To mark 50 years of Uganda’s independence, New Vision will, until October 9, 2012, be publishing highlights of events and profiling personalities who have shaped the history of this country. Today,
Stephen Ssenkaaba searches the archives and brings you the story of how Apollo Kironde challenged the colonialists against the deportation to Britain of Kabaka Mutesa II
At a time when many Ugandans could not stand up to the colonial government, one junior barrister did the unthinkable.
Apollo Kironde was not even well–known when he, together with two senior British lawyers, sought to challenge the deportation to Britain of Sir Edward Mutesa II, the Kabaka of Buganda, in the courts of law.
It was in the politically volatile 1950s, and the situation in Buganda was tense. Yet, as a junior counsel to Sir Dingle Foot and Charles Shawcross, he knew how noble a cause he was championing.
In 1955, Mutesa returned to Uganda to thunderous applause. The star of the man, who would later become Uganda’s first ambassador to the United Nations, was only beginning to shine.
Kironde was one of the prominent Baganda aristocrats. He was the grandson of Sir Apollo Kaggwa, Buganda’s most eminent prime minister.
He was also an accomplished teacher, lawyer and diplomat. He worked hard towards the establishment of Mulago Hospital. In fact, he identified and presented the plan and design of the hospital, which, according to his family and friends, was borrowed from Ibadan University Medical Teaching Hospital.
Uganda holds him as one of its visionary sons, a man whose privileged background never detached him from the needs of his own country.
Kasolo Serunyiigo, one of the elders in Mengo, recalls that despite his blue-blooded upbringing, Kironde remained modest, hardworking and true to his nation.
A man of promise
From a tender age, Kironde showed great promise. He attended Kings College Budo, Makerere College and later, University of Fort Hare in South Africa. Before going to South Africa, he had taught history and music at Budo for five years, from 1945-1949.
Mayanja Nkangi, one of Kironde’s students at Budo, remembers him as a wise man who “re–awakened the spirit of nationalism in many of us.”
Nkangi says Kironde’s teaching style “inspired us to question the entire rationale of dependence on foreign rule.”
At Budo, he was a master at vocal, choral and instrumental music, particularly the flute.
In 1950, he took up legal training. Two years later, he was called to the English Bar by the Honourable Society of Middle Temple, probably the first Ugandan to accomplish that feat.
In 1953, the Buganda Lukiiko appointed him, along with Thomas Makumbi, Eridadi Mulira and Dr. Ernest Kalibala, to negotiate the return of Mutesa from exile.
He also participated in the famous Hancock Constitutional Commission, which helped solve constitutional issues between Buganda and the rest of the country.
Israel Mayengo, a minister in Mengo and good friend of Kironde’s, also recounts that in 1955, the lawyer was one of the first three Ugandans selected to the Legislative Council (LEGCO). Prior to this, it had been a preserve of white Europeans.
“He was selected along with Zakaria Mungonya and Yusuf Lule,” he says.
From 1955-59, Kironde served in different portfolios as education, health, housing, labour, works and transport minister. As minister of health, he lobbied the central government to construct a national referral hospital at Mulago. He also championed the construction of the National Theatre in Kampala.
Kironde stood up against discrimination, especially during the colonial government. Serving at a time when many black Ugandan children could not attend the same schools as their white counterparts, he advocated for the establishment of inter–racial schools.
His son, Kaddu Mukasa Kironde, who could not attend an all-European primary school in Entebbe, recalls that his father, as assistant minister of social services, established Entebbe Common School, where non-European pupils could attend school.
This sent a powerful message to the colonialists about the need for Ugandan children to have equal access to quality education. Eventually, such a discriminative education system was phased out.
Kironde’s role in local politics, first as legal adviser to the Uganda National Congress and later, the Uganda Nationalist Party, along with Eridadi Mulira and Ignatius Musazi, set the stage for nationalist drives that would later inspire political leadership to independence.
But this plays second fiddle to his quick absorption into the diplomatic service. Indeed in 1961, at the eve of Uganda’s independence, Kironde was appointed the ambassador designate to the United Nations. During his tenure at the UN, he advised the Uganda government to obtain a permanent residence for the ambassador in New York.
He later helped to buy a residence at 111 E70 Street, New York. The five storey–house, located between Park and Lexington Avenue, says Mayengo, formerly belonged to Anthony Quinn, a famous Hollywood actor.
According to records, it cost $250,000 (about sh620m today). Kironde also bought a plot on which the Uganda House in New York is located.
After five years at the UN, he was ‘cleverly eased out’ of his job when President Milton Obote assigned Otema Alimadi as his deputy.
“It was rare for a UN ambassador to have a deputy then,” recalls Mayengo. “When Alimadi was sent to deputise Kironde, the diplomat knew it was time to move on.”
He then served as the director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, returning in 1970 after five years of service there.
Amin’s blue-eyed boy
Kironde returned as Idi Amin took power. “He was one of the technical people that the new president appointed to steer government,” says Mayengo.
He served as tourism and later, planning and economic development minister. Looking back on the days, Kaddu Mukasa recalls that his father seems to have found favour with Amin.
“They got along very well. He was given land, ranches and other properties that the president offered to some Ugandans when he expelled Ugandan Asians in 1972.”
It was during the 1970s that Kironde started Action Motors, a car dealership. His business later obtained a lucrative deal to sell Mercedes Benz cars in the country. The deal had been revoked from a regional dealer, DT Dobie, by Amin.
When Amin’s government fell, Kironde retired to his law firm, and jaggery and dairy farms in Kasangombe and Nakaseke.
In 1986, he was appointed to head a commission of enquiry into the mismanagement of the World Bank’s International Development Agency funds to schools during the Obote II regime.
In 1987, he settled in Britain, where he established an anti-establishment campaign.
Kironde returned in 1997 and lived a quiet life at his Mengo residence until 2007, when he died aged 92. He was survived by 15 children, a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Kironde played his part in the development of this country. And for that, Uganda will always remember his contribution.