Ojok was Army Chief of Staff, the most influential army position at the time, chairman of Coffee Marketing Board, Uganda’s main foreign exchange earner, and head of General Motors, the country’s biggest car dealership then. At the time, in 1982, it is rumoured that he stashed away over $300 million, adjusted for inflation is about $900 million today.
Uganda@60: I brought you into power, I can remove you - Oyite Ojok warns Obote
Major General David Oyite Ojok was known as the main force behind the second Apollo Milton Obote regime. This is why it is believed that he tried to overthrow his boss and take power.
Much of this is revealed in the book “Trapped In His own Prison of Nile Mansions for Five Years (Obote 2), by Rutarindwa Mwene Barizeni.
Below, Barizeni shares his experiences with Ojok and reveals how powerful he was:
“After the fall of Idi Amin and indeed when the war that toppled him elapsed in 1979, it was Paulo Muwanga and Oyite Ojok who were saddled with the responsibility of bringing back the exiled Obote to power by all means,” he writes.
“Ojok was both a locally and foreign trained military officer. He was one of the many secondary school dropouts recruited into the army after independence to replace the colonial sergeants who at the time in 1962 were promoted into army leadership positions. President Obote picked him (Ojok) then because he was a son of the soil (a Langi) and groomed him as a future guardian of his rule.”
He continues, “When Obote left for a summit in Singapore, Ojok was given the task of executing a security plan designed to tame Idi Amin, the army commander. Ojok was confident of fulfilling the mission. Unfortunately for him and Obote, Amin beat them at their own game and seized power on the night of January 24, 1971, the night he was supposed to die.
The embarrassment Amin had caused to Ojok’s reputation kept haunting him and he could have sworn to Obote that he would have his revenge. On April 11, 1979, Idi Amin was toppled by Tanzanian forces together with some Ugandan fighters among them Oyite Ojok.”
Obote returns, Ojok rules
“When Oyite Ojok returned to Uganda as a top commander of Obote’s fighting force; Kikosi Maalum, he considered himself the real force behind Amin’s downfall. He would, therefore, in a special way give back to his mentor Obote what he lost in 1971 by all means,” Barizeni writes.
“In a show of might, Ojok would be seen moving in centres of power like the Nile Mansions, Republic House, (Army Headquarters), President’s Office in the Parliamentary buildings as well as State House Entebbe. His most favourite cars were Mercedes Benz limousines with personalised number plates. In the beginning, the number plates carried imprints; DOO 1, DOO2, for David Oyite Ojok 1&2 and later as Obote was about to return, he changed the plates to MAO 1, MAO 2 and MAO 3 for Milton Apollo Obote 1,2, and 3,” he adds.
After restoring his mentor firmly into power in December 1980, Ojok was rewarded and decorated with the rank of Major General and became the army’s chief of staff. On top of this, Obote made him the managing director of Uganda’s main foreign exchange earner, Coffee Marketing Board. Ojok soon paid more attention to coffee than the army.”
I am brought you in, I can take you “out”
“During a political party retreat for members of the ruling UPC party at a hotel in Lira in Northern Uganda, Ojok arrived late and found all rooms booked by party members. He had no room to sleep in and in what seemed like a joke, the Secretary General of the ruling UPC, Dr Luwuliza Kirunda, told him not to worry much since he was a soldier who could as well sleep anywhere, the bush inclusive,” the author relates.
“Kirunda thought he had cracked a joke. But to Ojok, it was an insult. At the hotel, Ojok called for the attention of everybody and he narrated what Kirunda had just said to him. To some it seemed unusual and indeed it wasn’t too much of a concern. An offended Ojok speaking on top of his voice and with a lot of a military commander’s authority, told the attentive retreat participants that they were all whoever they were because of him,” he adds.
He warned that any other similar insults to his personality would lead to decisive action including taking over government and dumping them. Henceforth those who doubted where power lay in Obote’s regime got the message clearly. “Nyamurunga” Obote was a mere figurehead. That day marked a turning point in the house of UPC, the party of trickery.”
The die was rolled, it was no going to be Ojok or Obote.
“On the morning of November 26, 1983, two Augusta helicopters landed at the Nile Mansions, one at the helicopter pad and another directly in the compound at the foreground of the hotel. They had come to take UNLA top military commanders including the Army Chief of Staff Major General Oyite Ojok to Luweero district,” Barizeni writes.
After a meeting in Entebbe, however, Ojok’s party were ready to return in Kampala before heading to Luweero, eventually.
Captain Oringi and Captain Nyakairu lifted off first and the Bell Augusta-412 carrying Oyite-Ojok lifted off at 8.15pm. However, a few minutes after lift-off, Oyite-Ojok’s helicopter started giving off noises that sounded like an engine or exhaust pipe problem, according to some sources. It suddenly nose-dived and plunged to the ground where it burst into flames, killing all on board.
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