First Ugandan Prime Minister and Twice President Milton Obote Dies

First Ugandan Prime Minister and Twice President Milton Obote Dies


Milton Obote dies in a Johannesburg hospital October 10th, 2005.

By UG Pulse Staff
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First published: October 11, 2005


Ugandans are greeting the news of former president Milton Obote’s death with mixed reactions. Supporters hold up his legacy as a member of Africa’s post-colonial movement that ended British rule and instituted nationalistic governmental policies. His detractors remember an autocratic and self-interested leader who led Uganda into economic and political disrepair.


Obote, who became Uganda’s first prime minister after British rule in 1962, died Monday October 10th. He was 81.

“I can confirm the death of my father who passed away today in a Johannesburg hospital,” said Obote’s son, Ben, Monday in a press statement. Obote had lived in Zambia for nearly two decades and only flew to South Africa recently to receive medical attention.

Like most African leaders of his generation, his ascent to power represented the promise of indigenous African leadership following decades of colonial government. But also like too many of his counterparts in independence-era Africa, the high hopes of Obote’s regime soon give way to the bitter realities that later became typical of African self-rule: strong-arm political tactics, corruption and other dictatorial policies.

Obote’s short-lived popularity in the 1960s started to slip when, in 1966, he designated himself president for life, disbanded the tribal monarchies and introduced a socialist system of government. Those decisions sparked outrage because it ended the rule of leaders like King Mutesa II, or "King Freddie,” who represented the Baganda, the country’s most populous tribe. Obote himself was the son of a farmer and village chief from the Langi tribal region in northern Uganda.

Soon thereafter, he survived an assassination attempt in 1969 and was ousted in 1971 by Ugandan army general Idi Amin while he was visiting Singapore during a Commonwealth conference. Because of his alignment with champions of communism and socialism in Africa, like Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, western governments welcomed, and some supporters even suspect, plotted -- his overthrow.

The bloody and corrupt regime of Idi Amin followed, plunging Uganda in a state of terror and chaos during most of the 1970s. In 1979, with the aid of Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles Amin was overthrown and neighboring Tanzania installed Yusuf Lule as president. Due to conflicts in Lule’s government he was soon replaced by Godfrey Binaisa on June 29, 1979. Binaisa was himself swiftly overthrown by a military coup in May 1980 by Paulo Muwanga. Muwanga replaced the Presidency with a Presidential Commission that ruled Uganda before the 1980 elections. With his party, Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), winning the elections, Obote soon returned to power. Many observers pointed out election irregularities.

Obote maintained power until a rebel incursion led by current Ugandan president, and Obote’s former aide, Yoweri Museveni, shook his power. The ensuing civil war lasted five years and about 400,000 Ugandans died. Obote was forced to step down in 1985 under pressure from his military general, Tito Okello. He left the country and remained in exile until his death.

Related Articles:
1962: Obote and Uganda's Independence
Obote: The Premier's Own Story

By UG Pulse Staff
more from author >>
First published: October 11, 2005