UGANDA POLITICS :THE TUMULTUOUS 1966 CRISIS

In the run- up-to the 2021 general elections ugandaupdatenews.com will publish historical accounts of Uganda’s political and governance journey by a team of our experienced correspondents .

By William Okidi

  • Daudi Ocheng and 1966 political debacle
  • An Acholi and Member of the Buganda Lukiko (Parliament )-1925-1966)
  • Member of the Buganda Lukiiko, Member of the National Assembly.
  • An Agriculturalist.

Daudi Ocheng was a son of Rwot Lacito Okech (who was appointed Rwot (Chief) of Lamogi Chiefdom by the British and Acholi Lukiiko Council of Chiefs on 1/11/1923, serving until December 1935 when he was removed from office. 

By virtue of his background, Ocheng joined King’s College Budo (an elite college established by the Church Missionary Society in 1906 to educate sons and daughters of Kings) where he struck up a friendship with fellow student Edward Mutesa, heir to the Buganda Kingdom. 

This friendship would endure to the top of Ugandan politics, as Mutesa assumed the Kabakaship and subsequently the presidency of Uganda by virtue of an alliance between the KY (Kabaka Yekka) Party and UPC headed by Milton Obote who became executive Prime Minister in 1962. Daudi Ocheng, an Acholi, had unprecedentedly been elected to the Buganda Lukiiko and also to the National Assembly (Parliament), given his closeness to the Kabaka, and played an instrumental role in bringing about the KY-UPC alliance.

Daudi Ocheng studied Agriculture at Makerere University and Agricultural Economics at the University of Wales Aberystywth. 

The tumultuous events of 1966

Daudi Ocheng is best known for moving a motion (which was passed) in the National Assembly on 4th February 1966 (having been raised before, unsuccessfully in 1965), accusing the then deputy commander of the Uganda Army, Colonel Idi Amin, Prime Minister Obote and two of his ministers (Felix Onama, Minister of State for Defence) and Akbar Adoko Nekyon (Minister of Planning and Community Development) of participating in the illegal looting of ivory, gold and coffee from Congo and sharing the booty. Amin had been engaged in Congo during the civil war that broke out there.

Ocheng further alleged that he had been given a copy of Colonel Amin’s bank state of an account he held at the Ottoman Bank and that it had 340,000 UGX cash deposited, and that this sum was irregular and likely to be proceeds from the Congo loot. Ocheng further contended that The Hon. A.A. Latim, MP, the Hon. Oda, MP and Hon. J. Obonyo, MP also had first hand evidence of this matter. 

Of his motion, Daudi Ocheng boldly asserted: 

“Mr Speaker, If I live to be a hundred years, or if I live for another hundred hours, this motion will be my one of the most outstanding contributions to my country” – Hon Daudi Oceng, 4th February 1966.

Prime Minister Obote was on a tour of Northern Uganda for ten days and did not immediately respond to these allegations. When he did, he categorically denied them and also denied he had plans to abrogate the Independence Constitution. 

Obote then established a Commission of Inquiry to look into looting allegations. It was headed by Justice Sir Clement Negeon de L’Estang of the Court of Appeal of East Africa, with Mr Justice Henry Ethelwood Miller, of the Kenya High Court, and Mr Justice Augustine Saidi of the Tanzania High Court, as commissioners. Mr Godfrey Binaisa, Q.C, was the Attorney General of Uganda at the time. 

Ocheng initially left for London and was accused of avoiding to testify and had also been threatened with libel lawsuits by the accused.  He eventually appeared before the Commission on 14th March 1966, testified and was cross examined. 

The Commission found no evidence to support Ocheng’s allegations, and agreed that the monies in Amin’s bank accounts were paid in by Congolese revolutionaries for Amin to purchase non-military supplies for them. The Commission also found no evidence of plots by the Prime Minister and some of his ministers and Colonel Amin to overthrow the Constitution or the government of Uganda. 

At this time too, a section of UPC MPs opposed to Milton Obote led by Grace Ibingira were plotting Obote’s downfall via a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, and even a coup. They had on board Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Opolot. Uncoordinated troop movements commenced in Kampala at this time of high intrigue. 

Convinced a coup was in the works, Obote acted with swift decisiveness and ruthlessness to snuff it out with a counter coup! During a cabinet meeting on 22nd February 1966, he had five of his cabinet ministers arrested. They were ring leader Grace Ibingira, Mathias Ngobi, Dr Lumu, Cuthbert Obwangor, and George Magezi. Obote then promoted Colonel Amin to Chief of Staff and Brigadier Shaban Opolot made CDF, a demotion. Obote then dismissed Mutesa as President (Ceremonial), suspended the 1962 Independence Constitution and assumed all executive powers. 

On 15th April 1966, Obote called an extraordinary meeting of the National Assembly, surrounded it with the army and tanks and demanded members pass a constitution they had not seen or debated. They were asked to pick it from their pigeon holes on their way out. This became known as the Pigeon Hole constitution.

In other sweeping changes, The Buganda Lukiiko was banned from raising taxes from Mailo land and also appointing civil servants to government. 

Matters continued escalating and on 20th May 1966, the Buganda Lukiiko voted to expel Obote’s government from Buganda soil. 

Obote once again moved swiftly and arrested the Baganda Chiefs behind the Lukiiko vote, and in a coup de grace, dispatched Colonel Idi Amin to attack the Kabaka’s palace in Mengo. After a day of fighting, Mengo fell; hundreds of people were killed in the battle. The Kabaka managed to escape, eventually ending up in London where he’d die of alcoholic poisoning in 1969.

Momentous events and upheavals for the then young nation. 

Daudi Ocheng whose motion triggered these events and had also correctly prophesied the impending overthrow of the constitution, was diagnosed with stomach cancer and sent to London for treatment. 

He returned to Uganda and died on 1st June 1966, the real cause of his death being unknown, according to his younger brother, Martin Aliker, writing in The Bell Is Ringing, 2018, p100, Fountain Publishers.

Mr.William Okidi is a scholar based in London

@ugandaupdatenews.com correspondents

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