Benedicto Kagima Mugumba Kiwanuka

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Benedicto Kagima Mugumba Kiwanuka

The Ugandan politician Benedicto Kagima Mugumba Kiwanuka (1922-1972) was one of the early leaders in the independence movement of Uganda and led the country in the transition stage between colonial British rule and independence. He was murdered by Idi Amin in the early 1970s.

Benedicto Kiwanuka was born in May of 1922 in Kisabwa in the Buganda kingdom of Uganda, the son of a minor but wealthy Roman Catholic Buganda chief. Kiwanuka received his early education in mission schools, and his career must be seen in relation to a continuing relationship with the Catholic groups of Uganda. During World War II Kiwanuka served in the African Pioneer Corps, with duty in Kenya, Egypt, and Palestine, completing his military career with the rank of sergeant major.

After the war Kiwanuka returned to Uganda and took employment in the Judicial Department as a clerk and interpreter. Wanting to study law, he prepared by attending Pius XII University College in Basutoland (now Lesotho) from 1950 to 1952, before proceeding to Britain to attend University College, London (1952-1956). He was admitted to the bar at Gray's Inn in February of 1956. Returning to Uganda. he practiced law privately from 1956 to 1959.

Entry into Politics

At this time, Uganda was moving to gain independence. But it had special problems due to its complicated administrative structure, especially with the highly organized kingdom of Buganda, which was also the most economically advanced section of the country. Many of its leaders were little disposed to diminish their state's special position by submerging it in a greater union. Among the various political organizations formed in this time of flux was the Democratic Party, the result of pressure from Roman Catholic groups, who thought that members of their religion did not have sufficient representation—in relation to their numbers—in the Ugandan political arena. Efforts were made to draw non-Catholic support as well, but the Democratic Party always kept a damaging reputation as being too closely tied to one religious body. Kiwanuka became its leader in 1958 and subsequently relinquished his law practice so that he could devote his time to politics.

Ugandan Leadership in the 1960s

When the first important elections were held in Uganda in 1961 to determine the country's future, there were only two important political parties: the Democratic Party and the Uganda People's Congress. The kingdom of Buganda decided to boycott the election. The Democratic Party swept the Buganda elections and won enough votes in the rest of Uganda to secure the largest representation in the legislature. Kiwanuka was asked to form a government, and on July 1, 1961 he became the first chief minister of Uganda. On March 1, 1962 he was appointed Uganda's first prime minister.

Kiwanuka's time as prime minister was fleeting. New elections were held in April of 1962 and Kiwanuka failed to gain reelection to the National Assembly. This time the Buganda participated by allying with the United People's Congress; their joint forces triumphed, and Milton Obote replaced Kiwanuka as prime minister. Obote then presided over Uganda's independence. The Democratic Party became the main opposition party, with Kiwanuka as their leader, despite losing his seat in the election. In the mid 1960s he focused on Uganda's Muslim population and their neglected needs.

Amin and Crisis

In the late 1960s Uganda was in a state of instability. After strengthening his military base, Idi Amin overthrew Obote's government and forcibly took control in 1971. Amin plunged Uganda into a deep crisis and an era of ruthless persecution.

Confusion surrounded Kiwanuka's arrest in September of 1972. Witnesses reported that armed men seized him, although a military spokesman denied the arrest and suggested that government impostors may have been responsible for the capture of several important officials. Shortly after, Amin's forces murdered him. Kiwanuka was one of many people slaughtered during Amin's reigning years of chaos and terror. In his book Uganda Since Independence: A Story of Unfulfilled Hopes, Phares Mutibwa asserted that Amin murdered Kiwanuka because he perceived him to be a potential rival leader.

Further Reading

Kiwanuka's career can be followed in Ronald Segal, Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties, Stevens and Sons Limited (1961); Ali Mazrui, Violence and Thought: Essays on Social Tensions in Africa (1968); A. J. Hughes, East Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania (1969); and Phares Mutibwa, Uganda Since Independence: A Story of Unfulfilled Hopes, Hurst and Company (1992). The most comprehensive source on Kiwanuka is Albert Bade's Benedicto Kiwanuka: the Man and His Politics, Fountain Publishers, Uganda (1996). □

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Benedicto Kagima Mugumba Kiwanuka

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