The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Gen. Tito Lutwa Okello

Gen. Tito Lutwa Okello was a Ugandan military officer and politician. He was the President of Uganda from July 26, 1985 to January 26, 1986. He was one of the commanders in the coalition between the Tanzania People’s Defense Force and the Uganda National Liberation Army, who removed Amin from power in 1979. He was selected to be the commander of the Ugandan National Liberation Army from 1980 to 1985. In July 1985, together with Bazilio Olara-Okello, Tito Okello staged the coup d’état that ousted Obote.

Born in Nam Okora, Kitgum district in 1914, the year in which the First World War began, Tito Okello was destined to be a soldier right from the word go. In 1940, aged 26 years, he joined the Kings African Rifles (KAR), the regional colonial army at the time. This was around the same time that Idi Amin too joined the force. As the case was, he was moved to Kenya and battled the Mau Mau uprising-a Kenyan movement that was fighting for independence.

Tito Okello later joined the Uganda Army as the country got independence. He soon rose to the rank of Lt of the Uganda Army in 1962 and by 1968, he had risen to the rank of Colonel. At the time, he was one of the highest ranked soldiers in the country.

When Obote was overthrown by Idi Amin, Tito Okello narrowly survived being captured by Amin`s henchmen and killed. He managed to sneak out of the country through Masaka-Mutukula and into Tanzania. In Tanzania, he was among the top commanders who organized the Ugandan exiles into a force that finally overthrew Idi Amin in 1979.

After the war, he became part of the Military Commission, the supreme body that was composed of former exiles that led the country soon after Amin`s overthrow. He was named Army Commander, a position he held for some time. Through the early 80s, he was part of the UNLA forces that fought various insurgences including the National Resistance Army (NRA) in Luwero Triangle. He was promoted to Lt-General in 1984, partly as a bid by then President Military Obote to stop a division within his army-between the Langi and Acholi.

Serious divisions broke out within their ranks because of the heavy casualties that the UNLA soldiers were suffering at the hands of the NRA. The Acholi accused their Langi counterparts of doing nothing serious to fight the NRA. On top of that the earlier appointment of Brigadier Smith Opon Acak, a junior officer to the position of Chief of Staff, replacing late Major General David Oyite Ojok did not go down well with the Acholi officers.

Subsequently in early 1985, they mobilized their forces and camped in Gulu. In early July 1985, they started their march to Kampala, briefly fighting off Langi soldiers at Karuma, before capturing power on the morning of July 27, 1985. Immediately, they named General Tito Okello as President of the Military Council, but his was not a very easy Presidency.

The military government of General Tito Lutwa Okello ruled from July 1985 to January 1986 with no explicit policy except the natural goal of self-preservation-the motive for their defensive coup. To stiffen the flagging efforts of his army against the NRA, Okello invited former soldiers of Amin's army to reenter Uganda from the Sudanese refugee camps and participate in the civil war on the government side. As mercenaries fresh to the scene, these units fought well, but they were equally interested in looting and did not discriminate between supporters and enemies of the government.

The reintroduction of Amin's infamous cohorts was poor international public relations for the Okello government and helped create a new tolerance of Museveni.

There was chaos across most of the country. His army was battling several rebel groups and the economy was completely dead. Lutwa tried to forge reconciliation by inviting the warring factions back home. Some of them like Colonel Isaac Nkwanga’s FEDEMU, Andrew Kayiira`s Uganda Freedom Movement and Moses Ali’s FUNA agreed to join the new dispensation, however the largest guerrilla group, the NRA refused to come on board.

In November 1985, peace talks between the Military Junta and the NRA/M started in Nairobi. An agreement was soon signed but it became apparent that it was not going to work since fighting continued, as abuse of human rights skyrocketed. By late December 1985, the NRA had cut off most of the South and West of the country, advancing as far as Mpigi.

The cease-fire initiative from Kenya was welcomed by Okello, who could hardly expect to govern the entire country with only war-weary and disillusioned Acholi troops to back him. Negotiations dragged on, but with Okello and the remnants of the UNLA army thoroughly discouraged, Museveni had only to wait for the regime to disintegrate. In January 1986, welcomed enthusiastically by the local civilian population, Museveni moved against Kampala. On 26 January 19866, Tito Okello was overthrown. Okello and his soldiers fled northward to their ethnic base in Acholi.

Yoweri Museveni formally claimed the presidency on January 29, 1986. Immense problems of reconstruction awaited the new regime.

Tito Okello went to exile in different countries including Kenya, Tanzania and several in Europe before his death in 1996, aged 82 years. Tito Okello was married to Esther Okello. Years later, one of Tito Okello’s sons Okello Oryem served as Minister in the NRM government. He is buried in Kitgum.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 10-06-2015 21:28:35 ZULU