Book: The Sapoba Legacy: A story of Ideals and Idealism in Ugandan politics and family life
Authors: Kirunda Kivejinja, Bidandi Ssali and Kintu Musoke
Reviewed by: Faustin Mugabe
First published: 2014
Available at: Uganda Bookshop, Mukono Bookshop and Aristoc
History is recorded events. So, if you saw it or did it, say it and say it loudest for the farther ear on earth to hear. Three veteran Ugandan politicians; Kirunda Kivejinja, Bidandi Ssali and Kintu Musoke have just done it. They saw history, lived it, made it and recorded it.
The trio or the troika as they are fondly called, in the book: The Sapoba Legacy which they co-authored, they exhibit extraordinary bond cemented between the three men and their families that has lasted nearly sixty years since they first met as students.
The three-some autobiography, probably the first of its kind in Uganda, reveals their experiences from when they were toddlers to present-day when they are national leaders and parents surrounded by children and grandchildren. The troika has almost similar experiences they encountered. For instance the two, except Kivejinja have ever been sent to Luzira prison; although in different regimes.
And while Kivejinja ran to exile, the two never did.
Another topic widely discussed in the book is the Sapoba ‘enterprise’, which attracted the title Sapoba Legacy for the book. Regrettably, Sapoba, one of the best publishing houses in Uganda established by the trio as youths in the mid 1960’s, finally collapsed and died in 1999.
Sapoba was also the publisher of the Weekly Topic, Uganda’s first real investigative newspaper; a common study case by students of mass communication or journalism in Uganda. Whenever challenges of running a newspaper and a publishing house in Uganda are discussed, Sapoba press is mentioned. Nevertheless, the troika proudly reveals how and why the famous Sapoba publishing house collapsed.
The 334-page-book is segmented into three parties: the first part covers the autobiographies of the troika. The second records the history of Sapoba printing and journalism while the third is about the Sapoba family memories.
Each of the troika has a revealing story. For instance, on page 30, Kivejinja as the UPC research and information officer reveals how in 1963 he organised youth in Kampala to steal state flags, including the British and American, and burnt them. For his radical action, he was black listed by the American authorities.
Worth to note is that of the three, Kivejinja was fiery especially in his youthful days. For instance, when he had returned from an Asian trip flushing with anti-colonialism anger, he caused a stir in the diplomatic circles when he issued a stern warning to non-African legislators in Uganda.
On June 20, 1963, he was quoted by the Uganda Nation newspaper as having said: “All non-African Members of the Parliament should be removed immediately before the force of nationalism throws them away. Uganda is independent and the responsibility of making laws governing it is entirely in the hands of Africans”. If only some of Kivejinja’s anti-colonialism-lightning quotes were included in their book.
Anyhow, on page 38 Kivejinja also reveals how he fished Kale Kayihura, a lecturer in Britain, to come and join the National Resistance Army in Luweero. But most interestingly, Kivejinja could have inadvertently chosen the best epitaph to use as he finally leaves for the bosom of his creator – Allah.
On page 45 he writes: “My life’s work will only come into a proper perspective after I have died, because that is when somebody’s labour can be summed up and objectively assessed. I would like to be remembered as a person who has made a contribution to serving his country and his people selflessly”.
Any wonder why he said this as he concluded a chapter about his contribution to Uganda his motherland!
For veteran politician and founding President of the People’s Progressive Party, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, he too mentions his contribution in developing Uganda. He proudly states he is the brain child of the famous Local Government Act which was born when he was the minister for local government.
Needless to say, he also sounds begrudged with Museveni.
On page 75, he castigates President Museveni on land reforms though indirectly. Bidandi suggests that because President Museveni has a nomadic background, he cares less about the burial grounds of the ancestors unlike the Baganda.
“We cherish and preserve that knowledge and we are keen to pass it on to grandchildren. We want to show them: ‘This is where my father was buried, and next to him is the father of my father and so on. For Museveni, on the other hand, this means nothing.
You cannot now ask Museveni about the grave of the father of his father, because it has no value for him. Unfortunately, he goes on to use this aspect of his background as a basis for saying that all cultural values of that kind are backward. For me, it is not backwardness. I believe if you have no history, you cannot value your present because for you it means nothing”.
Kintu Musoke’s account
Former Prime Minister Kintu Musoke also gives his account while brick-laying Uganda’s foundation both as an entrepreneur and a minister. But, the other interesting part is his less connection to God.
While it’s on the 9th hour when a man is cornered with the impossibilities that he dreams of a divine intervention, Kintu does not put that first.
In 1972, Kintu Musoke was incarcerated at Makindye military prison and proved that theory wrong. Many of his cell mates were picked and murdered. With the room filled with fear, prisoners often said what would be the last on earth; but not Kintu Musoke. He refused to plead with the Almighty in Heaven.
On page 119, he wrote: “I chose to differ from my fellow inmates; I declined to join them in worshipping the Lord. I told them to leave me alone. I had never prayed to God to bring me into Makindye prison and I was not going to pray to him to get me out... I stayed around during those moments of prayer, hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. I do not believe in the efficacy of prayer”. Such and more are the kind of rare revelations the troika recorded in The Sapoba Legacy book.
Nevertheless, like the proverb says even the most beautiful lady has a black spot; The Sapoba Legacy too has errors and disjoints. Like on page 78 where the sentence reads: “There was a place there called Akataka”. Other factual errors include the origin of Hon. MP John Kakonge, UPC’s first Secretary General. On page 28, Kakonge is mentioned as a Muganda. But his daughter Robie Kaboyo Kakonge says Kakonge (RIP) was a Munyoro from Hoima District.
Again on page 29, facts about the cause and the arrest of the five UPC ministers and king Muteesa II’s running into exile are incorrect. The sentence reads: “They went to the Parliament and passed a resolution to the effect that Obote was corrupt – a thief who had stolen Uganda’s minerals: gold and silver”. The fact is, Obote was not accused of stealing Uganda’s minerals but complicity of theft of Zaire’s natural resources which included timber, ivory, gold and silver.
On page 30, while talking about Uganda’s Independence Day on October 9, 1962, again the author made an error. He wrote: “As soon as we had witnessed the hoisting of the Ugandan flag at Nakasero and the lowering of the British flag, we left Kololo”.
The sentence would therefore mean that the Uganda flag was at independence hoisted at Nakasero and not Kololo airstrip which is incorrect.
But a black spot on a snow white gown won by an intellectual and beautiful bride can do less to stop relatives, friends, and colleagues from having a firm hand shake and loudly say – congratulations.