By J.M. Kavuma-Kaggwa
Ugandans recently held the first ever memorial mass for the late Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka at the Christ the King Church in Kampala.
Ben Kiwanuka (as he was popularly known), was the leader of the Democratic Party and he led Uganda to internal self-government in March 1961 until October 1962. He was the first African Chief Justice of Uganda. He was tragically dragged out of the High Court in Kampala in 1972 by President Amin’s soldiers and was never seen again.
The memorial mass was organised by the Democratic Party and was attended by many political leaders in Uganda.
It was during the struggle for Uganda’s Independence, when the Democratic Party was founded on October 6, 1954 at Rubaga.
The Democratic Party, which is now Uganda’s oldest Political Party, was founded by eight young revolutionary Catholics also to fight for Uganda’s Independence and national unity. The party came with a rallying call to the people of Uganda, which is - “Truth and Justice”.
The eight young revolutionary Catholics were the products of the famous Catholic Schools: Namilyango College, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, St. Henry’s College Kitovu and St. Peter’s Secondary School, Nsambya.
They were Joseph Kasolo, who was the founding President General, Joseph Kasule, founding Secretary General, S.B Kibuuka, P. Nsubuga, AB Serubiri, L.M Tyaba , M. Kiddu and Alphonse Ntale. Joseph Kasolo led the party for a short time and handed over to Matayo Mugwanya.
In 1958, the party changed leadership from a conservative Matayo Mugwanya to a young, charismatic and visionary British trained Lawyer, Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka.
Ben Kiwanuka transformed DP into a party of all tribes and all religions. His external exposure and his good quality of leadership and a clear foresight and visionary mindset made him lead the party to victory in the first general elections of internal self-government and he became the first prime minister from March 1961 to October 1962.
When he formed his cabinet to run the internal self-government in March 1961, he appointed three leading Protestants in the cabinet. They were Balamu Mukasa, Stanley Bemba, and John Sonko as well as a Muzungu Peter Wilkinson who was the Attorney General. Another strong pillar of the Democratic Party was Professor Senteza Kajubi who never changed from DP until his death recently.
As a true nationalist, Ben Kiwanuka stood for national unity and was not a tribalist or a sectarian. He would straight away tell you that Uganda is the land from Malaba to Rwenzori Mountains at the border with Congo and from Nimule to Mutukula.
Ben Kiwanuka had a clear vision for the political future of this country and more so, for the Baganda to be in power.
In 1959, at the time of registering voters throughout the country for the 1961 general elections, Buganda boycotted the registration exercise “because the British Government had not stipulated clearly what would be the position of the Kabaka and Buganda in an independent Uganda”.
Ben Kiwanuka came out aggressively and told the Baganda to “register as voters because Independence was coming”.
He was joined by his namesake J.W. Kiwanuka, who was the Chairman of Uganda National Congress and they both defied Mengo and urged the Baganda to register as voters.
He used to write articles daily in Uganda Post, Uganda Express, and Uganda Argus and Munno newspapers urging people to register as voters. Not so many Baganda registered, but outside Buganda people registered in thousands and that was why the Democratic Party won the elections.
What amused people was that in Bugerere County of Buganda, a DP candidate, the late Ponsiano Mulema, got three (3) votes and the Governor said that people had elected him as their MP and he took his seat in the National Assembly. He became minister for finance and economic planning.
Ben Kiwanuka will always be remembered that soon after forming the internal self-government; he initiated a very remarkable policy. He sent 400 Ugandan graduates, from all areas of Uganda, to Europe and USA on Government scholarships, for training in different categories of management to take over from European civil servants in the Government.
In October 1961, there was the first Constitutional Conference in Marlborough House, to discuss the Relationship Commission Report by Lord Munster, who had fully recommended a federal system of government for Buganda and Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole and Busoga.
Ben Kiwanuka attended as prime minster and Buganda demanded indirect elections to the National Assembly. Ben Kiwanuka vehemently insisted that Buganda must have direct elections to Parliament.
He told the Colonial Secretary, Ian Macloud, that – “As a matter of principle, I demand that the people of Buganda must directly elect their MPs, and if you insist on indirect elections, I will walk out of this Conference”, and he walked out of the Conference.
Milton Obote, who was the Leader of UPC, issued a statement supporting the Baganda. What was funny was that two years later, after becoming the Executive Prime Minister, Obote supported Ben Kiwanuka and he broke the political alliance between UPC and Kabaka Yekka Party. What happened after that is well known by the people of Uganda.
The fact remains that, if Buganda had accepted direct elections to Parliament in 1962, Ben Kiwanuka could have contested in one of the Masaka constituencies, come to Parliament as leader of his party, and DP could have won almost all the 21 seats of Buganda.
That would have automatically made Ben Kiwanuka get a majority in Parliament. He could have been the prime minister again and receive the Constitutional Instruments of Power on Independence Day, October 9, 1962 at Kololo.
In the repeat General Elections of September 4, 1962, both DP and UPC had an equal number of seats in Parliament. Buganda with its 21 nominated Members of Parliament was the deciding factor.
Unfortunately, for Ben Kiwanuka and the Democratic Party, the Buganda Lukiiko voted in favour of Kabaka Yekka Party forming a political alliance with UPC. That made UPC acquire a majority in Parliament and Milton Obote became the Executive Prime Minister. He received the Constitutional Instruments of Power on October 9, 1962 at Kololo.
Politically, the Buganda Lukiiko and Kabaka Yekka Party plus “the Mengo Baganda” (a group of Baganda who thought that they were more Baganda than others), did not know or failed to realise that by dropping Ben Kiwanuka, the Baganda were losing “political power” and “state power”, which they have not gained up to now.
The whole political miscalculations by the Buganda leadership in 1962 plunged Buganda into terrible political, social and economic suffering and loss of land until today.
At the time of making the National Flag, Anthem and Emblem by the Professor Senteza Kajubi Committee, UPC rejected the White and Green flag which Ben Kiwanuka had designed to be the National Flag.
Grace Ibingira of UPC designed the current Flag of Black, Yellow and Red stripes which where the UNC/UPC colours. They were repeated downwards so that the Uganda Flag does not resemble the Germany Flag.
Ben Kiwanuka protested very strongly at the exclusion of the DP colours in the National Flag. He requested that at least one of the two colours of DP, White or Green, must be on the National Flag. Both UPC and the Senteza Kajubi Committee accepted his request, and the white colour, which symbolises peace, was put in the middle of the National Flag of Uganda.
The Democratic Party has launched a serious campaign to find the remains of Ben Kiwanuka so that a national burial can be carried out at a proper place. Ugandans would like to have Ben Kiwanuka, one of Uganda’s great freedom fighters and Uganda’ s first prime minister, buried at the Independence Square at Kololo near I.K Musaazi and Professor Y.K Lule.
Finally the people of Uganda are requesting the Democratic Party to organise Ben Kiwanuka’s Memorial Day every year.
The writer is an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District
Ben Kiwanuka led Uganda to internal self-government