Apolo (or Apollo) Milton Obote (pictured) was a politician and activist who rose to become president of Uganda, after leading the nation to independence from British rule. On this day in 1966, Obote essentially staged a coup and declared himself president, setting in to motion many significant events.
Obote was born December 28, 1925, in a Northern Ugandan village. After excelling in school as a young man, he entered Makerere University. Although Obote wanted to study law, it was not offered at the institution. After leaving the university, Obote moved to Kenya and joined the national independence movement. Returning to Uganda in 1956, he joined the Ugandan National Congress (UNC) and was elected to serve on its legal council.
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Before the independence elections, Obote joined forces with the Buganda royalist party, Kabaka Yekka. Together, the UNC and Kabaka Yekka owned a majority in the nation’s parliament, and Obote became Prime Minister in 1962. The next year, Sir Edward Muteesa (pictured at right), the king of the Buganda, was made the ceremonial president with Obote moving to executive prime minister.
Tensions mounted between Kenya and Uganda, and a military mutiny sprung forth within the Ugandan Army in 1964. Idi Amin (pictured below), a leader of the mutiny, demanded of Obote and his defense minister that the army’s pay be raised and he, along with a number of low-ranking officers, be promoted.
In 1966, Obote was suspected of a gold smuggling scheme alongside Amin. At the time, Amin was the deputy commander of the Ugandan army. Instead of letting the parliament launch its investigation, Obote abolished the nation’s constitution and declared himself president. Obote then led an attack on King Mutesa’s palace, which led to him officially rising to power in 1967 under a new constitution.
Idi Amin launched a coup against Obote in 1971, and became the nation’s president. There has been several accounts of countries in the West aiding Amin’s coup, thus leading to one of Uganda’s most-brutal periods under the dictator’s rule.
Amin was eventually defeated by a group of Tanzanians along with Ugandan exiles in 1979. A year later, Obote returned to power for his second presidential term under his Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party.
A socialist that many Ugandans felt bankrupted the country with corruption and scandal, Obote was not a beloved figure.
Museveni formed the Popular Resistance Army (PRA) and joined the Uganda Freedom Fighters, which ultimately became the National Resistance Army (NRA). The so-called Ugandan Bush War raged on from 1981 to 1986, killing tens of thousands of citizens caught in a political war of wills.
On July 25, 1985, Obote was overthrown once more by men in his army in a coup, so he fled in to exile. Museveni came in to power the following year.
Obote never returned to politics and died in 2005 of kidney failure while in South Africa.