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Wacha Olwol the forgotten ''president''

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th June 2012 02:03 PM

The hot midday sun is fierce as I trek to upper Naguru, a Kampala suburb to interview the only surviving former president of Uganda, Yoweri Hunter Wacha Olwol. When I finally arrive at his home, the 89-year-old former president warmly welcomes me.

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The hot midday sun is fierce as I trek to upper Naguru, a Kampala suburb to interview the only surviving former president of Uganda, Yoweri Hunter Wacha Olwol. When I finally arrive at his home, the 89-year-old former president warmly welcomes me.

By Oyet Okwera

The hot midday sun is fierce as I trek to upper Naguru, a Kampala suburb to interview the only surviving former president of Uganda, Yoweri Hunter Wacha Olwol. When I finally arrive at his home, the 89-year-old former president warmly welcomes me.

Mzee Wacha ruled Uganda in an interim government for eight months from May 13 to December 1980. This interim government had three presidents who were then called presidential commissioners and they included; Mzee Wacha, Saulo Musoke and Nyamuconco.

Wacha becomes president

After the late President Idi Amin was overthrown, Wacha said there was a need to have a transitional government pending the 1980 elections. Wacha recalled that Prof. Yusuf Lule had been approved as President but the Parliament of the time, known as the National Consultative Council (NCC), nullified his appointment.

Wacha says Lule is the only Ugandan president to have been impeached by parliament. After Lule’s impeachment, Godfrey Binaisa (RIP) was again installed as president but he was overthrown by the military headed by Paul Muwanga and deputised by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Wacha reminisces that the military at the time acted as a person who was a “king maker” but could not make himself king — like a Pope who anoints a Roman emperor but continues to be Pope while the emperor rules.

Wacha recalls that there was an argument about which region the president should come from. Since Binaisa had said: “Entebbe ewoma” (the presidency is gratifying, in Luganda), the military was forced to form an interim government involving three presidents including Wacha.

“The other two; Saulo Musoke and Nyamuconco were judges from the High Court and Court of Appeal respectively, while I had risen through the civil service rank of Permanent Secretary to head of civil service,” said Wacha.

He also confirmed to New Vision online that the three of them were duly sworn in as Heads of State by the Chief Justice and took oath just like any other president would. Wacha said they ruled Uganda for eight months. They had come up with a work strategy that worked. For example when one would go to New York, the presumption was that the President of Uganda attended.

“We assented to laws. We swore in ministers and received ambassadors and restored Uganda’s diplomatic image abroad. As the law required at the time, when Uganda was going for the 1980 elections, we dissolved Parliament.

Worth noting also is that we were using the national emblem and the number plate and the presidential official car.

“During the Independence Day of October 9, 1980, we, the three presidents addressed Ugandans in Kololo, as heads of state. We also lived in State House and not Paul Muwanga as some people thought,” explained Wacha.

Mzee Wacha was an African District Commissioner (ADC) in Kitgum before working in Gulu. His responsibility was to liaise with chiefs to address issues affecting people living in Gulu and Kitgum.



He was also a member of the constitutional conference that went to London in 1960 to discuss the country’s constitutional affairs. This conference, according to Wacha, is the one that gave Uganda her independence.

He recalls that at the time, the military was fragmented in a unit known as Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). The army had many troops in order to oust Idi Amin from power. Wacha says initially, him and Amin were friends and they used to even go hunting together. However, he said Amin turned against him because he was a Langi. Amin wanted to kill all Acholi and Langi because he ssociated them with the late President Obote.

Escaping death
Wacha recalls that when Amin was a President, he killed two prominent Ugandans when they were trying to flee the country heading to Kenya. He told Sunday Vision that one James Apaale drove him to the Uganda-Kenya border dressed like a woman and Amin’s men did not notice him.

His daughter, Mary Wacha, says her father spent eight years in exile in Kenya and returned to Uganda when Amin was overthrown. Wacha was born to Rwot Olwol and Loy Akullo in 1923. Today he stays with his children and grandchildren in Naguru, a Kampala suburb.

Evidence of his Presidency
According to a Parliament document under the subject: “claim for emoluments and benefits by former members of the presidential commission, the presidential commissioner was the titular head of state. These members of the commission were Justice Saul Musoke, Justice Nyamuconco and Wacha Olwol.

The document indicates that the legal notice vested in the presidential commission all privileges, prerogatives, functions and exemptions enjoyed by the former president of the republic of Uganda with effect from May 12, 1980.

On May 17, 2012, Members of Parliament debated on Hon. Dennis Obua’s inquiry about whether government had failed to pay benefits to members of the presidential commission who served as head of executives in Uganda under legal Notice No.5 of 1980.

The Government’s position
Wacha says President Museveni has written to the public service ministry to pay the former presidential commission but nothing has been done up to date. He says even the Attorney General wrote to the same ministry telling them to pay their benefits in 2011.

“Following these letters, the public service ministry also wrote to the finance ministry asking for a supplementary budget to pay the presidential commissioners. The President also wrote a personal letter saying I should be paid by February but I have not yet been paid,” said Wacha.

Ray of hope
However, the latest letter seen by Sunday Vision which President Museveni wrote to Mzee Wacha indicates that he is destined to get his benefits along with the widows of Nyamuconco and Musoke by August 2012.

Mzee Wacha ruled Uganda in an interim government for eight months from May 13 to December 1980. This interim government had three presidents who were then called presidential commissioners and they included; Mzee Wacha, Saulo Musoke and Nyamuconco

Editor’s Note:
Political analysts say the three were more of ceremonial leaders. In reality, the Military Commission chaired by Paul Muwanga was in charge of the country.

Wacha Olwol the forgotten president

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