Forgetting Obote: Uganda's first president, Milton Obote died five years ago in Zambia. But he is almost forgotten by the world because his native country, under President Yoweri Museveni, wants it so, reports Tom Oniro from Kampala.

Author:Oniro, Tom

Apollo Milton Obote has most of the attributes of a successful leader ... There is a cool consistency about him, from the calm expression on his face to the solid purposefulness of his political career" Drum magazine observed in the 1950s.

Obote became prime minister of the then self-governing British Protectorate of Uganda amid much jubilation in May 1962. Prior to this, his arch-rival, Benedicto Kiwanuka, president of the Democratic Party (DP), had become the first prime minister when Uganda gained internal self-government on 1 March 1962 and ruled for just one month.

At the time, Uganda was neither a federation nor a unitary state; neither was it a monarchy nor a republic; it was blandly described as "the sovereign state of Uganda".

"The elevation of the Kabaka [King of the dominant Buganda ethnic group located in central Uganda] to president of the whole country in 1963 didn't produce the kind of unity Obote had hoped for," Drum reported.

"But a month later, in the second election, which was to pick a government to lead Uganda into independence," Drum continued, "the DP was resoundingly defeated and out of parliament went Benedicto Kiwanuka. He suffered from being a native of Buganda."

Kiwanuka was later to serve as Idi Amines chief justice before his mysterious disappearance in 1972, which has lasted to date.

Drum's archive is very useful here, for establishing that on 9 October this year, Uganda celebrated its 49th independence anniversary.

Obote's anniversary

It is also exactly six years since the man who should have been celebrated as a hero and founding father of the nation, Milton Obote, died (on 10 October 2005) in exile in Zambia.

In the mould of Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda and Guinea's Ahmed Sekou Toure, Obote was among the 32 independent African heads of state who met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to found the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 23 May 1963.

He was instrumental in establishing the Liberation Committee of the infant OAU. The Committee was charged with coordinating the liberation struggle in the parts of Africa that were still under colonial domination.

Indeed, Obote's strong Pan-Africanism and stinging criticism of continued white domination in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), together with apartheid South Africa, cost him two governments (in January 1971 and July 1985; he gained the unenviable record of being overthrown twice by military coups).

His criticism...

To continue reading