Ben Kiwanuka was an astute politician

Sunday September 2 2012

Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka,  the first prime

Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka, the first prime minister of Uganda. FILE PHOTO 

By Vincent F. S. Mayiga

Maurice P. Kagimu Kiwanuka, son of the fallen celebrated democrat Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka, disappointed me by his failure to evidently bring out convincing reasons as to why he believed Milton Obote was a political failure and not his late father.

In his commentary he only accused Obote of causing untold suffering to his tribemates, the Langi and their Acholi cousins in the aftermath of his ouster. He then concludes his article with a praising litany of his paymaster, President Museveni.

One would have expected the ex-seminarian to argue against the belief that Ben Kiwanuka was a political failure. He should have highlighted Kiwanuka’s contribution to Uganda during its struggle for independence and thereafter. He should also have listed down what he considered as Obote’s failure.

Ben Kiwanuka’s feat
Records show that Kiwanuka believed in national unity, the very reason he fell out of favour with Buganda . He traversed the country to rally support for the Democratic Party which had strong roots all over Uganda. This was evidenced by its victory in the 1961 general elections.
In fact had it not been for the political machinations of our former colonial masters, Kiwanuka was set to lead Uganda to independence and for sure the history of this country would have been different.

The Democratic Party’s victory in the 1961 elections was enough to take it to the Government House/State House but alas, the religious factor. Ben Kiwanuka was a Catholic and the Anglican colonial rulers could not hand over the instruments of power to a Roman Catholic. Thus the reason to hold a second round of elections in 1962 which ushered in the unholy KY/UPC alliance that defeated DP.

During his short stint in power, Ben Kiwanuka , as he was popularly known, secured many scholarships for Ugandans to study abroad. He also raised prices of cash crops which enabled many people to construct permanent houses and to educate their children.

After the attainment of independence though out of Parliament, Kiwanuka openly opposed the excesses of Obote’s dictatorial tendencies which led to his detention without trial at Luzira Prison.
On the ouster of Obote in 1971, Ben Kiwanuka was appointed chief Justice of Uganda. He is remembered to have administered justice without fear or favour, a noble cause he died for.

Obote’s blunders
On the other hand Obote’s blunders are well recorded. His abolition of the independence constitution merely ushered in instability and anarchy. His second coming into power in 1980 was through an outright vote rigging that some enthusiastic disgruntled young turks used as an excuse to wage the Luweero bush war that caused untold suffering to the people of this country.
Obote’s political miscalculation culminated into the appointment of Brig. Smith Opon Achak to replace the fallen Maj. Gen. Oyite Ojok as UNLA chief of staff.

Oyite Ojok had perished in a helicopter crash in the jungles of Luweero. Both Oyite Ojok and Opon Achak were Obote’s tribesmen. And Achak was relatively a junior officer whose promotion was accelerated merely on tribal considerations. The Acholi officers in the UNLA were angered by Obote’s decision and under the leadership of Generals Bazilio Okello and Tito Okello Lutwa they toppled Obote in a day light bloodless coup in July 1985.

In the second part of his article, Ambassador Maurice Kagimu paints a rosy picture of his master’s (mis) rule and talks of a legacy he will leave in the annals of the country. From the title of the article one would not expect the author to delve into what he considers to be Mr Museveni’s legacy . However, this is understandable since the loyal politician- cum diplomat has to protect his job.

Ironically, the evils Kagimu accuses Obote of such as abuse of human rights, imprisonment of innocent people, leading the country by violence are common place in today’s Uganda. There are even worse occurrences, including the introduction of oppressive Bills in Parliament , invoking draconian laws, political persecution, corruption, cronism, among others.

And to my dismay, Kagimu argues that it is only Museveni who could outmatch Kiwanuka’s legacy. No wonder Kagimu betrayed the democratic values and principles of his father by jumping on the bandwagon of the autocrat. The fact is that Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka was an astute politician who was destined to lead this country to prosperity had it not been for the conspiracy of the colonial masters and the KY/UPC trickery.
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