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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Apolo Milton Obote

Obote in 1960

2nd President of Uganda
1st Executive President
8th President of Uganda
In office
April 15, 1966 – January 25, 1971
December 17, 1980– July 27, 1985
Preceded by Mutesa II of Buganda (non-executive) (1966)
Presidential Commission of Uganda (1980)
Succeeded by Idi Amin (1971)
Bazilio Olara-Okello (1985)

2nd Prime Minister of Uganda
1st Executive Prime Minister
In office
April 30, 1963 – April 15, 1966
Preceded by Benedicto Kiwanuka (non-executive)
Succeeded by None (post abolished)

Born December 28, 1925(1925-12-28)
Apac District, Uganda Protectorate
Died October 10, 2005 (aged 79)
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Political party Uganda People's Congress
Spouse(s) Miria Obote
Milton Obote in Leipzig, DDR, with Gerald Götting (right) and S. Oyaka (left) October 1960.

Apolo Milton Obote (December 28, 1925 – October 10, 2005[1]), Prime Minister of Uganda from 1962 to 1966 and President of Uganda from 1966 to 1971 and from 1980 to 1985, was a Ugandan political leader who led Uganda to independence from the British colonial administration in 1962. He ruled by harassing, terrorizing, and torturing opponents. Obote also started ethnic persecution. During Obote's regime, flagrant and widespread corruption emerged in the name of socialism. He was overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971, but regained power in 1980. His second rule was marred by repression, and the deaths of many civilians as a result of a civil war known as the Ugandan Bush War.


Early life and first presidency

Milton Obote was born at Akokoro village in Apac district in northern Uganda. He was the son of a local chief of the Lango ethnic group. He began his education in 1940 at the Protestant Missionary School in Lira, and later attended Gulu Junior Secondary School, Busoga College and eventually university at Makerere University. At Makerere, Obote honed his natural oratorical skills, but was expelled for participating in a student strike (Obote claimed he left Makerere voluntarily[2]). He worked in Buganda in southern Uganda before moving to Kenya, where he worked as a construction worker at an engineering firm. While in Kenya, Obote became involved in the Kenyan independence movement. Upon returning to Uganda in 1956, he joined the political party Uganda National Congress (UNC), and was elected to the colonial Legislative Council in 1957.[3] In 1959, the UNC split into two factions, with one faction under the leadership of Obote merging with Uganda People's Union to form the Uganda People's Congress (UPC).

In the run up to independence elections Obote formed a coalition with the Buganda royalist party, Kabaka Yekka. The two parties controlled a Parliamentary majority and Obote became Prime Minister in 1962. He assumed the post on April 25, 1962, appointed by Sir Walter Coutts, then Governor-General of Uganda. The following year the position of Governor-General was replaced by a ceremonial Presidency to be elected by Parliament. Mutesa, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, became the ceremonial President, with Obote as executive Prime Minister.

Obote expelled the Kenyans in 1965.[4]

As prime minister, Obote was implicated in a gold smuggling plot, together with Idi Amin, then deputy commander of the Ugandan armed forces. When the Parliament demanded an investigation of Obote and the ousting of Amin, he suspended the constitution and declared himself President in March 1966, allocating to himself almost unlimited power under state of emergency rulings. Several members of his cabinet, who were leaders of rival factions in the party, were arrested and detained without charge. In May the Buganda regional Parliament passed a resolution declaring Buganda's incorporation into Uganda to be de jure null and void after the suspension of the constitution. Obote responded with an armed attack upon Mutesa's palace, which ended with Mutesa fleeing to exile. In 1967, Obote's power was cemented when Parliament passed a new constitution which abolished the federal structure of the independence constitution, and created an executive Presidency.

Obote's regime, described as "dictatorial and barbaric", terrorized, harassed, tortured people. Obote's secret police General Service Unit, led by Obote's cousin, was responsible for many cruelties.[4]

Food shortages sent prices through the ceiling. Obote's persecution of Indian traders contributed to this.[4]

In 1969 there was an attempt on Obote's life. In the aftermath of the attempt all opposition political parties were banned, leaving Obote as an effectively absolute ruler. A state of emergency was in force for much of the time and many political opponents were jailed without trial but life. In 1969-70 Obote published a series of pamphlets which were supposed to outline his political and economic policy. "The Common Man's Charter" was a summary of his approach to socialism. The government took over a 51% share in major private corporations and banks in the country in 1970.

During Obote's regime, flagrant and widespread corruption emerged in the name of socialism.[4] The population increasingly hated Obote's rule.[4]

In January 1971 Obote was overthrown by the army while on a visit to Singapore, and Amin became President. In the two years before the coup Obote's relations with the West had become strained. Some have suggested that Western Governments were at least aware of, and may have aided, the coup.[5][6] Obote fled to Tanzania. The fall of Obote's regime was welcomed and celebrated by many Ugandans.[4]

Second term

In 1979, Idi Amin was ousted by Tanzanian forces aided by Ugandan exiles. By 1980, Uganda was governed by an interim Presidential Commission. At the time of the 1980 elections, the chairman of the commission was a close associate of Obote, Paulo Muwanga. Muwanga had briefly been the de facto President of Uganda from 12 May to 20 May in 1980. Muwanga was the third of three Presidents who served for short periods of time between Amin's ouster and the setting up of the Presidential Commission. The other two presidents were Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa.

The elections in 1980 were won by Obote's Uganda People's Congress (UPC) Party. However, the UPC Party's opposition believed that the elections were rigged and this led to a guerrilla rebellion led by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) and several other military groups.

It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 people died as a result of fighting between Obote's Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) and the guerrillas.[7]

On 27 July 1985, Obote was deposed again. As in 1971, he was overthrown by his own army commanders in a military coup d'état. This time the commanders were Brigadier Bazilio Olara-Okello and General Tito Okello. The two men briefly ruled the country through a Military Council, but after a few months of near chaos, Museveni's NRA seized control of the country.

Death in exile

After his second removal from power, Obote fled to Tanzania and later to Zambia. For some years it was rumoured that he would return to Ugandan politics. In August 2005, however, he announced his intention to step down as leader of the UPC.[8] In September 2005, it was reported that Obote would return to Uganda before the end of 2005.[9]

Milton Obote's grave

On October 10, 2005, Obote died of kidney failure in a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.[10]

Milton Obote was given a state funeral, attended by president Museveni in the Ugandan capital Kampala in October 2005, to the surprise and appreciation of many Ugandans, since he and Museveni were bitter rivals.[11] Other groups, such as the Baganda survivors of the "Luwero Triangle" massacres, were bitter that Obote was given a state funeral.[12]

He was survived by his wife and five children. On November 28, his wife Miria Obote was elected UPC party president.[13] One of his sons Jimmy Akena is a member of parliament for Lira Municipality.


References and notes

  1. ^ Birth and death date according to the headstone inscription on his grave
  2. ^ I come from royal ancestry, Published in The Monitor
  3. ^ "The Roots, Emergence, and Growth of the Uganda Peoples Congress, 1600-1985", Yoga Adhola, UPC Website
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mukasa Mutibwa: Uganda since independence: a story of unfulfilled hopes. p. 65-70
  5. ^ George Ivan Smith, Ghosts of Kampala: The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1980)
  6. ^ G. S. K. Ibingira , African Upheavals since Independence, Westview Press, ISBN 0891585850
  7. ^ CIA Factbook - Uganda
  8. ^ "Uganda's exiled ex-president Obote to retire from party's presidency", Xinhua, August 28, 2005
  9. ^ "Uganda's exiled ex-president to return home before end of 2005", People's Daily Online, September 2, 2005
  10. ^ [hg "Former Ugandan leader Obote dies"], BBC, October 10, 2005
  11. ^ "Former foe mourns Uganda's Obote", BBC, October 20, 2005
  12. ^ "A founding father adored, dreaded in equal measure", The Monitor
  13. ^ "Walking in Obote’s shadow", Monitor, December 21, 2005

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
President of the Uganda People's Congress
Succeeded by
Miria Obote
Preceded by
Benedicto Kiwanuka
Prime Minister of Uganda
Succeeded by
Otema Allimadi
post abolished 1966–1980
Preceded by
Edward Mutesa
President of Uganda
Succeeded by
Idi Amin
Preceded by
Presidential Commission of Uganda
President of Uganda
Succeeded by
Bazilio Olara-Okello


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