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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Obituary: Milton Obote
close-up Obote
Milton Obote, twice Ugandan president
Milton Obote was one of the last of the founding fathers of African independence and twice became Uganda's president.

He was appointed Uganda's first prime minister when the country became independent from Britain in 1962.

Within four years he seized the presidency. He was ousted by the notorious Idi Amin in 1971, only to be given a second bite of the cherry in 1980.

His rule turned out to be even more brutal than Amin's, and again, he was thrown out by the army and spent the rest of his life in exile.

Milton Apollo Obote was born the third of nine children to a minor chief of the northern Langi tribe. He developed his canny political skills in neighbouring Kenya before returning home to found the Uganda National Congress party.

In the run-up to independence, he outmanoeuvred the parties of the dominant Baganda tribe and forged an alliance with the monarchist wing under the Kabaka (King) "Freddy".

But four years later he had driven the King into exile and installed himself as executive president.

Hundreds of Baganda died trying to defend their leader. Now in full power, Obote established a one-party state in line with other African leaders.

His brand of socialism was intended to strengthen the hand of central government. By threatening to nationalise companies, he lost the support of Britain where he had become depicted as something of an ogre.

Julius Nyerere of Tanzania with Obote
Obote formed a one-party state as had Julius Nyerere of Tanzania

Under his one-man rule, Uganda enjoyed relative stability and some economic prosperity. But he had made many enemies among his own people, and, while attending the 1971 Commonwealth Conference in Singapore, he was ousted by his army commander, Idi Amin.

Amin had acted to protect his own interests and those of his Muslim tribe in the north. He also had the support of his former colonial rulers.

Obote was given exile in Tanzania, and when that country, under Julius Nyerere, invaded Uganda to put an end to Amin's murderous regime, Obote returned.

Eventually, he resumed the presidency when his UPC won elections contested by three other parties. His opponents complained of widespread electoral abuses.

His attempts to consolidate power led Obote to exact his own repressive measures against opposing parties and tribes. Amnesty International and the Red Cross were among many organisations which condemned his rule's violation of human rights.

In 1982 Obote took steps to improve relations with his neighbours, and invited the IMF and the World Bank to assist him in improving his country's economy.

Idi Amin in full regalia
Obote was first ousted by his army commander, Idi Amin

But the country's security situation continued to worsen as thousands of Ugandans mobilised against Obote's repression.

His Langi-dominated army had taken terrible reprisals against civilians living in the Luwero triangle where the National Resistance Army guerrillas under Yoweri Museveni were operating.

By July 1985, internal divisions had grown within his own army, and Brigadier Bazilio Okello led a successful coup which toppled Obote, forcing him to flee, first to Kenya and then to Zambia.

In August 1986, the NRA forces of Museveni overthrew the new regime and remains in power to this day.

Milton Obote spent his remaining days in Zambia, though he died while seeking hospital treatment in South Africa.




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