A former ranking Ugandan military officer has identified both a current Ugandan Cabinet minister and the chief technical officer of the Ugandan air force as two of the men who hacked an American newspaper correspondent to death in Uganda in 1971.
The correspondent, Nicholas Stroh, heir to the Stroh's beer fortune, disappeared in July 1971, along with another American, Robert L. Siedle, lecturer at the University of Uganda. Neither body was ever found.
The former Ugandan official said the two prisoners were picked for execution by Capt. Steven Taban, now chief technical officer of Uganda's air force, for no apparent reason and slashed to death, probably with machetes.
"They weren't shot, they were slaughtered," he said.
The former officer, who asked not to be identified because he has relatives in Uganda, also named Col. Juma Sabuni, formerly minister of industry and power and currently minister of transportation, as helping [WORD ILLEGIBLE] murder. A third man he could not identify also helped he said.
Stroh, a freelance writer working for several American papers including The Washington Star, had been investigating alledged atrocities committed during the military coup that brought President Idi Amin to power in January 1971.
The former official, who defected earlier this year, speculated that orders for the killings may have to Taban from his superiors. But he added that Taban takes credit for the killings when he boasts about the incident, bragging that he got promoted to his current post because he has killed, not because he has a technical knowledge of aircraft. Taban is a member of Amin's tribe, the kakwa, and comes from Amin's home village.
Stroh's disappearance led to strong international protests, especially from the United States. Amin then created a commission to investigate the case and even met with Stroh's widow, Gerda. He repeatedly denied knowledge of their disappearance.
The first head of the commission was a young lawyer who was later forced to flee Uganda. The commission, eventually headed by Maj. John Mutono, dragged the investigation on inconclusively. Mutono is believed to have been assassinated earlier this year in Uganda.
The former officer who described the murders said, "You can't investigate a murder in a country where there is terror."
According to him the two Americans were visiting Mbarara, a town in southwestern Uganda, when they were picked up at the Agip Hotel by soldiers and taken to a nearby army barracks.
He was unable to give a reason for their arrest, except to say that there was considerable paranoia and antiwhite feeling among some of the Ugandan armed forces at the time.
The men were put in a holding cell until about 10:30 p.m., when their executioners appeared. After the two were killed, their bodies were taken by car to the village of Kasenyi, where the car and bodies were doused with gasoline and burned to destroy the evidence because "There was too much blood," the defector said. Nothing was left of the bodies but ashes, he added.
The former official said he does not know whether the men had been tortured before they were killed.
He speculated that even though Sabuni was a second lieutenant then, Taban picked the men for death because he was a member of the intelligence section.
Stroh, a native of Detroit, served in Africa in the Peace Corps.