By Carol Natukunda
Eng. Daniel Kigozi played a significant role towards the guerilla fight and became a minister and businessman after the war. But not much is said about him since he passed on 20 years ago.
Rumour had it that some wrong elements had infiltrated the supply chain of the special beer supplied to the army. Being the chief engineer at the East African Breweries, Daniel Serwano Kigozi knew his life was in danger. This was the infamous Idi Amin regime and anything could happen.
Kigozi fled as soon as someone tipped him off, and settled in Zambia with his young wife and toddler. Luckily, the breweries had a branch in Nairobi and Zambia, so he worked with the company’s Zambia branch for three years before returning to Uganda as the managing director of Uganda Breweries. By this time, the regime had changed and it was Yusuf Kironde Lule in power.
Things seemed normal for Kigozi until Milton Obote became president again. Soon, the ghosts from the past came to haunt him again. They wanted him out of the breweries leadership. It was believed that the then Uganda People’s Congress government wanted to have its own party diehards at the helm of high profile companies.
Kigozi again got a tip off that he was to be picked up and jailed on fabricated charges. Once again, he quickly fled to Nairobi.
Kigozi, at extreme left, poses with President Yoweri Museveni.
Such stories made him appear like the proverbial cat with nine lives. Kigozi knew he had to stop living like this. He was tired of living on the edge; always in fear of being followed; of waking up every day, unsure of what lay ahead for him. He decided he would support the then National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels fighting for regime change.
His wife, Maggie Kigozi, (the former Uganda Investment Authority director), remembers that her husband soon became a contact person for many of the key NRA soldiers. Their home in Nairobi soon became a rebels’ resting place.
“I was not told much; I never got the details, but I could see what was going on. He was supporting them in every way possible, even raising finances where need be or securing medicine for them,” she says, adding that sometimes he would offer accommodation.
“Even President Yoweri Museveni once passed through our home in Nairobi,” Maggie says.
Kigozi meets fallen Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat
In fact, some army sources say Kigozi is one exilee who spent more time than anyone else in the company of NRA liberators. Kigozi was their secretary, helper and confidante.
This means that everyone, from President Museveni and his senior army generals, to Rwanda’s Paul Kagame at one point had to share a meal with him.
And that when the time came for these big people to meet and plan their next move, Kigozi always sat alongside them, not just as “our Nairobi contact” but, acknowledged with all due respect for what he was — a member of NRA’s innermost stalwarts.
He also met former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Little wonder that in January 1986, shortly after the NRA captured Fort Portal, Kigozi was appointed the minister of industry and later the minister of works.
One of his greatest achievements was improving the state of the roads, since most of them had been ruined during the infamous regimes. Kigozi was also a member of the Constituent Assembly, which oversaw the making of the Uganda Constitution, a Member of Parliament as an ex-officio.
In 1991, Kigozi was dropped from Cabinet and chose to concentrate on private business.
Fortunately that year, the Government started privatising most of the parastatals. That is when Kigozi bought shares in the Pepsi Cola company.
The other two shareholders are Amos Nzeyi and Chris Kayoboke. The new shareholders injected more capital into the company and renamed it Crown Bottlers Limited, now Crown Beverages Ltd.
With a new management in place, other soda brands were introduced, making it one of the most competitive beverage companies today.
The former minister (right) was honoured by staff of Kenya Breweries.
However, Kigozi did not live to enjoy the fruits of his sweat. One day in 1992, Maggie woke up and prepared for their children’s visitation day at St. Andrew’s School Turi, Kenya.
Her husband drove her to the bus park at the National Theatre. That was the last time Maggie saw him alive. That night, he felt some pain in the chest and a few hours later, succumbed to a heart attack.
Breaking the news to Maggie who had travelled, was not only difficult; there was even no means to tell her. “We had no mobile phones then.
What other people remember about Eng. Kigozi
Capt. Juma Seiko, personal assistant to presidential adviser on defence, Gen. Salim Saleh:
Eng. Kigozi was a hero. He was somebody who worked so hard and was very principled. I admired him a great deal.
Hon. Sam Njuba: I knew him from the Budo days. He was a hardworking and morally straight person. He was a member of the external committee of the NRM. He helped the boys in Nairobi and made personal contribution to their transport and other costs. I feel sad that he, like other members of the external wing, has been forgotten. He deserves a medal.
Amos Nzeyi, co-shareholder in Crown Beverages:
I knew Eng. Kigozi through his wife Maggie, who was at the time working as a medical doctor at Kenyatta Hospital in Kenya. Maggie used to play squash and so did I.
At that time, I had also fled to Nairobi because of the bad Amin regime. Kigozi and I became friends and we were so close. He would play squash with my wife, and I would also play with Maggie. He also became a godfather to one of my children.
During the NRA struggle, I knew him to be a great cheerleader, and a morale booster. He was someone you could trust. I remember we occasionally met in his house with Mathew Rukikaire, Brig Andrew Lutaaya and others.
He had confidential information about the NRA. He was a man of few words but very humorous.
When they had the to acquire a franchise for Pepsi, I picked him to be my partner, because of his rich experience in the bottling industry. Without him,
I am sure I would not have won the franchise. He gave me a rich CV. After his death, his family took over and we work with them very well. But I am sure he is happy wherever he is. We have protected his interests.
Kigozi with his wife Maggie at the World Scout Parliamentary Union in Korea
- Born on October 15, 1945 to a Muganda chief and housewife.
- Studied at Kings College Budo
- Studied mechanical engineering at Nairobi University
- Worked at British American Tobacco as an assistant and chief engineer respectively.
- Met Maggie at BAT, where they were both working. Maggie was a receptionist during her S6 holidays.
- Worked at Zambia Breweries in Ndola as the chief engineer.
- Worked as managing director Uganda Breweries.
- Worked in Kenya Breweries as general manager Maltings.
- Minister of works in NRM’s first cabinet 1986-1991
- Loved cricket, scouting
- Survived by wife, Maggie, and three children, Daniel (Navio, the hip hop artiste), Freddie, a marketer and Michelle, a doctor/anaesthetist
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Eng. Daniel Kigozi: The forgotten hero