10 June 2018

Uganda: Obote Storms Nadiope's Home to Catch 'Coup Plotters'

One night in the middle of January 1966, prime minister Milton Obote showed up unannounced at Plot 22 Queen Elizabeth Avenue in Upper Kololo, Kampala, which was the official residence of the vice president of Uganda, Sir William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope.

Sir William, as he was popularly known, was besides being the vice president of Uganda, the Kyabazinga of Busoga and vice president of the ruling Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party.

The prime minister's impromptu arrival at close to 11pm should not have been a cause for concern. After all, they had been buddies since days of the struggle for Uganda's independence.

During campaigns ahead of the April 25, 1962, elections, Nadiope had gone around Busoga where he introduced Obote as his adopted son. This helped UPC sweep the vote.

They had also worked together during the UPC conference in Gulu in 1964, which saw John Kakonge lose the post of secretary general of UPC to Grace Ibingira.

However, so much water had flown under the bridge in the years after that they were by early 1996 no longer the closest of friends. Obote's visit, therefore, came as a surprise.

Among those that were ordered out of the house and into their bed chambers was Patrick Miyingo, a budding programmes' presenter and Lusoga news anchor on Radio Uganda.

Miyingo was not related to Nadiope, but destiny, a common tribal heritage and shared political beliefs had conspired to bring them together.

Nadiope had helped him, albeit inadvertently, to get his radio job. The slot had been held by Frank Nabwiso, a young sympathiser of the Democratic Party in Busoga sub-region who also had his ancestral roots in Bulamogi County, home of Nadiope's rival for the Kyabazingaship, Henry Wako Muloki.

A few days prior to his departure for Rome where had been nominated to represent Uganda at the October 18, 1964, canonisation of the 22 Ugandan Martyrs by Pope Paul VI, Nabwiso reportedly went on air and questioned Nadiope's academic credentials and those of the prime minister, which amounted to questioning their ability to preside over the State.

Furious, Nadiope ordered the immediate dismissal of Nabwiso. Then Information minister Alex Ojera was ordered to have him replaced with another Lusoga programme presenter and newscaster.

Nadiope's personal assistant, one Kati, was assigned to identify and dispatch five young men for interviews. One of the five was Patrick Miyingo, who was then working as an assistant manager in the Busoga government's water supply department.

Meeting Nadiope

Miyingo had always been a great admirer of Sir William Nadiope, but had never met him. Not even the years of work with the Busoga government had availed him with the opportunity to do so. He had thought that it would happen when he was summoned to his private residence in Budumbuli, but that was not to be.

"When I was summoned to go to Nadiope's palace in Budumbuli, I did not meet him. It was the PA [personal assistant] who told me that I was one of the five who were going to Kampala for the interview," Miyingo says.

The subsequent appointment to take the Radio Uganda job seemed to further diminish chances of ever meeting up, but as the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for, you might as well get it.

One afternoon, shortly after Nadiope's return to Uganda from Italy, his son Mutiibwa and the driver made an impromptu visit to Radio Uganda to tour the premises and also meet the new Lusoga programmes' presenter and newscaster who was first becoming quite a hit in Busoga and among members of Nadiope's immediate family. Mutiibwa was all praises for him.

While the job was fast turning him into a celebrity, the pay slip was not offering him any satisfaction. To make matters worse, he had to rent a house and meet the cost of food and other needs, most of which had been off the expenditure list while he was working in Busoga.

"I told him that although you are telling me that I am doing well, I don't want to continue paying house rent. I would rather go back to Bugembe. After all, my job is still there," he recalls.

"Eh! Even when it was the vice president and Kyabazinga of Busoga who sent you?" asked Nadiope's bewildered son.

"I know, but I am tired of this kind of thing. Paying rent! Paying rent!" Miyingo shot back.

Thirty minutes after that conversation, the duo was back to the Radio Uganda premises.

"The Kyabazinga wants to see you," Mutiibwa announced.

They drove to Kololo in silence. Miyingo was excited, but at the same time apprehensive. What did the Kyabazinga want from him?

"You are Patrick. Right? I was told you want to quit, but how do you decide to resign and go back home? For us we have worked everywhere. I am now in Kampala, but don't you think that I too have a home?" he asked

"Yes my Isebantu Kyabazinga. I know your country home in Budhumbula," Miyingo replied.

Beginning of a close relationship

Nadiope ordered one Kyomya to find and allocate Miyingo a room on the servants' quarters. That was to mark the beginning of a close relationship. At first the relationship was defined by a mere exchange of greetings, but tensions between Nadiope and Obote on one hand and Nadiope and his prime minister in Busoga, Mr William Bakaswirewa Mwangu, on the other served to strengthen the bond.

He had by 1965 become one of Nadiope's trusted confidants, especially in matters of politics.

Prior to his election by Parliament on October 4, 1963, as vice president of Uganda, Nadiope had made the journey to Britain when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. During his absence, his prime minister did the unthinkable; he flew the flag of Busoga on his official car, which was deemed to be an effort to undermine Nadiope's position as the Kyabazinga of Busoga.

While there had been many calls for Mwangu's summary dismissal, Nadiope's relationship with Obote had already started deteriorating yet Mwangu was one of Obote's known men in Busoga.

At the same time, opposition to his hold on the Kyabazingaship was growing in the Busoga Lukiiko (parliament) with several members of the Lukiiko hoping to cash in on any move he would take against Mwangu. Nadiope was forced to cool it off and wait for an appropriate moment to pounce.

Miyingo recalls that the period between May 1965 and February 1966 was characterised by extremely unusual activity at Plot 22 Queen Elizabeth Avenue.

At first the only frequent visitor was Buganda Prince Badru Kakungulu, but the list soon expanded to include members of Cabinet.

"Several times I saw four ministers, particularly Grace Ibingira, Mathias Ngobi, [George] Magezi and Balaki Kirya. The only person, among those five ministers who I did not see was Dr [Emmanuel] Lumu. But even one time I saw the Attorney General [AD] Lubowa. He also used to come," Miyingo recounts.

It was, however, always strange that they would be ordered to switch off the lights whenever those nocturnal guests arrived.

Even strange was the fact that the meetings would drag on until well past midnight.

Henry Kyemba, who was principal private secretary to prime minister Obote, says it had been public knowledge for quite some time that the prime minister and some of his Cabinet ministers were not on good terms.

Tensions, he says, were heightened after intelligence information started trickling in indicating that they were working towards deposing the prime minister.

Little wonder then that on this particular evening, Milton Obote, most probably hoping that he could catch some of the ministers as they met with Nadiope, turned up unannounced. He arrived at around 11pm.

It was to his confidant that Nadiope turned to give an insight into his quarrel with Obote.

"This man came to abuse me the whole night. I don't know why. Was it because he took a lot of whiskey in my house? I don't know, but he really abused me," he quotes Nadiope to have told him.

Looking back today, Miyingo believes that Nadiope was only feigning ignorance, but that he knew why Obote was bitter with him.

"I have received information that you are planning to overthrow my government, in fact your government because you are the vice president of the country and the vice president of the party. You wanted to be Kyabazinga. I worked to see that you became one. What have I not done for you?" Obote is said to have asked Nadiope during that meeting.

Muloki kicked out

On September 29, 1962, the UPC dominated Busoga Lukiiko had voted to cut short the term of office of Mr Henry Wako Muloki and have him replaced with his long-time rival, Nadiope who had earlier joined UPC.

Sections of the Lukiiko led by Mr Joet Lyagoba mounted a legal challenge. They questioned the membership of the Lukiiko and the manner in which the election of Nadiope was conducted.

Court ruled in their favour, but on February 28, 1963, Parliament passed the Busoga Validation Act, which in effect declared that the Lukiiko had been rightly constituted; and that Nadiope had rightly been elected.

This handed Nadiope the Kyabazinga's seat, a move for which Obote felt that Nadiope owed him. Little wonder then that it came up during his impromptu visit.

Nadiope had been invited to Israel and America. Obote then sought to use that as leverage against him.

"If you travel, you will neither be travelling as the vice president nor as the Kyabazinga of Busoga. The required protocol will not be in place to receive you," Obote was reported to have told Nadiope.

It was well past 3am when Obote left, but little did Nadiope believe that the Obote's anger would result into some drastic action.

Next Sunday we look at the arrest of five ministers and Nadiope's flight into exile

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