|. Ocheng’s widow gets caught in crossfire
EMMA NAMULI OCHENG, the widow of Daudi Ocheng, who was a confidante of Kabaka Edward Mutesa and a leading critic of the then Prime Minister Milton Obote, tells MICHAEL MUBANGIZI how she remembers the 1966 attack on the Kabaka’s palace:
I met Daudi Ocheng in Ssese Islands where we had gone with Sir Edward Mutesa for a picnic.
The Kabaka introduced him to me. He said they had studied together at Budo and he was his good friend.
I’m not a princess, but I grew up in the Lubiri and whenever there were parties in the Lubiri, he (Mutesa) invited him (Ocheng.)
I remember one of the parties, I think it was [Mutesa’s] birthday, that he attended.
Ocheng loved music so much; he sang for the Kabaka at that party.
He was well-dressed in a maroon suit and a bow tie and so I continued to get to know him.
Later, I left Mengo and went to Ntinda. I ran away from the palace because I loved music and Sir Edward never allowed me to go dancing.
We used to start dancing at midday and everyday, I would disappear from home and go dancing at Top Life Club in Mengo.
Other times, we would go to White Nile in Kibuye and Sir Edward would beat me for that because he never wanted me to go dancing yet, for me, I loved music.
In fact, that is one of the reasons that drew me to Ocheng because he loved music.
While in Ntinda, I again went dancing at Top Life Club with friends. Ocheng found us there. He was so happy to see me.
He asked me how I had found my way there, and if I had been allowed.
I told him they hadn’t allowed me, but I came because I loved music. I remember he gave me a lift with my two other friends in his brown Benz back home.
That was a Wednesday. We went to that same place on Friday and he again drove us home.
From then, we became real friends and later we married.
Ocheng’s Congo gold motion
He never asked me [about it] as his wife, but I remember people came at home and briefed him.
I don’t remember who they were, but they were mostly KY (Kabaka Yekka, Ocheng’s party) members.
They also included (UPC Secretary-General) Grace Ibingira and another man, Hajji Kulumba, from Mbale.
They complained about the rampant theft of amasanga (ivory). They asked him, as an MP, to help them move a motion [against the culprits].
They told him about the place where they (ivory tusks) were being collected and he insisted on seeing them first before taking any action.
They took him to that place the following day. That is how he brought the motion to parliament [in February 1966 implicating Prime Minister Milton Obote, Minister of Defence Felix Onama, Deputy Army Commander Col. Idi Amin and Minister of Planning Adoko Nekyon in the plunder of gold and ivory from Congo].
That motion annoyed many people in government. Indeed, it didn’t take long before he was arrested and given poisoned food which later killed him. I won’t repeat it because I have ever told you that story.
(See Poisoned in prison: Daudi Ocheng’s widow looked on as Obote minister fed her husband on poisoned food, The Weekly Observer, June 21-27, 2007).
Ocheng warns of attack
At the time of the 1966 crisis, Ocheng’s health had deteriorated and he was bedridden in Mulago, Ward 6B. By then, I had a one-month-old baby. There was a heated debate between Mengo and the central government. The talk then was that the Kabaka would be removed and the whole institution (the monarchy) abolished.
Being a close friend of the Kabaka, people were always at home [before Ocheng’s admission to Mulago] asking him about those issues and he gave them advice.
Ocheng used to tell them that the Kabakaship would be abolished.
“Obote has decided to abolish monarchism, and he is going to close Mengo. Prepare to defend the kingdom,” he always told them.
They never believed him and always asked him how the Kabaka could be removed and his kingdom abolished.
It was when they saw [Obote’s forces] attacking the palace that they believed what Ocheng had always told them.
That is when they started asking where Ocheng was getting that information from.
Secret package for Kabaka
On the day the Lubiri was attacked (May 24, 1966), Ocheng sent me from Mulago to go and tell Sir Edward that soldiers would be attacking his palace that day. I drove to Makindye, where Sir Edward was, and conveyed the message.
“We are already aware that they want to attack us but we are also ready. We are waiting for them,” he responded.
After I had spoken to him, some people came and drove him to his palace in Mengo. I think it was his decision to leave Makindye because that wasn’t part of my message to him.
The battle started when he was inside the palace and I don’t know how he left the palace.
As I drove from Makindye to my home in Nansana, I was told that someone wanted me in Mulago. So I drove to Mulago where I found a white man.
I don’t remember his name, but he gave me some things in boxes to take to the Kabaka. I don’t know what was in the boxes, but I took them to the Kabaka.
When I reached the palace, there was commotion and confusion at Wankanki gate.
There were many people at the gate holding stones, spears, guns and all sorts of things.
I gave the things to the Kabaka and started driving back to Nansana.
By then, the city was disorganised. Electricity had been disconnected in most areas.
There were so many people who had dug trenches in the roads. I failed to drive to Nansana because all the roads were full of trenches. [Heavy shooting] could be heard at this time.
I parked at the home of a lady I didn’t know in Ndeeba. She told me to hurry inside her house and hide there. That is where I spent the night. It rained heavily.
It was a terrible night for me. Remember I had a one-month-old baby who was at home alone with a maid, and a patient in Mulago.
That was a difficult night and I never slept. I was thinking about the two. I feared my baby would be killed. I was also worried about the patient. I feared they would find him in the hospital and kill him.
I remember about a week before the attack, some government officials visited [Ocheng] in Mulago and we were suspicious of their intentions.
He told them, “I know you have come to see whether I will get well or die. Don’t worry about me. I am about to die.”
So that night was far from good for me. I was thinking about the fate of my baby, my husband and of course Sir Edward.
Dead or alive?
Early in the morning, around 5am the following day, I drove to Nansana.
The road was full of armed soldiers who were checking all the vehicles that were moving.
I think they allowed me [to go] because I was alone in the vehicle with no things in it.
Moving was risky because the soldiers were beating whoever they saw. Because of the baby and the patient, I had to brave the road. By God’s grace, I reached safely in Nansana.
I breastfed her, bathed and drove to Mulago to see him [Ocheng].
That was around midday. There were still soldiers on the road. They were beating people, making them sit in the mud. They would kill some of the people they found with sticks and spears.
I never saw dead bodies myself, but I could see people lying down. I couldn’t tell whether they were alive or not. I couldn’t look towards the roadsides because they could beat me for nothing, asking what I was looking at.
Dying for a fight
I didn’t know Kiswahili. At some stage, they asked me in Kiswahili where I was going. I told them that I was going to Mulago. A soldier told his colleague to let me go. They thought I was a doctor. During that time, they thought it was only doctors who had vehicles.
[I found] Ocheng badly off. He asked me about the baby. He told me to look after the two children we had, saying that he was leaving them young. He also told his young brother, Dr. Martin Aliker, to look after the children. I won’t tell you whether he has looked after them or not.
He also asked me whether Sir Edward was killed or not.
“I was hearing gunshots at night. I wanted to go out and fight but I couldn’t because I don’t have energy,” he told me.
I told him I didn’t know [whether Mutesa was safe] because I had slept in Ndeeba, but I hoped he was okay.
He didn’t believe that. He insisted that I tell him the truth about the fate of Sir Edward. He thought I was hiding the truth from him.
It was after two or three days that we heard that the Kabaka had flown out of the country. Shortly after that, [Ocheng’s] state deteriorated and it didn’t take long before he died (on June 1, 1966.)
Give Caesar his due
I think it was wrong for UPC and KY to enter into an alliance. That was the start of the problem – getting somebody closer when he had different intentions about you. I think that was a mistake.
I’m no-longer close to people in Lubiri, but I think the Kabaka should refrain from politics.
That is my view, but I don’t talk to him. He should [limit himself to] cultural matters with all his honour and respect and all the things he is entitled to. But you have to sympathise with him too. I think what disturbs him is to hear that his land is being taken from him.
His land has been there, and people built and stayed on it for even 100 years without a problem but then, you suddenly hear that his land has been taken. Even if it were you, that would certainly annoy you.
That is why he speaks and when he does, people accuse him of getting involved in politics. Yet he can’t remain silent. Even if it were you, you wouldn’t remain silent when your things are being taken away. I don’t know how this (government-Buganda stand-off) will end. I’m not a politician, but I think our leaders should sit, discuss and resolve it.
I also think all people should retain what is rightfully theirs to avoid problems.
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