Brig Okoya’s murder: Rival Clans Reconcile 48 years later
For close to five decades the question of who murdered Brig Pierrino Okoya has been a subject of much speculation and debate.
But now that appears to have been cleared, if a recent reconciliation ceremony between the Pukwani and Palaro is anything to go by.
The late Brig Pierrino Okoya was from Palaro in Gulu district. Brig Okoya, then the commander of the army’s Second Infantry brigade was shot dead alongside his wife Anna Akello Okoya on January 25 1970 at his home in Koro village in then Gulu but now Omoro district.
Okoya’s murder set off a chain of events that some say led to the ascendance to power by former President Idi Amin.
Okoya’s murder was reported to have been executed by Raymondo Oryema, a soldier from the Pujwani clan in Amuru district. In the murder mission Oryema was reportedly accompanied by Smuts Guwedeko, also a soldier. Both were said to have been acting on the orders of then army commander, Idi Amin.
It is reported that Amin had become angry with Brig Okoya after he(Okoya) accused him(Amin) during a Defence Council meeting in December 1969 of failing to take command following a failed assassination attempt on then President Apollo Milton Obote.
Now 48 years after the mysterious murder of Okoya and his wife, two clans from Acholi have reconciled with one asking for forgiveness from another.
The reconciliation ceremony last week was led by the Pageya Clan Chief, Rwot Yusuf Adek. It was held at Bongotyet village in Palaro sub county. The two clans performed the Mato Oput ritual, an Acholi cultural practice of restoring relationship and forgiveness.
A sacrificial sheep was cut into two halves after which the representatives of the two clans drunk Oput, a bitter root from which the Oput is made.
The ceremony was followed by compensation in which the victim’s relatives received Shs 14 million from the government an equivalent of 33 cows and Shs 400,000 from the clan of Lamogi as compensation for the murder of both Brig Okoya and his wife Akello.
The event was attended by clan chiefs from Lango, Pubungu in Pakwach District, Lamogi in Amuru district, Alokolum, representative from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces [UPDF], local and district leaders and legislators from Gulu Municipality and Amuru district.
Speaking at the ceremony, Rwot Adek lauded president Museveni for entrusting him to oversee that the process of reconciliation and compensating family of Brig Okoya, 48 years later.
“I received the money from the president’s office and kept safely for 47 days till today that it has been handed to the relatives of late Brig Okoya. We laud President Museveni for this kind gesture, I believe it’s because he is a soldier that’s why today we have seen this compensation for the live lost happening and reconciliation which defeated other past presidents,” Rwot Adek said.
Rwot Adek said he intends to invite the president to attend in person the last funeral rites for Brig Okoya to be held on a yet-to- be announced date.
Sigh of relief
Deogratious Odida, a nephew to Oryema who reportedly shot dead Brig Okoya told Acholi Times in an interview that the traditional ceremony has helped to bridge the relationship between the two clans that was lost four decades ago.
“Our interest as a clan and family has been to see that this process comes to an end. We have lost a number of relatives in a manner we suspect is linked to what our uncle did [murder Okoya],’’ said Odida.
“As of today, we are relieved as the Pujwani clan. The people in our community looked at our house as the sole problem they had with the Palaro clan, but this has been a success,” he added.
Odida however said his family does not up to date know where their uncle, the late Oryema, was buried.
Gwaido Taci, an elder Palaro said the reconciliation has removed the grudge they have been holding against the Lamogi for over four decades.
“We were afraid of meeting each other because of what happened in the past, but now we are very free, we talked, greeted each other’s and even ate together for the first time,” Taci said.
Rtd Captain Johnson Lajul, the son to Brig Okoya said he feels good knowing that there is no longer any bad blood between Palaro and Pujwani clan members.
A military museum in honour of Okoya
Gulu Municipality Member of Parliament Lyandro Komakech proposed that government builds a military museum in memory of late Brig Okoya’s legacy.
“We suggest that government should construct a military museum at the Brig Okoya’s former home in Koro village, with that in place, tourists who visit the region can also be taken through the history of such a gallant man.’’
The government is expected to organize the last funeral rites for the late Brig Okoya on a yet to be announced date, according to the Fourth Division Infantry Intelligence Officer Lt Col Obura Kidega who represented the army at the ceremony.