Uganda has had a number of leaders with the most memorable being Milton Obote, Idi Amin and its longest-serving president Yoweri Museveni.
But before Museveni became president, he ousted one of the country’s little-known presidents, Tito Okello Lutwa, in 1986.
Okello was born in Nam Okora, Kitgum district in 1914. Little is known about his childhood. When he turned 26, he joined the King African Rifles at the same time as Amin.
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He was then sent to Kenya to fight for the British forces which was battling the Mau Mau. Upon Uganda’s independence, Okello returned home and soon rose up the ranks to become a lieutenant in 1962 and colonel in 1968, making him one of the highest ranked soldiers at the time.
Okello narrowly escaped capture and death when President Obote was overthrown by Idi Amin’s soldiers in 1971. He fled to Tanzania, where he commanded the Kikoosi Malum faction alongside the Tanzanian forces to topple Amin in 1979.
He was made the commander of the Ugandan National Liberation Army from 1980 to 1985 when, together with Bazilio Olara-Okello, they toppled Milton Obote, who had taken over power again from 1980.
Okello ruled as president for six months before he was toppled by the Museveni-led National Resistance Army (NRA).
His short-lived presidency was not easy. Not only had he inherited a divided army, he also had to handle the chaos across the country and a dead economy. Although he tried to bring the different factions in the army together, he failed to attract the NRA, which wanted certain demands to be met. Even the peace accord signed by the two parties and brokered by Kenya’s Daniel Arap Moi, failed, pushing the former to continue the march towards Kampala.
Following his ouster, Okello fled to Nairobi, then to Tanzania and eventually to different countries in Europe until 1993 when he returned to Uganda under an amnesty granted by Museveni. He died in 1996 aged 82 due to an undisclosed illness.
He was buried in his hometown of Kitgum and was in 2010, posthumously awarded the Kagera National Medal of Honour for fighting against Amin in the 1970s.