Kampala- At least 15 top security officers have been killed in unexplained circumstances during the tenure of five different governments in Uganda.
Former AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi became the latest casualty on that infamous list following his brutal assassination on March 17.
Like most of the 13 police and army officers who died mysteriously before him during the regimes of Idi Amin, Dr Apollo Milton Obote, Gen Tito Okello Lutwa and Yoweri Museveni, AIGP Kaweesi’s life was cut short in a hail of gunfire.
To-date, no conclusive explanation or investigation report has been provided for how and why they had to die in such cold-blooded fashion.
At best, speculation persists that they have been victims of the bloodletting, which has characterised, and continues to describe the vicious contest for political power in Uganda’s bloody history.
Most prominent cases
Many more Ugandans, both in and outside of the armed forces, have also been brutally murdered, some of them in politically-motivated hits, others as a consequence of the intrigue which haunts the corridors of power, but the case of these 14 men in uniform stand out.
Others died during the fluid and very dangerous 1979-80 period, which marked the transition from Amin to Obote II as old scores were settled, or simply fell in the chaotic scramble, which marked that phase of Uganda’s existence.
Nine of these unexplained deaths were of military officers between the rank of Lieutenant and Major General, including two Brigadiers. Among the nine, three of these unresolved crimes relate to officers who reportedly either had misunderstandings with Amin, or had allegedly fallen out with the unpredictable dictator, shortly before they were shot dead in various places around the country.
In another rather chilling incident, Lt Col Michael Ondoga, a Foreign Affairs minister in the Amin regime, was kidnapped in broad daylight. His bullet-riddled body was later found floating on the Nile, a river which would become a watery grave for hundreds, if not thousands, of victims (civilian and armed forces) of the bloodthirsty dictatorship.
Under Amin, two senior police officers, including the director of CID, Mohammed Hassan, met their deaths in circumstances, which could not be described as random shootings. It appeared as if they were marked for assassination and then eliminated.
Before them, Brig Pierino Okoya and his wife had been murdered by gunmen in their house just outside Gulu in January 1970. This tragic killing of the respected officer, who was commanding officer, 2 Infantry Brigade in Masaka, is said to have become a factor in the 1971 coup d’etat in which Obote was thrown out of power.
In the 1980s, the shooting to death of Lt Col Peter Oboma, former commanding officer, Moroto Barracks, and Capt George Nkwanga, the leader of the rebel Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda, which had joined the Okello military junta upon the second ousting of Obote in 1985, gripped the nation.
It is suspected that Lt Oboma was silenced because of his quarrels with individuals in the upper echelons of the Uganda National Liberation Army, the then national army that was the mainstay of Obote’s second government.
The hit on Capt Nkwanga, though never officially acknowledged, may have had more to do with the tribal realignment of forces in the immediate post-Obote II era.
Former Inspector General of Police Apollo Byekwaso met his death in perhaps the most perplexing manner. He had served as CID director in the Obote II era, before rising to the rank of police chief in the early years of Mr Museveni’s regime.
One day in 1992, he was sacked and went off seemingly quietly. Then six years later, he was suddenly shot dead by unknown persons.
Money has also played a role in some of these cases.
Lt Dennis Bataringaya, an officer with Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, may have been killed on the orders of powerful individuals inside the Museveni government, though no proof of this has ever been tendered. At the time of his murder, Lt Bataringaya was investigating suspected corrupt dealings involving large quantities of coffee.
Probably the most prominent and disturbing killing of a senior army officer during the Museveni years comes in the shape of the bloody bludgeoning to death of Maj Gen James Kazini.
Even though a woman believed to be his girlfriend was convicted for the crime and is serving time in Luzira Maximum Security Prison, questions and suspicions continue to linger about the true identity of Maj Gen Kazini’s killers. The murder instrument in the general’s death was either an axe or equally sharp-edged and heavy metal instrument.