The story of Ben Kiwanuka

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.