No Museveni Talks -- Says Family Of Late Gen. Bazilio, War-time Foe

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Gen. Bazilio Olara Okello

[Africa Focus: Uganda]

A member of the family of the late Lt. Gen. Bazilio Olara Okello, the former Uganda Army Commander who led a section of his troops from Northern Uganda and overthrew President Dr. Apollo Milton Obote in 1985, has denied claims that his family is planning to meet Ugandan President of 29 years Yoweri Museveni to discuss compensating for their father’s Estate as a sign of healing and reconciliation.

Mr. Samuel Olara, who is an editor of an on-line publication based in London, made this revelation after several government ministers said President Museveni plans to meet the family. The remains of Gen. Olara Okello were re-buried in a Uganda-army sanctioned ceremony at his ancestral home in Madi Opei- Lamwo district in Uganda.

The late Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) commander died suddenly from unknown causes in Omdurman Hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, on 9th January 1990 where he lived in exile after President Museveni overthrew his short-lived military junta headed by the late Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa on  January 26, 1986.

He was first buried in Omdurman in a public cemetery, but the Khartoum government asked the family to remove the body to give room for redevelopment of the cemetery.

“You should ignore and forget those political talks from the ministers," Samuel Olara said. "We are not planning a meeting with President Museveni. This reburial ceremony was purely a private affair although we allowed the Uganda Army now, to give him military honors. We shall see what to do when he (Museveni) will be the one who invites us.”

One of the two widows of Bazilio, Mama Paula Olara Okello told the mourners the National Resistance Army (NRA), now renamed Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), destroyed her home and also beat her up and left her crippled.

His former colleague, who participated in burying the late commander at Omdurman, retired Major Oloya Padwat thanked President Museveni for allowing Bazilio Olara Okello’s body to be repatriated back home for reburial. However, he was quick to add that his estate, including gratuity and pension money should be returned to the late general's children.

He was reburied with full military 15-gun salute while a military band played church music throughout the ceremony on Valentine Day. The army was represented by Lt. Gen. Andrew Guti, the Commandant of Senior Staff and Command College-Kimaka. He offered shs.3 million, about $1,038, as condolence to the family and another 7 million shillings, or $2,422, was spent on the reburial expenses.

President Museveni is reported to have given the family the go-ahead to repatriate the body from Khartoum and even gave 30 million shillings, or $3,460, to the family for the the exercise. The vice-President. Rt. Hon Edward Sekandi who should have represented President Museveni at the reburial ceremony, was unable to reach the venue for unclear reasons.

The fall-out between the late President Milton Obote and Lt. Gen. Bazilio Olara Okello did not begin in the 1985 with his overthrow, but way back in 1972 during a botched and hurried invasion of Uganda by a few men who were organized by Milton Obote.

During the invasion more than 800 men, mostly Acholis, were killed in the botched attack by Idi Amin’s soldiers. These men, who were hurriedly taken to Musoma (a Tanzanian town) for the invasion, had just arrived in Tanzania from a training camp in Sudan and they travelled in a most inhumane condition. This men who perished were under Bazilio Olara Okello’s command.

At a later date, the training camp at Musoma was bogged by controversies which led to the temporary withdrawal of the troops under Bazillio Olara Okello.

The third fallout between the two was when more than 300 men died in Lake Victoria when the ferry in which they were travelling to invade Entebbe and Kampala sunk in the middle of the lake. Again, most of these men were from his command.

The death of the more than 1,100 men from his camp did not deter Bazilio from contributing to the fall of Idi Amin and Amin was finally deposed on 11th April 1979.

He was promoted from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed the commanding Officer of the 15th Battalion based in Kampala, but remained frustrated about lack of accountability within the fledging UNLA and the politicians’ indifference towards dependants of soldiers who died in action during the liberation war.

He was instead labeled a sympathizer of Museveni’s rebel, the NRA, who had launched war against President Obote.

He was the de facto head of State of Uganda between the 27 and 29 July 1985 after Obote was overthrown.

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