Oryem Henry Okello is the Member of Parliament for Chwa East and Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of International Affairs, Republic of Uganda.
While the national army commemorated its 38th Tarehe Sita Anniversary at Core Primary Teachers’ College grounds in Kitgum district on Wednesday, the minister used the opportunity to ask President Museveni for a military rank.
Oryem’s outcry for a military rank was premised on the fact that he may soon be retiring from service to his country.
Oryem said he was briefly interested in enrolling with the army until the first son convinced him otherwise and “discharged him”.
“Your Excellency, it was Muhoozi Kainerugaba [now Lt Gen] who discharged me from the army. I should at least be a Private,” Oryem told Museveni who was presiding over the event.
Oryem said owing to his short-lived stay with the national army, his service in the political field and the fact that he is the son of a General [Okello], he deserves a high military rank.
“With all my military experience, service as a minister and son of Gen Okello, make me a Major General sir!” he added, sending the audience into bouts of laughter.
The minister told the president that soldiers that came after Independence made many big mistakes which resulted in several military coup d’états.
By 1986, Uganda had seven coups and nine presidents.
President Sir Edward Luwangula Walugembe Muteesa II was the first to be deposed by the army under Milton Obote in 1966.
President Apollo Milton Obote was also overthrown in 1971 by Idi Amin in a military coup.
President Yusuf Kironde Lule who came after Amin was also deposed by National Consultative Commission (NCC) in a coup.
In 1985, Obote 11 was overthrown by the Okello brothers Brigadier Bazilio Okello and Gen Tito Okello Lutwa [Oryem’s father].
On January 26 1986, Tito Okello was overthrown by NRA soldiers under Gen Yoweri Museveni.
“Big mistakes. All these coups and violence were as a result of big mistakes. The big mistakes of our forefathers,” Oryem told Museveni.
Oryem said it was only when UPDF took charge that the country was liberated from the big mistakes that brought up turbulent times.
He said UPDF achievements have registered a turning point in the history of Uganda. He lauded UPDF for transforming Uganda and guarding peace.
Born in Chwa County Kitgum District on 21 January 1960, his late father is General Tito Lutwa Okello (1914–1996), who served as President of Uganda between July 1985 and January 1986.
Between 2006 and 2008, he served as a member of the government delegation to the Juba peace talks between the Ugandan Government and representatives of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Museveni didn’t directly say whether he would or would not give Oryem a rank but maintained that UPDF has not diverted from the original goals and targets he set 38 years ago.
“Running a country is like treating a patient. You much diagnose a patient first. If the diagnosis is wrong, treatment can’t be right,” Museveni said.
He noted that any army officer that backs at the public should be somewhere working in a bar.
“The army is recruited from the public. You can’t shout at your father or mother,” he said, warning them not to repeat the big mistakes of their predecessors that minister Oryem emphasised in his speech.
The president added that UPDF is a pro-people Army since the people make the foundation of UPDF and without the people one cannot have an army, noting that earlier attempts to form a National Army failed because of lack of certain ingredients like having the wrong diagnosis of what makes a national army.
He promised to inject more money in the process of compensating veterans, adding that Uganda has built more capacity and nobody can destabilise it. “We never attack innocent people and nobody should disturb the peace that has ushered in this transformation,” Museveni warned.