On January 25, 1971, at exactly 2:00 am, there were uncoordinated troop movements within Kampala in what seemed to be a developing coup against sitting president Apollo Milton Obote.
Obote was away in Singapore for a commonwealth conference and he only got to know of the developments through a one Chris Ntende who was then the permanent secretary in the ministry of internal affairs.
Interestingly, Ntende was not on Obote’s initial travel detail to Singapore and he only showed up in Singapore to report to the president that something sinister was brewing in Kampala.
Ntende arrived to no room at the hotel that was booked for the Ugandan contingent, he had to share with Obote’s PPS, Henry Kyemba before later sneaking out to talk to Obote at 2:00 am when the coup started.
Amin shocks Obote
Obote was in shock because he had left the order in Kampala through Basil Bataraigaya (Ntende’s boss) to have Amin arrested, but the latter scooped them when the order from Obote was leaked to him.
Amin quickly gathered a few of his trusted officers to meet at the home of Juma Ali Rokoni commonly known as Butabika for his impulsive military acts. The meeting took place in Old Kampala.
The meeting resolved that a blood-filled coup take place and Obote’s place should be blown upon arrival at Entebbe Airport to kill whoever sat on it.
The minutes of the meeting were eavesdropped by Butabika’s wife who tipped the Band Master Ahmad Oduka, her brother-in-law.
Oduka by fact that he would be the parade adjutant at the airport given the nature of his office, feared for his life and mostly that of the president and several other ministers and officers who would be present by the time Amin executed his plan.
He called Bataringaya and told him of Amin’s plan. A swift move to arrest Amin by the government was mooted, alas it would be just the wrong card to play
Amin’s arrest plan leaks
Bataringaya summoned a quick meeting with the Inspector General of Police, Erinayo Oryema.
Unknown to Bataringaya, Oryema was already one of the coup plotters and oh yeah, he was holding the meeting with Amin himself literally stuck in Oryema’s body.
Oryema from the meeting went to brief Amin and a second meeting to actualize Amin’s arrest was never to be.
When Bataringaya and his colleagues chose to meet next and move to arrest Amin, they were being watched and immediately they alighted from their cars, bullets rang from all directions.
Bataringaya and his men fled, leaving their bullet-riddled cars parked right there, and that was the beginning of the coup.
Meanwhile, Obote who was trying to reach Bataringaya could no longer do so until the next day at 10:00 am when he contacted the CPS in Kampala where an officer Suleiman Dusman picked and told the president: “We are still watching the army move but we are on standby.”
Fait Accompli, Obote was out, Amin was in. Bataringaya, Dusman and all the men who stood in the way including Oduka would later be arrested and butchered.
Thousands of cheering Ugandans thronged the streets celebrating the army take‐over, Obote was still unaware until he reached Bombay and a Reuters journalist engagement him.
“No comment” he replied.
Obote would in search of return into power immediately start wandering from country to country, first landing Kenya where he got a hostile reception.
He and his entourage left Kenya as swiftly and quietly as they had come and headed to Tanzania where they would receive some hope from President Nyerere.
Nyerere, was Obote’s direct backup and he soon expressed every negative ting he felt for Amin and his new regime. He detested, Amin and he did not wait to show it. In a press conference, later on, Obote and Nyerere spoke about Amin’s regime
Look out for part two in our next edition
The writer is a private contributor to the Nile Post