The writer reflects on a life which has been high up Ugandaâ€™s politics
By Caroline Lamwaka
FORMER Prime Minister Eric Otema Allimadi is dead. He died of renal failure and blood pressure complications at Mulago Hospital on August 5.
Allimadi, 73, was a seasoned politician who had settled into retirement after nearly 40 years of active political life.
He exuded an atmosphere of warmth, friendliness, diplomacy and authority about him. He had a fine sense of humour too.
As a former leader of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Democratic Army/Movement (UPDA/M) Allimadi signed a peace agreement with the NRM Government in 1990 and returned home with hopes that the war in northern Uganda would end. He told this author in March 1999: â€œI thought my presence here and the calls I had been making to the rebels to return home would be effective. And I must say I was disappointed. They didnâ€™t heed to my call. I donâ€™t know what went wrong. It is not easy form to guess. But one thing is that the group, which was associated with me, was different. It was headed by Brigadier Odong Latek. Joseph Kony was not known to me. Latek is presumed dead.â€
Allimadi was born in 1929 in Kitgum, where the Church of Uganda stands today, to the late Saulo Allimadi, a teacher, and Susana Layado. He studied in Gulu Primary School and Gulu High School. In 1947, Otema joined the army and did proper training in weaponry for six months.
He said: â€œI didnâ€™t want to finish my junior secondary because my interest was in the army. I wanted to join the army to go and fight. Looking back now, I donâ€™t think I even knew what I was going for. I joined the army a very happy man and I remained there for six years. That was when I got my two and a half yearsâ€™ training as a nursing orderly.â€
The training was in Nairobi and Mombasa. There was a big military hospital there which had been transferred from the Middle East to Kenya. The six monthsâ€™ military training was at Langata, a few kilometres west of Nairobi. From Langata, they went to Nairobi Military Hospital, Kabete. Allimadi completed his military training at Mackinnon Road, Hospital Number 53.
After finishing the Grade I course, Allimadi again enrolled for General Certificate of Education courses (GCE) at Wolsey Hall, Oxford, by correspondence in 1951. He had been transferred from Mombasa to Moshi, brigade headquarters in the southern areas. There they had only a medical room like a dispensary. It did not have a military medical doctor, and Allimadi manned it as a corporal in charge of the medical room. That was when he also had time to study.
He was demobilised in 1953 and he said, it became difficult for him to continue with the course.
Otema returned to Uganda in 1953 and joined the Uganda National Congress (UNC). The UNC had already started in many parts of the country, with branches in Acholi being organised by Mzee Peter Oola. Oola recruited Otema into the party immediately even before he took up a civilian job in the medical department and he was posted to Palabek, Kitgum, in charge of a dispensary there. However, Otemaâ€™s duty as a civil servant conflicted greatly with his role as someone propagating for the party, so in 1956, he resigned to become a full time party activist.
That year, the President General of UNC, Ignatius Musaazi, appointed him Permanent Secretary of the UNC. Shortly afterwards, UNC split and he joined Oboteâ€™s group to found UPC.
â€œWe felt that the party was going to steer Uganda towards independence. In the press conference we held, I even caused a stir by saying that unless we were granted independence then, as we were demanding, we may consider declaration of independence ourselves. This made a lot of people within the new party uncomfortable.â€
Allimadi failed to be elected to parliament in 1961 and 1962 because he and Peter Oola were standing in the same constituency under UPC ticket. After losing the parliamentary elections, he opted for the district council seat. He was elected to represent Patiko in 1963. That was when his political stars began to rise. Obote invited him to participate in the Central Government by first attaching him to the various delegations in the foreign ministry, like going to the OAU committees and the UN General Assembly in New York, where he was recognised as a forceful spokesperson. That sealed Allimadiâ€™s fate.
In December 1963, after he returned from New York, Allimadi was appointed as one of the representatives of the OAU Experts Committee, which was to be in charge of the OAU until the Secretary General was appointed.
Allimadi served for about three months in censoring newspapers in early 1964 a job he described as very unpopular, but which somebody had to do. After Addis Ababa, Allimadi was appointed as deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
When he returned for vacation in 1966, Obote called him and offered him a job as Ambassador to the United States. The following year, 197, Allimadi became a Ugandaâ€™s permanent representative at the UN concurrently, and the following year, he became High Commissioner to Canada still concurrently. He stayed there up to 1971 when Idi Amin toppled the Obote government. Allimadi had already submitted his resignation even before the coup because he was aiming to run for elections in 1971.
Allimadi went to exile in Tanzania in 1971 and stayed with Obote until Idi Amin was overthrown in April 1979.
He was appointed Prime Minister under Obote Two, where he served the country until Bazilio Okello overthrew Obote.
Otema Allimadi a seasoned politician