New series: My life with Kabaka Mutesa

Ms Barbara Kimenye. Courtesy photo.

What you need to know:

Author. Ms Barbara Kimenye’s book is based on her close association with Kabaka Edward Mutesa


Saturday Monitor will, starting tomorrow, serialise the unpublished book of Barbara Kimenye, one of East Africa’s leading authors.

Titled Tales from Mutesa’s Palace, the book is based on Barbara’s 10-year close association with Kabaka Edward Mutesa II in and outside his palace (In Buganda tradition, a deceased monarch is referred to as Ssekabaka).

Born Barbara Clarke Holdsworth in 1929 to a British mother and Haitian father, she came to Uganda in 1956; first residing near Makerere University before relocating to Rubaga hill where she unknowingly caught the Kabaka’s eye. It was not until one of the king’s aides turned up at her doorstep with an invitation to the Lubiri (palace) that she realised she had been the object of royal watch.

From that day on, she became a regular visitor to the palace and a special companion to the Kabaka on nights out of the palace in Kampala. She kept in the royal circles until 1965 when she left the country a few months before the attack on Lubiri.

Barbara came to Uganda from Bukoba, Tanzania, with her son Topha while expecting her second son from the same marriage that had since gone sour. The former nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, had met and fallen in love with William Kimenye, a son of the chief of Bukoba, then studying in Britain. They went together to Tanzania when he completed his studies in London.

In Kampala, she worked at a hardware shop on Salisbury Road (now Nkrumah Road). She then moved to work for the Buganda government as a secretary in Kabaka Mutesa’s office and later worked with Uganda Argus newspaper as a feature’s writer.

From the day she was first picked in a Land Rover with the kingdom’s emblem for the number plate and taken to the palace, she never looked back. She was a constant presence on the private parties within the palace and outside the palace that the king attended.
These private functions also included boat cruises on Lake Victoria.

After leaving Uganda in 1965, she settled in Nairobi and worked at the Nation newspaper until 1976 when she went back to Britain. She returned to Uganda in 1986 during which time she had gone into full- time writing.

She then moved to Nairobi in 1989 and continued writing her book series ‘Moses’; a school story book set in a fictitious rural Uganda school.
She returned to London in 2000 where she lived until her death in August 2012.

In the book, Barbara refers to Michael, the messenger from the palace who always alerted her of the king’s wish to see her as ‘Michael the Pimp’. She also goes on to describe near fatal accident the two [her and the Kabaka] were involved in on Port Bell Road as they cruised in his Ford Lincoln car.