The build up to the 1966 Kabaka crisis arguably started in 1964, with the mutiny of British led Uganda army soldiers. Through the mutiny, Obote’s government was given Idi Amin as mediator between the army and the government.
The army were demanding better working conditions two years after independence and the government conceded to their demands. As a result, Amin was promoted to rank of major, and since then became an asset to Milton Obote and his government.
Amin collected trouble after trouble for the government, and Obote cleaned it up, until Obote became the trouble created and cleaned up by Amin in 1971.
Such trouble was in 1966, the Kabaka crisis in May which rocked Obote bottom and could have paved way for his exit if not completely outdone him.
1964 is indeed a year that changed the politics of this country in all aspects, from economy to direct politics. It is the same year that would lead to the rise of Idi Amin seven years later.
Amin was never politically active until that year, his first involvement directly granted by Obote during the Belgian Congo, later Zaire and later DRC civil war. This war had specific significance for Amin and Uganda at large.
With the war coming to a close, rebels loyal to Obote government were being pressed on the wall by the government of Moise Tshombe and Mobutu Seseseko, they scattered into West Nile Uganda, Amin’s home area and rang out for Obote’s support with arms and transport means.
To Obote, the only available man to handle the job quietly was Amin, who was well conversant with the area, and having come at a time when the President was out of love with the army commander Brigadier Shaban Opolot, who Obote never trusted for reportedly marrying a muganda.
Obote issued directives to Amin through a secret line code named ‘sparrow’, bypassing the army commander, Opolot. Amin was supposed to help take care of the rebels needs and once in a while give them refuge both in Arua and at his home in Entebbe.
One thing the rebels had was trucks of gold and Ivory looted as they made retreat from Congo. These were sold by Amin to raise a considerable sum to facilitate their cause.
“Amin began banking for him self considerably large sums of money regularly and in cash, upto Shs 300,000 at that time, amounting to something like a million dollars in all,” Henry Kyemba, Obote’s former press secretary reveals.
Amin is reported to have kept even larger sums in his house just to avoid media publicity and suspicion.
“A few days before my wedding in 1965, Amin pulled out Shs 2000 form his pocket and gave it to me,” Kyemba narrates.
Shs 2000 was considerably a very high amount for someone to have as pocket change at the time, but Amin’s sudden wealth didn’t know pockets; It sunk deep, he soon became caught up in ostentation and the wealth burst out, for all to see.
On February 4 1966, Amin’s bank details were leaked and a copy landed in the hands of pro-Buganda MP, Daudi Ocheing, who used Obote’s absence from the House to move motion for an inquiry into Amin and Obote regarding the Congo gold and Ivory scandal.
Amin had reportedly walked into Ottoman bank at one moment with a gold bar, stood in the banking hall and shouted that he needed cash in exchange for the bar. The account leaks also had indicated a staggering sum of 17,000 pounds (too much money at the time) lolling on his account.
A debate on the floor followed and a motion was adopted to probe Amin and Obote. With the probe bound to expose and embarrass Obote terribly, the Prime Minister called for a cabinet meeting.
On February 22 1966, ministers arrived for the meeting, while meeting was in session at about 11:00am, Special Forces burst into meeting venue, and arrested ministers; Grace Ibingira, Dr Emmanuel Lumu, George Magezi, Balaki Kirya and Mathias Ngobi. These were accused of attempting to overthrow government.
Two days later, the 1962 constitution was suspended and the offices of President and Vice President Abolished. With this Obote started a very swift journey to his downfall, which we shall review in the next article.
The writer is a private contributor to Nile Post.