As Uganda marked its 55th independence anniversary on Monday 9th, October 2017, many of her countrymen and women have difficulties naming the past leaders.
Many of those this publication spoke with could mention two or three and almost all of them failed to name them in their order, from the first to the current leader.
John Bosco Olupot, a security guard could only mention Obote One and Two, General Tito Okello Lutwa, Professor Yusuf Kironde Lule, General Idi Amin Dada and the current leader, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. He however failed to put them in the correct order of their times of office.
Moses Olal, a carpenter could only remember five of the leaders and not in order. He says he does not remember the rest.
A university graduate, who preferred to speak off-record, states that she forgot many of the leaders she learnt in primary school, but could remember a few.
Paul Kakaire, an Information Technology Specialist, managed to name Sir Edward Mutesa, Apollo Milton Obote and Idi Amin Dada. He couldn’t mention the others, saying that he does not remember all of them since they did not contribute a lot.
Jowelia Nalukwago a vendor, Gesa Joushua a youth and Aleku, a mechanic, say they only know the popular ones.
A primary four pupil in Kampala managed to mention two former leaders, but included opposition politician, Dr Kizza Besigye among the past leaders of Uganda.
Uganda and Burundi have each had more leaders than any other East African Community (EAC) member-state. Officially, President Yoweri Museveni is the eighth president of Uganda after Sir Edward Mutesa, Apollo Milton Obote who ruled the country twice, General Idi Amin Dada, Professor Yusuf Kironde Lule, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, Paulo Muwanga and General Tito Okello Lutwa. If count Obote twice, since he returned to power nine years after the 1971 coup, then Uganda has had nine presidencies.
After Independence in October 1962, Sir Walter Coutts stayed on for a year as Governor and head of state representing Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. Apollo Milton Obote was the Executive Prime Minister of the Independent Uganda.
In October 1963, Parliament of Uganda voted Sir Edward Mutesa, the Kabaka of Buganda, as ceremonial president of Uganda. The same parliament elected Sir William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope, the Kyabazinga of Busoga, as vice president of Uganda.
Rule of the gun
This arrangement fell apart after May 1966 when the army raided Mutesa’s palace at Mengo. This followed major fallout between Obote and Mutesa, with the prime minister accusing the president of plotting to overthrow the government. Mutesa would escape into exile in the UK where he would die three years later.
In the interim constitution of 1966, commonly cited as the “pigeon hole” constitution because parliament passed it without debating, let alone reading it, Obote abolished the office of ceremonial president and declared himself executive president. This position was further entrenched in the 1967 constitution which, among other things, abolished kingdoms and officially declared Uganda a republic.
In January 1971, the Obote government was overthrown by his own army led by General Amin, the man he had assigned the duty of attacking Mutesa’s palace just four and a half years earlier. Amin remained in office for over eight years before he himself was overthrown in April 1979 by several Ugandan exiled fighting groups, with support from the Tanzanian government forces, the TPDF.
Professor Lule, the man chosen to take over from Amin would last only 68 days in office before being replaced by Binaisa, who had served as Attorney General in the Obote government. In fact it was Binaisa who had advised Obote to suspend the 1962 constitution and sack both President Mutesa and vice president Nadiope. It was Binaisa who drafted the 1966 interim constitution and who played a significant role in framing the 1967 Republican Constitution.
Uganda’s rule by the gun was far from over, as Binaisa was himself overthrown in May 1980, after only 11 months in office, by a six-man Military Commission led by Paulo Muwanga and deputised by Yoweri Museveni.
While Muwanga wielded military power and was, to the world, the face of government at the time, three people jointly occupied the office of the president of Uganda. From May until December 1980, when Uganda held its first general elections since 1962, the three-man Presidential Commission of Uganda ran the office of President. The three ‘presidents’ comprised of two judges Saulo Musoke and Polycarp Nyamuchoncho and Joel Hunter Wacha-Olwol, who was a senior civil servant. It is these three that handed over power to Obote on December 15, 1980 after his party, the Uganda People’s Congress, was declared winner of the controversial elections.
Back to war
Within two months after the December 1980 elections, Uganda was at war yet again after Museveni, who was a candidate in the elections, picked up arms in February 1981 to fight Obote’s second government. By 1983, cracks had already emerged within the national army, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), especially between the Acholi and Lango, two tribes that dominated the ranks of the army at the time.
In July 1985, the army (or the Acholi faction of the UNLA) overthrew Obote for the second time. In came General Okello who became Head of State and chairman of the Military Council. Meanwhile, Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels had captured most parts of the country making it difficult for government in Kampala to perform its functions fully. The military government initiated talks mediated by the Kenyan government. A peace agreement was signed in December 1985 but with each side accusing the other of violating the agreement.
Within a month, the NRA rebels surrounded Kampala, sending General Okello and his government packing. On January 29, 1986, Museveni was sworn in as the ninth president of Uganda.
In contrast, Tanzania has had five presidents, including the incumbent, John Pombe Magufuli. Other leaders have been founding president Julius Nyerere, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
Kenya has had Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta while Rwanda has had four leaders including Gregoire Kayibanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, Pasteur Bizimungu and Paul Kagame.
It is Burundi that has had more presidents than Uganda. It has also had many military coups, with power changing hands violently on at least four different occasions in 1976, 1987, 1993 and 1996.
The list of leaders has Michel Micombero, Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, Pierre Buyoya, Melchior Ndadaye, François Ngeze, Sylvie Kinigi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, Domitien Ndayizeye and Pierre Nkurunziza.