In 1967, they returned to their abode which was at Gowers Road.
This is where, we, as students were being trained in the Survey Training School, by the Department of the Geological Survey and Mines as cartographers. There was a camaraderie spirit between us.
Nine years later, there was the hijacking of a French passenger airliner, by Palestinian terrorists; and the plane which had scores of Israeli passengers on board was forces to land at the Entebbe Airport. It put Uganda at the world spotlight and on the cross hairs of Israeli guns’.
These two events demonstrate the circumstances that Uganda’s two different Governments went through. On the one hand, the Dr. Apollo Milton Obote first Government of the 1960s and early 70s had a very good relationship with Israel in all aspects, such as defense links.
On the other, the regime of Field Marshall Dr. Idi Amin Dada [and a string of military medal citations accompanying], got into such an entanglement with Israel that it came down as the “1976 Israeli Entebbe Hostages Raid”.
On Monday, when the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, touched down at the airport, it was firstly, to commemorate and light a torch to remember the death of Israeli soldiers who died at the airport when rescuing the Israeli passengers. It was at the behest of the present regime of President Yoweri Museveni, who himself, hosted the event.
One of the Israeli soldiers who were killed by the Uganda soldiers at Entebbe Old Airport, was Netanyahu’s own elder brother, Col. Yoni Netanyahu, who commanded the Israeli contingent that came to free the Israeli hostages.
One of the hostages, Dora Block, who had been admitted at Mulago Hospital, was taken out and murdered by the Amin’s soldiers as a reprisal for their being bested by the Israeli commandos.
Amin had tried to play games with the hostages, helping the Palestinian terrorists to further make the Israeli hostages – “hostages” – by “refusing” to release the Israelis and instead pandering to the Palestinians. It became obvious that the intended “negotiations” were being played out, not merely to the interests of the Palestinians, but for Amin, himself.
This marked the biggest low in the bilateral Uganda-Israeli relations. Now, Museveni, is mending these relations which were tampered with by, arguably one “swine” leader, of the “backward” regimes.
But if one backward leader dealt Israel a mean hand, the other, could not, by any imagination, be referred to as swine or backward, when he brought such relations to a level that the present leader himself wants to return to.
This is what is marking the dichotomy with which a number of Ugandans view the Netanyahu visit. There is a controversy with which some see this visit, with a welcoming attitude, and others, being lukewarm.
Which is it: congratulating Netanyahu for the Israeli army’s release of the hostages, in which even up to 17 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and letting by-gones be by-gones; or, also, using this as an opportunity to whisper into Netanyahu’s ear that he should go slow on the Israeli settlement in the Hebron area of the Gaza Strip?
Knife-wielding Palestinian terrorists are continuing to stab and sometimes kill Israeli’s in these areas.
What therefore comes clearly out is the matter of fighting terrorism. Nobody acclaims terrorists, except themselves. Presently the world is witnessing the convulsions that the terrorists are creating in many countries.
Uganda has had its share of this scourge; and it can be said that it is because of its involvement in the intractable Somali state meltdown. But it may not be limited to that.
After nine years of trying to bring peace to Somalia, the Uganda troops, under the signature of Amisom – the African Mission in Somalia – have had successes and its downsides. The recent debacle concerns the salaries paid to the troops.
Over time there have been rumours of the soldiers going for months without pay, or merely being given a pittance of what should be 1,300 dollars per month for each soldier.
Only last week, the European Union (EU), who are supposed to forward this money which is donated by USAID – the American Agency for International Development, to the soldiers said that there were problems with accountability; and that was the reason they were delaying the last payment of six months.
But several years ago there was a rumpus in the Ugandan contingent that was rumoured to involve one of its officers, Col. Michael Ondoga.
The man was arrested and referred to the Military Tribunal, for reasons which were not entirely clear, but may have involved not following orders. Recently, however, he has been released and rehabilitated, but the matter has not clearly come to light.
In fighting terrorism in Somalia, is the Uganda Amisom contingent hampered by the lack of the money’s accountability? If this is the case, Netanyahu’s call to fight terrorism in one place as affecting its success elsewhere, may not be easy.