How Idi Amin killed Kiwanuka

Kiwanuka addresses a political rally in the 1960s. He was imprisoned in 1969 by Obote’s government, but was one of the 55 political detainees released by Idi Amin immediately he took over power. Amin appointed him as the First Ugandan Chief Justice on June 27, 1971. Kiwanuka soon came into confrontation with Idi Amin’s disregard for the rule of law.

What you need to know:

Benedicto Kiwanuka, the first Prime Minister of Uganda and leader of the Democratic Party, was one of the early leaders that led the country in the transition from colonial British rule to independence. Forty-two years later, we look at how he was murdered by Idi Amin.

Today, September 21, 2014 is exactly 42 years since the immortal Benedicto Kiwanuka was last seen in public.

It was on September 21, 1972 when Uganda’s first black Chief Justice was kidnapped from his court chambers in Kampala and four days later shot dead at State lodge Nakasero by President Idi Amin.

This was revealed by the retired 71-year-old Superintendent of Police, Daniel Mulemezi, a resident of Kamuli District in eastern Uganda.

The retired police detective was appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into the violation of Human Rights in Uganda from October 9, 1962 to January 25, 1986 sitting at the International Conference (now Serena Conference) in Kampala. The Commission was established by the NRM government.

Mulemezi, who was witness number 140, had volunteered to appear before the commission to debunk the mystery surrounding Kiwanuka’s death since 1972.

On October 5, 1988, he revealed for the first time on record how Amin killed the Chief Justice. Although Mulemezi had refused to reveal his source for fear of his personal safety and that of his source, after receiving assurance from the commission that his safety and that of his source was guaranteed, he allowed to testify but in camera – which was granted.

Mulemezi indicated that his impeccable source was a Uganda Army (UA) intelligence officer; Corporal Odwori Okoth attached to the Lubiri Barracks in Kampala but since joined the National Resistance Army and was currently based in Kampala.

He also admitted that until 1973, he was the commander of the Uganda Police Flying Squad which was charged with investigating serious criminal cases in the country but resigned after Amin assigned him to spy on former President Milton Obote who was in exile in Tanzania.
According to the Commission report which has since been made public, Mulemezi personally attempted to investigate the abduction and disappearance of Kiwanuka but was intimidated by some soldiers. He also revealed that when he heard that Kiwanuka had been arrested by soldiers, he tried to investigate the matter but was frustrated.
He told the Commission how he went to Lubiri, Jinja and Mbuya barracks and talked to the adjutants to allow him have an identification parade in order to identify the two said soldiers suspected to have been involved in the kidnaping – but was frustrated when the adjutants advised him not to conduct the exercise in the barracks for his own safety.

Why Kiwanuka was killed
Mulemezi said this was after he had received intelligence information from his reliable source that Amin had personally shot Kiwanuka dead.

His source had confided to him that Kiwanuka would have survived death if he had conditionally accepted to make a statement before Amin and aired on Radio Uganda claiming that he had been kidnapped by the guerrillas – which Kiwanuka adamantly refused.

And the furious Amin pulled out a pistol from his waist and said: “Don’t you think I can kill you?” To which the intrepid Kiwanuka responded: “You can do so, but I am not going to say anything at all. I will die with the truth”.
The infuriated Amin pulled the trigger, shot and killed Kiwanuka. Mulemezi stated.

The report, however, does not reveal how many bullets were shot into Kiwanuka’s body.

The former policeman also narrated that shortly after the abduction, he had approached Lt Colonel Obitre-Gama, minister for Internal Affairs to see if they could rescue Kiwanuka and the minister told him that he was going to follow up the matter. When he seemed unbothered, he went to the minister for Foreign Affairs Wanume Kibedi who promised to take up the matter.

The Sunday Monitor unsuccessfully tried to reach Obitre-Gama for a comment.

Mulemezi also revealed that he saw the first arrest of Kiwanuka conducted by the PSU commander Ali Toweli and his deputy Kassim Obura who bundled Kiwanuka into the car and whisked him away – but was later released; and Radio Uganda announced that he had not been arrested as rumoured but had been at State Lodge meeting with the president.
Mulemezi also told the Commission that Kiwanuka’s body was dipped into an acid solution before it was buried at Luzira cemetery – which was done to kill evidence or identification in future. Also, before the burial, Commissioner of the Uganda Prisons, Kigonya and other Baganda prison officers were detained so that they could not know about the burial and grave location.
When Kigonya testified, he admitted that he was in prison when Kiwanuka was taken from Luzira prison and knew nothing about his death or burial.

Kiwanuka refused to go to exile
The former detective narrated that he had visited the former Chief Justice at his office before he was kidnapped. This was after Amin had made a denunciation of a big man from Masaka whom the government had withdrawn confidence.

While discussing the matter, Mulemezi said that Kiwanuka told him how he had written to Amin about the killings happening in the country. And also Kiwanuka confided in Mulemezi how he had also told Amin that the expulsion of the Indians from Uganda was wrong and against the international law. For fear of the Chief Justice’s life, the police detective advised him to go to exile.

But Kiwanuka’s response was that he would never go to exile because he stood for the truth. Mulemezi also agreed that there were rumours of Kiwanuka’s body seen floating on Lake Victoria but that was an intelligence ploy to divert the public attention from the actual burial site in Luzira cemetery – in case of any information leaks.

Kiwanuka’s abductors named
Former Police detective, Mulemezi also for the first time, revealed to the world the names of the security men who on September 21, 1972 kidnapped Kiwanuka from his court chambers. The ageing former police officer revealed the three abductors to the Commission as: Hussein Ali, Moi and Andrew Andama. He said all were personally known to him.

He also told the Commission that his source was Odwori Okoth who was among the soldiers that escorted Kiwanuka from Luzira to Nakasero State Lodge where he was murdered.

He also briefly mentioned the profile of the each of them. He said Moi was President Amin’s cousin and was in 1969 a police constable and one of his staff. But after the 1971 coup, he resigned from the police to join the army and was soon promoted to the rank of Captain by Amin.

Andrew Andama was a driver attacked to the President’s office who before the 1971 coup had worked with the flying squad. Mulemezi revealed to the Commission that he had known Hussein Ali since 1963; and added that Ali was a Sudanese but disguised himself as a Ugandan Nubian.


After attending primary school, he joined the King’s African Rifles, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major in the World War II. After returning from the war, he worked as an interpreter at the High Court of Uganda.

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.
When the first important elections were held in Uganda in 1961, there were only two important political parties: the Democratic Party and the Uganda Peoples Congress.

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 Kiwanuka was appointed Uganda’s first prime minister.


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