In Summary
  • Symbol of resilience . To many people, Kiwanuka’s house was a symbol of the resilience of the Democratic Party, which has survived the turbulent history of our country.
  • All the original political parties in Uganda namely the Uganda National Congress, the Progressive Party, the United Congress Party, and the Uganda Peoples Party did not survive to see our independence.

Last week, the name of Ben Kiwanuka the first prime minister of self-governing Uganda, re-surfaced in newspaper headlines in a manner, which depressed many people.
According to reports which first broke out on the social media Kiwanuka’s house at Kabusu in Rubaga Division was razed to the ground by a moneylender to satisfy a debt, which was taken by a member of the family.
This incident made many people to recall the mighty legacy Kiwanuka left behind when he disappeared without trace in 1972 and to ask how this legacy could be remembered..

To many people, Kiwanuka’s house was a symbol of the resilience of the Democratic Party, which has survived the turbulent history of our country. All the original political parties in Uganda namely the Uganda National Congress, the Progressive Party, and the United Congress Party, the Uganda Peoples Party did not survive to see our independence.
As a symbol of the Democratic Party, Kiwanuka’s house also helped us to recall the legacy of another great son of Uganda, Stanislas Mugwanya. Mugwanya resigned as omulamuzi (chief judge) of Buganda in 1922 over a long disagreement with the omuwanika (treasurer) Yusufu Musajjalumbwa, after whom Musajjalumbwa Road was named.

Mugwanya, who was a Catholic while Musajjalumbwa was an Anglican, decided to resign after Kabaka sided with Musajjalumbwa when the dispute reached him. In his letter of resignation, Mugwanya referred to his desire to see truth and justice done to him. Later “Truth and Justice” became the official motto of the Democratic Party.

In 1956, Ben Kiwnauka became president-general of the Democratic Party after the second president general Matayo Mugwanya, who was a grandson of Mugwanya, suddenly resigned to make way for a younger leader, who would transform it into a vibrant national party. By this time Uganda’s path to independence had been laid out by Sir Andrew Cohen, who had guided the Gold Coast (Ghana) to self-rule between 1945 and 1951, when he worked at the Colonial Office in London.

Cohen became Governor of Uganda in 1952 with specific instructions to guide the country to self-rule and his approach was to develop the country as a unitary, multi-racial nation with the Legco being the focal point of our nationhood.
To this end, Cohen and Kabaka signed a memorandum of understanding on March 30, 1953 in which Buganda agreed to send five representatives to the Legco through an electoral college. Unfortunately, relations between the central government and Buganda started to sore in November 1953 after Cohen deported Kabaka to London over the proposed East African Federation.

At the time, Kiwanuka was a law student in London and he managed to forge an intimate friendship with the young monarch. It was, therefore, natural that on his return to Uganda, Kiwanuka’s first shot at politics was as a member of the Buganda Lukiiko, representing Buddu County. Unfortunately, this was the time Buganda was demanding for a federal status, which was being resisted by the rest of the country.
As leader of a national party, it was difficult for Kiwanuka to side with Buganda’s demands without forfeiting his national profile. His biggest test came in 1961 when Buganda boycotted the national elections, which DP supported. Kiwanuka went on to win the elections and became chief minister and later prime minister.

Kiwanuka’s legacy should help us to re-examine our past with a view to finding a lasting solution to how our communities should relate to each other. Personal conflicts and intrigues and not religious differences and tribalism led to our country’s turbulent history. A Ben Kiwanuka Foundation can help us find new directions.

Mr Mulira is a lawyer.
peter.mulira89@gmail.com