AboutUs Home CHAT forums AboutUs Feedback CHAT Specials Disclaimer Sitemap Disclaimer
Kampala Hotels & Gorilla Safaris




Offers affordable



For your


November 15, 2007
Generals Tito, Bazilio Okello sold fish, charcoal in Tanzania

Former presidential candidate and legislator AGGREY AWORI has twice been in exile. In our continuing My Life in Exile series, he tells MICHAEL MUBANGIZI how he escaped from house arrest after the 1971 Amin coup to flee to Kenya. Awori also narrates how former president, Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa, fell on hard times while in exile in Tanzania and resorted to selling dry fish in order to make ends meet.

Aggrey Awori

In my case exile wasn’t a matter of choice. I was forced to go abroad because of the inhospitable political circumstances. I had been almost declared a person engaged in subversive activities against the state, so I had to find the quickest exit out of the country.
Besides, seeing harassment against the opposition and people of the same political thinking, I definitely had to go.

I had been under house arrest for about six months after the January25, 1971 Idi Amin takeover. I was then Director of Uganda Television (UTV) and basically the person in charge of national media. Announcing change of government those days had to be done on Radio Uganda and UTV. It wasn’t like these days with a number of TV and radio stations.

So Amin’s soldiers came saying they wanted to make an announcement on the radio. It was rather late, around 11p.m., so I told them I had shut the station and it wasn’t possible to make the announcement.

They arrested me and took me to Lubiri, which was then called Malire barracks. Some of the people I had been arrested with, like Col. Arach and Mathias Omuge who was my Operations Manager, were immediately killed on arrival at Malire.

I survived because somebody recognised me as having been seen with Idi Amin before. So they called Amin, asking whether they should continue holding me.
Amin said, “No, no, that one I know him.”
So they took me back to Command Post in Kololo under heavy armed escort. A decision was made that I should be kept in detention for a certain period. It was essentially house arrest in my house at Kololo for about six months.

After that, we made arrangements with friends in government and outside Uganda to leave for Kenya.
The escape
My house keeper who was from West Nile - I am sorry he is dead - contacted some of his friends within in the army. My friends, like Maj. Gen. Francis Nyangweso and the late Fred Ojambo, also facilitated my exit. They arranged for me to be taken to what is now Gadaffi barracks in Jinja.

When we reached Jinja, we just escaped.
We changed vehicles from Jinja up to Busia.
From Busia I found my brother in-law waiting for me. We crossed in his car up to Nairobi.

We had already made contacts with people in Kenya through various methods. Notwithstanding the fact that there had been a coup, Amin didn’t interfere with telecommunication. You could still make phone calls outside the country, which was very unusual.
Whenever one seized power in the 1970s, one would cut off all external communication but Amin never bothered. He was so confident at the time.

In Kenya, my brother-in law kept me in his home for a while before I was transferred to join my family. They thought I had been killed.
My family had earlier escaped to Kenya during the coup.
My wife was teaching at Makerere University at the time. People like Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, helped her to find a place to stay until they found an exit out of the country.

Meeting Obote
The first thing I did on arriving in Nairobi was to reach out to President Obote in Dar-es-Salaam. He was absolutely sure that he wasn’t out of power. He was very, very confident but a little bit traumatised at what had happened.

He had always said he wasn’t afraid of his army, but on reaching Singapore (where he was attending a Commonwealth conference when Amin overthrew him), that statement wasn’t holding water any more.

Miria’s escape
Obote’s plan was to have his family join him. So we made contacts for the safety and travel of Miria Obote and her family who were still in Uganda.

They had earlier escaped to Nairobi but Daniel arap Moi sent her and her children back to Kampala under very strange circumstances.
We were worried about her safety. We didn’t know what was going happen to her, so we organised a few people to get her out of the country clandestinely.

One of those people was an ambassador who was later killed, and Edward Oculu, who was a Clerk to Parliament. He is now a senior official at UPC headquarters. They brought her to the Busia border and we picked her from there with her children and took them to Nairobi.
Some friends of Obote, like the late Chief Justice of Kenya Kipri Mwendwa and wife Winnie Mwendwa, hosted her and her children in Nairobi for about one month before we arranged for them to join Obote in Dar-es-Salaam.

Amin was running into problems with his people, like Capt. Kenneth Onzima and others. There were problems between Christian and Muslim officers who had carried out the coup.
They were getting a bit nervous about death and we were trying to make contacts with such people in Amin’s camp so that they could make a counter coup. We contacted one Col. Ochima who actually made an effort to overthrow Amin but was overpowered and killed.

(Asked about the source of discontent among Amin’s men)
There were massive extrajudicial killings of Acholi and Langi officers which created concern, and in so doing gave us allies.
We also made contact with some of Obote’s key ministers, like the late Information minister Alex Ojera and James Wakholi, who were subsequently killed. We also contacted a few technocrats who we knew Amin needed to sustain the regime. We were trying to find who was where and who can do what.

Later in 1972, Amin expelled Asians. We thought it would make the British government a little bit favourable to our cause. Together with the Israelites, they had helped Amin come to power. So we thought with the expulsion of Asians (some of who were of British origin), they would have a second thought. But the British seemed not bothered at all.

Poor invasion
People who supported us included former presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. We didn’t have allies in West Africa. Our biggest ally was Nkrumah who had been overthrown in a coup earlier.

A number of senior officers, especially Acholi and Langi had escaped to Tanzania. So it was a question of regrouping. We were using Kenya as a transit camp. Immediately we crossed to Kenya, we would make arrangements for them to proceed to Tanzania for recruitment.
Unfortunately, by then the East African Community, some of whose prominent members were helping us, was disintegrating.
The East African Airways was, for instance, staggering yet we were using their plane as part of our invasion plan during the September 17, 1972 invasion.

The September 1972 invasion was mismanaged and ill-planned. You can’t organise an army or any group of armed people within one year. Then we relied on Tanzania to help us yet it couldn’t because it had its own internal problems. For instance, it was involved in Mozambican and South African struggles; taking care of a huge number of refugees from those countries was an extra burden.

Unlike later in 1979 when Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) was involved, in 1972 it wasn’t involved at all. Besides, the job didn’t look so big as to require a foreign army. We thought events like the 1972 expulsion of Asians had made Amin unpopular which wasn’t true. Then Kenya wasn’t helpful. Nairobi had even refused Obote to live there in exile.

Then a number of our people in areas like Tabora, like the late Bazilio Okello, hadn’t been under a disciplined command for more than a year. For a year or so, they hadn’t been fighting or training and some of them weren’t even soldiers. How could you suddenly bring such people to a war front?

For instance, Alex Ojera who had been Minister of Information, was a hunter. Then people like my late friend Picho Ali weren’t soldiers but political activists.

Then Yoweri Museveni claimed that he had more than 3,000 fighters in Uganda trained in Mozambique under FRELIMO, and that the only thing missing was guns. But when people reached Mbarara, his fighters weren’t as many as he had promised. They were less than 100, sufficient for a surprise attack but not to sustain an offensive.

Many former Uganda army soldiers were with us in Tabora but organising logistics to move them to the border wasn’t easy. The way we moved our fighters to Arusha Airport to be airlifted to Entebbe was even more amateurish.

We thought the plane would move from Dar-es-Salaam, pick up fighters from Arusha, then come to Entebbe under the element of surprise and take the airport, but things fell apart in Arusha. The pilot crash landed even before we had left. Another group under Bazilio and Minister Alex Ojera and my late friend Picho Ali went by road to Mutukula.

There were about six lorries of about 500 soldiers, which was a serious underestimation. The overall organisation of the invasion was under Obote. He was the main link with Nyerere. Tanzanian did not have any other person in mind apart from Obote.
(Asked whether Obote was a uniting or divisive factor)
May be after the abortive 1972 invasion.

But from January1971, up to the time of the abortive invasion, he was the titular head. After the invasion, things disintegrated; people went into different directions. The intellectuals looked for jobs. I was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. Museveni was teaching at Moshi Co-operative College.

The soldiers were almost looking like internally displaced persons (IDPs) - burning charcoal, growing food, doing business.
For instance, Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa was selling dry fish in Tanzania. Bazilio Okello was making charcoal. People had been reduced to the basics. There was inactivity for five years until Amin’s 1978 invasion of Tanzania.

The Tanzanians hit back by pushing Amin’s army to the border in Mbarara and Masaka districts. They wanted to pull back but then they said, ‘we can’t live this man around. He has to go’. A decision was made that Ugandans should take over the offensive and fight their way back home with the support of Tanzania.

Kikosi Maalum
That is when Kikosi Maalum (Special Force) was formed. It was more or less a combination of soldiers in exile, supported by TPDF.
I didn’t join Kikosi Maalum. I was in the background coordinating intelligence, gathering information with people like Yonasani Kanyomozi and Tarsis Kabwegyere.

Kabwegyere had joined us in Nairobi but he was uncomfortable with Nyerere. They still believed Nyerere was trying to impose Obote on Uganda.

People like Prof. Dani Nabudere who had been appointed to a senior position in the East African Community (EAC) were bitter with Obote who had expelled them from the party. Museveni was also not comfortable with Obote. Later, even Nyerere began getting more inclined to Museveni.

You see for five years we were idle. Obote hadn’t been doing much; he was just seated in Musasani House. That brought discontent among more revolutionary elements like Museveni.

Moshi Conference
Moshi Conference took place in 1979 and that is when Prof. Yusuf Lule became president. It was total confusion when it came to formation of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) government. That is why Lule didn’t last long.

I didn’t attend Moshi. I wasn’t very keen on the UNLF government. There was a lot of antagonism against Obote’s people. Besides, I thought Moshi wasn’t going to work. There were a lot of people who were in the forefront of Moshi who hadn’t been helpful in the struggle against Amin. Others had just left Uganda and now were at the forefront of things, sidelining a lot of people.

People like Kabwegyere condemned Nyerere, saying he invaded Uganda in 1972. He was not keen on a military approach.

In comes Binaisa
Binaisa came in after that palace coup against Lule. They were looking for someone who had national appeal and who had not been in the previous government. Binaisa was called from the reception room and told, ‘there is a vacancy here.’ I would say the person who gave Binaisa the job was Yona Kanyomozi. Kanyomozi was part of the National Consultative Council (NCC) and is the one who proposed Binaisa’s name.

After the ceremony, Binaisa went back to Europe to pick his things. That is where I met him. He encouraged me to come back home.
I consulted with Obote who said, “Yes, Binaisa is our man, support him.” I came back and worked in State House, handling intelligence.
Binaisa came into leadership without preparation. He didn’t have a political party. Neither did he have a manifesto covering what he intended to do. He was like somebody who suddenly is behind the steering of a vehicle but whose destination he doesn’t know.

In leadership of a country, one relies on three main things: military muscle, things like democracy and ballot box, and a political party.
Binaisa didn’t have all these qualities and I can’t blame him because you can’t blame a poor man for not having money.

Then he made three changes which were ‘fatal’; the removal of Oyite Ojok ( he was Chief of Staff) and making him Ambassador to Algeria, the transfer of Museveni from the Ministry of Defence to Regional Affairs, and the transfer of Paul Muwanga from Ministry of Defence to Labour.

These were key people you just couldn’t push around. Museveni had his FRONASA network within UNLA. Muwanga had his UPC network within UNLA. So he didn’t correctly read the clouds. More so, senior army officers like Bazilio Okello and Tito Okello felt they were being marginalised.

I was working closely with TPDF and I knew what was happening in UNLA. Actually, there was even a plot to assassinate Binaisa by certain elements within UNLA.

Second exile
I contested the 1980 elections (in Nakawa) and lost to DP man Ojok Mulozi, but I continued to work as UPC chairman for Kampala district.
While there, I had problems with the UPC leadership, particularly Luwuriza Kirunda (former Minister of Internal Affairs and UPC Secretary General).

He had become very powerful and some of us didn’t want to accept anybody who wasn’t a military man. He tried to arrest me using police and the Inspector General of Police who was my OB rang me and told me of the plans. He alleged that I was trying to overthrow government.

By that time, Obote was in Lusaka, Zambia. When he came back he was told and decided to send me to Washington as ambassador to cool down things. From Washington, I went to Brussels as ambassador.
Museveni took over when I was in Brussels.

I continued working with him for six months before I fell out with him. Events at home showed that I wasn’t welcome. First, my personal effects which I had dispatched from the Brussels Embassy to Uganda were seized on arrival. Some people claimed that I had guns. I had been in charge of acquisition of guns and I had sent all guns that I had bought and these were received by Museveni’s government. But some people thought I had remained with some guns for some unknown motives which wasn’t true.

So he (Museveni) called me back, but I didn’t come back. That time communication wasn’t easy so I never talked to Museveni about the allegations directly.

At that time there were rumours that former UNLA soldiers, especially from the east, were being harassed by Resistance Committees. So these people-soldiers put up their own fight but let us leave that part.
Anyway, I stayed there until 1991 when I met Museveni with Jim Muhwezi who was then Director General of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).

Museveni was going to Brazil for the Eco-Tourism Conference. He told me to come back home. I dealt with Muhwezi and within two weeks I was in Uganda.

I later met him (President Museveni) at State House. That was the time we were preparing for CA elections. I contested in Samia Bugwe and won. (I was re-elected in 1996 and 2001, until 2006 when I lost.)

Exile isn’t a luxury at all. I pray that no body ever goes into exile because of economic and political hardships. Even for the brief period I was in New York, I had a TV, was making good money but in a foreign country you are still a number. You aren’t Awori as such. If you drop dead on the street, they say one nigger has died.

Whatever differences you have with the powers that be, better sort them out through discussion not through firepower. Political violence isn’t a substitute for pursuit of power.
Right now the people abroad are mainly in self- imposed exile, most of them for economic reasons. But I have no regrets for having been in exile. It is an experience you don’t want to forget.



State House borrowed Sheraton cooks
Chogm roads mess
Onzima tests FDC's resolve
Businessman wants to return Muslim land
Zimbabwe a good case of Africa's failed democracy
Otafiire fails to sort out Ssembabule mess
Peer review: labour conditions appalling


Cranes form-guide
Breakfast at Nakivubo’s
Disabled all through
Arrested development
Maroon-ed in murky waters
Table turned in basketball
Csaba in numbers


Untitled Document
Untitled Document