Milton Obote

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Image:MiltonObote1980.jpg Apollo Milton Obote (December 28 1924October 10 2005), Prime Minister of Uganda 1962-1966 and President of Uganda 1966-1971/1980-1985, was a Ugandan political leader who led Uganda to independence from the British colonial administration in 1962. He was overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971, but gained power again in 1980. His second rule was marred by repression, and the death of many civilians during a civil war.

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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, Gulu Junior Secondary School, Busoga College and later Makerere College, where he honed his natural oratorial skills but was expelled for participating in a student strike (Obote claimed he left Makerere voluntarilyTemplate:Ref). He worked in Buganda in southern Uganda before he went to Kenya, where he worked as a construction worker for an engineering firm. While in Kenya he became involved in the local independence movement. Upon returning to Uganda, he joined Uganda National Congress (UNC) in 1955 and was elected to the colonial Legislative Council in 1958[1]. In 1959, the UNC split, and Obote became head of the newly formed Uganda People's Congress (UPC). After several years as head of the opposition, Obote formed a coalition with the Buganda royalist party, Kabaka Yekka, and was elected prime minister in 1961. He assumed the post on April 25, 1962, with Sir Walter Coutts as Governor-General of Uganda. The following year, he deposed Queen Elizabeth II as Ugandan head of state, and Edward Mutesa II, the kabaka (king) of Buganda, became the ceremonial president, with Obote as executive prime Minister.

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, abolishing the roles of leaders of Uganda's five tribal kingdoms and giving himself almost unlimited power under state-of-emergency rulings; he had several members of his cabinet arrested. Obote's judiciary cleared him of the gold-smuggling charges, but the episode created tensions between him and Mutesa, who was critical of Obote for suspending the constitution. Obote staged a coup against Mutesa and had himself declared president on March 2, 1966. His nominally socialist rule made him unpopular with the Western powers, particularly Britain, and his regime was greatly destabilized by the military. In 1971 he was deposed by his army chief, Idi Amin, after which he fled to Tanzania. The British government of Edward Heath is known to have given at least tacit approval for the coup.[2]

Second term

After Idi Amin was ousted in 1979 by Tanzanian forces aided by Ugandan exiles, Uganda was governed by an interim Presidential Commission before elections. The elections in 1980 were won by Obote's UPC party. However, the other political parties believed the elections were rigged, leading to guerrilla rebellion by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army and several other military groups.

It has been estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 people died as a result of fighting between Obote's UNLA and the guerrillas.

Obote was deposed again, on 27 July 1985, by his own army commanders Brigadier Bazilio Okello and General Tito Okello in a military coup. Okello and Okello briefly ruled the country through a Military Council, but after a few months of near anarchy, Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) took control of Uganda.

Death in exile

After his second downfall, 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.[3] In September 2005, it was reported that Obote would return to Uganda before the end of 2005.[4]

On 10 October, Obote died of kidney failure in a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.[5]

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. Other groups, such as the Baganda survivors of the "Luwero Triangle" massacres, were bitter that Obote was given a state funeral. He was survived by his wife and five children.

On November 28, his wife Miria Obote was elected UPC party president.[6]

See also

References

External links

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