNRF that was invited. There were other groups that came, including that of [Francis] Bwengye and of Nkwanga. It looked like Lutwa meant well to stop the fighting by calling all the warring parties to Kampala for negotiations.
During that time, we were invited at Sheikh Kamulegeya’s home in Kibuli. While there, Museveni ,who was still in the bush, rung and said he knew where we were and he was going to blow us up as he thought we had betrayed the agreement we had signed with his group in 1982. When NRA was about the get to Kampala, we were informed and towards the New Year’s Day of 1986, we met in Libya for talks between UNRF and NRA.
When the Musevenis captured Kampala in 1986, the leadership of UNRF was invited to State House Entebbe for talks with the President on how to join the government. After the State House, negotiations, a frame work of our return was instituted.
The framework allowed our forces to integrate with NRA; we also got a memorandum of understanding allocating certain positions in the government to members of UNRF. So I fully came back home in 1989 and was appointed to the Constitutional Commission and in the same year, I joined the Cabinet as minister of Industry and Technology. I would also join elective politics when I represented Vurra Country in the expanded National Resistance Council (NRC).
From then on, I was active in politics until 1995 when I was the fifth most important person in the country (as the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister) I then decided to concentrate on my vocation as an industrialist.
The reason I decided to leave elective politics was that after the presidential elections were done, majority of the electorate in my constituency did not vote for Museveni. I had conflict of honour. I decided that if my constituency was not willing to vote for the person I was going to work with, the it was not tenable for me to stand.
Had Museveni won in my constituency, then maybe I would still be in active politics up to now but I am happy where I am now pursuing my dream.
Who is Dr Adriko?
The son of a police man, Adriko was born in 1941, and became second deputy prime minister and minister of public service from 1995 to 1996. He also served as third deputy prime minister and minister of lands, housing and urban development from 1991 to 1994.
Earlier in 1989 when he joined cabinet, he was appointed to the Constitutional Commission and also became the Cabinet as minister of Industry and Technology.
He is a founding head of the faculty of technology at Makerere University in 1970.
Adriko attended Vurra Primary School in Arua and Jiako Primary School. He proceeded to Arua Junior Secondary School from 1955 to 1956 and emerged when he sat for his Junior Leaving Examination in 1956 as the overall best candidate.
That earned him a bursary from the district and Madhivan Foundation. He was admitted to King’s College Budo where he again stood out on academic credentials. After King’s College, Budo, Adriko joined Queen’s Mary College London. Where he studied for his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from 1963 to 1966.
Adriko was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study his Ph.D in mechanical engineering at the same university under a fast-track scheme that let him go on without first getting a masters degree. He is also executive chairman of the West Nile Distilling Company.
Adriko is married with five children whom he loves dearly. In his leisure he plays golf and reads books. His formal installation as Kyambogo University chancellor was on February 11, 2005, in a ceremony the president attended.
Adriko was the president of Uganda Golf Union between 2008 and 2009. He is also the Founder/Chairman of Adriko Group of Companies and sits on numerous boards for blue-chip companies in Uganda.
During his tenure as UGU President, he crafted the Vision 2020 Corporate Plan. It was overwhelmingly passed by the UGU executive. Vision 2020 holds that Uganda will produce a PGA champion by the year 2020.