OBITUARY | IAN KATUSIIME | Maj. Gen. Paul Lokech has since his death been described as daring and brave. That is how he earned the ‘Lion of Mogadishu’ moniker during his first tour of duty in Somalia as the contingent commander of Ugandan troops from 2011 to 2012.
He died on Aug. 21 after just eight months Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP). Medical reports say he died of a blood clot after sustaining an injury while at his home.
Lokech was often in the thick of action as evidenced by his videos at the frontline while fighting Al Shabaab in Somalia or hunting for suspects involved in the attempted assassination of Gen. Katumba Wamala.
Lokech was actively deployed in all the hotspots Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) has become renowned for; South Sudan and Somalia. His second tour of duty in Somalia was from December 2018 to December 2019. It was while here that he was promoted from Brigadier to Maj. Gen. Lokech’s name was initially not on the long list of those promoted but after an outcry, his name was included.
From Somalia, the army deployed him as Commandant of Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre (URDCC). His role as DIGP was his first non-army assignment and last. The last actions of Lokech were a wide ranging transfer of police officers across the country. This was a day before he was pronounced dead.
Coup finds Lokech at Comboni
Dark, tall and quiet, Lokech led a soldierly life in school and his contemporaries at Comboni College were not surprised when he chose that career path. One of his former classmates says his actual name was Paul Okech.
Lokech joined the army in 1987 and the 1985 coup by Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa, a disgruntled soldier in the Obote government army, had something to do with it.
At the time of the coup, Lokech was a student at Comboni College in Lira district. As confusion mounted, Lokech was picked from school by relatives of his who were in the then army, Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). There was tension between Acholi and Langi factions in the army and a young Lokech, an Acholi, was caught in the middle. Students at Comboni were furious on why Lokech had not tipped them off over the impending coup. They said he must have had information about the matter.
Lokech was an Assistant Head Prefect at the school. Former classmates say the uncertainty of the time was the more reason Lokech joined the army in 1987. By this time, a new government had taken over with its army as the UPDF.
He first worked as an Intelligence Officer when he joined including a posting in Tanzania. He later worked as the Division Intelligence Officer at the Gulu-based Fourth Division.
Lokech was born in Pader in northern Uganda in 1966. Little is known about his primary school education but he made a name fighting rebels of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) which terrorised Pader and the Acholi sub region in the 1990s. Lokech was the Brigade Commander of 501 based in Pader according to his close friend and comrade, Maj. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga with whom they fought the rebels. “He could take very quick decisions on the battlefield,” Muhanga said.
Lokech was also involved in the famous battles of the UPDF in the Congo. As a major, he commanded the 65th UPDF Battalion in Kisangani during the Congo war in 2001. After the fighting, the story is told of how Lokech had to walk with his war weary men from Kisangani all the way to the Ugandan border.
South Sudan special mission
In November 2019, President Museveni sent Lokech on a special mission to South Sudan to “monitor on behalf of the guarantors of the South Sudan peace process, the assembling, screening, demobilization and integration of the armed forces of South Sudan.”. The country had just put together a peace agreement.
Lokech’s immediate former position was chief of staff of the Air Force in the UPDF. His other roles included Commander of the Second Army Division, based at Makenke Barracks, in Mbarara. He previously served as the Military Attaché at Uganda’s Embassy to Russia, based in Moscow.
However Lokech’s most famous time on the battlefield seems to be as Commander of UPDF troops in Somalia in 2011-2012. Uganda was deployed in Sector 1 of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Mogadishu which was Ground Zero in the fight against the Islamist militants Al Shabaab. It is here that he earned his stripes as one of the most outstanding officers of the UPDF.
Lokech was buried in Pader on Aug. 27 and is survived by a wife and five children.