Maj. Kiggundu Murder Vs Ex-CJ Ben Kiwanuka’s Murder
AMB. KAGIMU SPEAKS OUT ON EX-CJ’S MURDER IN COURT
‘DAD WAS SHOT TWICE IN THE HEAD’
BY HENRY MULINDWA
Last week, another mysterious murder of a prominent leader Sheikh Mohamad Kiggundu occurred. Those behind his murder using the gun haven’t been arrested neither, their motive has been established. Kiggundu, a former ADF operative met his death in Masanafu; a city suburb where his assailants allegedly pushed 42 rounds of bullets in his body. Such mysterious murders actually relate well with the murder and disappearance of former chief justice Ben Kiwanuka whose assailants up to now after 44 years have never been known. Even his body has never been recovered.
Our reporter HENRY MULINDWA interviewed his son ambassador Kagimu Kiwanuka who is also a former minister in Museveni’s government. EXCERPTS
Qn: Are you at liberty to share with us what really happened?
KK: There have been a lot of speculations about the death of my father. I am inclined to tell the world the truth. The story of Amin and my father is quite long but I’ll try to be as brief as possible.
Qn: Now tell us:
KK: When Amin released the prisoners on January 29th 1971, he promised to go back to the barracks and leave power to civilians. People, including my father took Amin’s word as Gospel Truth! Hence, in their questions, journalists asked my father on how he would handle Uganda’s future since he was the obvious President in waiting. This left Amin and his henchmen very scared!
KK: Kiwanuka’s popularity was very scaring. Amin had thought that by releasing Kiwanuka his (Amin’s) popularity would increase but it was the other way round! It was Kiwanuka’s popularity that exploded! The celebrations after the 1971 release from prison lasted a week and cars lined 3 miles from Kabusu to Nateete! When he appointed him Chief Justice, he (Amin) tasked my father to point out any excesses of government that needed correction. Typical of a good Christian, Kiwanuka obeyed like an innocent child! He started criticizing Amin’s excesses like when he chased the Asians inhumanely, among others.
Qn: What happened next?
KK: Amin started hating Kiwanuka both because of his expanding popularity and criticisms. One time, there was a function in Mbarara. When all the dignitaries were seated, they were informed that due to the bad weather, the President’s helicopter would not be able to land hence they were advised to go to Jinja the new venue! All the ministers left in time. However, the late Kawalya Kaggwa [tycoon and a great friend of my father, also murdered by Amin] told my father that he would send him a chopper. Kiwanuka waited. However, later, Kawalya sent a message through the post office that due to the bad weather, the chopper would not be able to land.
Qn: So, did Ben snub the meeting?
KK: Since Amin had given orders to all government agencies to frustrate Kiwanuka, the post office did not deliver the message! Kiwanuka waited till he could wait no longer. He told the driver to sit behind. He drove from Mbarara to Jinja at a terrible speed; that they arrived together with Amin’s chopper and all people flocked to Kiwanuka. His pleas with the people to go to the President fell on deaf ears. This infuriated Amin. In the Cabinet meetings that followed, he complained why people liked Kiwanuka when he was the one that had overthrown Obote!
Qn: You said Amin had started frustrating Ben through post office. Did this end at Posta or even in other areas?
KK: Since his appointment as Chief Justice, wherever the car would pass with the flag, policemen would stand up immediately and salute. However, all of a sudden all this stopped. I personally witnessed a scenario when he came back home for lunch and the policeman/home guard remained comfortably seated, reading newspapers! He blasted him and told him that he would tell his superiors not to send policemen again if that was the case! Little did he suspect that these were orders from above! When he was about to celebrate the silver jubilee in marriage in February 1972, he happened to meet Amin at the clock tower driving himself in a jeep. He told the driver to chase after him so that he could give him the invitation but Amin sped off after seeing the vehicle in the driving mirror.
On the 25th of January 1972 celebrations, Amin ordered that Kiwanuka comes before the ministers and that he should sit at the far end in the sunshine. Bad blood continued and Amin started accusing Kiwanuka in public. At one time he said: ‘there is a big person on Masaka road with a big post in government who does not like the Asians to go’. The whole of 1972, ministers sent their secretaries home to warn my father to run away since Amin was talking very ill of him. In all cabinet meetings he was the major topic!
The last straw was when government arrested a Briton Mr Stuart who had been working with the Madhvani group. I do not recall exactly the cause of his arrest but Amin wanted to use him as a ransom to humiliate the British. The British Ambassador approached Kiwanuka for help. All judges had feared the case and Kiwanuka said he would handle it. ‘I will hear the case’ he told the late Monsignor Maurice Mukasa who had come to pay the family a visit. ‘(If I don’t), then what is the use of my being Chief Justice’? The late Monsignor is the one who brought up my mother who had lost her father at a very tender age. Kiwanuka ordered the release of the Briton from Luzira prison!
Qn: How did Amin react to this?
KK: That evening Amin called. Steven, my late brother, went for the call and called my father. Kiwanuka held the call for quite some time till he called Steven to come and hold the phone and call him when the President came. Steven waited for almost 30 minutes. The caller; a lady, had known that it was the boy holding the phone. She then told Steven that ‘please call the Chief Justice the President’ is coming. Steven shouted: ‘Dad, the President is coming’. Amin asked my father in Luganda: ‘w’agambye bannamagye tebalina buyinza kukwaata muzungu’?! (You said that soldiers have no powers to arrest a white man?). My father explained that that wasn’t true. He told the president to call for the file and see what he had said. Amin banged the phone! When he went back to where he was sitting he told mother: ‘you think we are not going back to Rubaga? Meaning he was going to be fired any time and would have to leave the Nakasero official residence! Mother responded: ‘bwetuddayo emirembe t’ogamba nti kale?! Meaning: ‘if at all we go back safely, that would be okay’!
Qn: What happened after that phone call?
KK: Later Kiwanuka wrote a letter to Amin which further infuriated him. In the letter, he reminded Amin how he (Amin) had been the one who had pleaded with him to accept the post of CJ to help him clean the corrupt judiciary, how he had assigned him to point out the excesses of government, how he had referred to a person from Masaka with a big post in government, of course meaning him etc….
Qn: You mean Amin was dealing with him individually or he had agents?
KK: The late Wannume Kibedi [died recently] began calling Ben at odd hours of the night to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs! “Kibedi anjagaza ki? (‘What does Kibedi want from me? He would say to mother after the phone call. He would tell Kibedi: ‘In protocol it is the Minister to go to the Chief Justice not the other way round’! Kibedi’s phone calls pointed at a plot to ambush and assassinate Kiwanuka in the wee hours of the night!
On the 19th of September 1972, Bank of Uganda governor Mubiru was arrested. On hearing the news at lunch time, father said, ‘eh is Mubiru arrested? Then that’s the end of all of us’. Mubiru’s widow came home and broke the news to father. Kiwanuka advised her to go back home as he handled the issue. Kiwanuka rang Amin who told him: ‘yes we have him, we are asking him a few questions after which we shall release him’. Kiwanuka sent the late lawyer Sebalu to deliver this message to the widow.
Qn: You said there was a plot to assassinate Ben and he was aware of it. Did take this seriously or?
KK: Ever since he came from prison, Kiwanuka always attended the daily morning Mass at Rubaga. When rumors became too much that he was going to be arrested, mother pleaded with him to attend the evening masses together with her at Christ the King Church in Kampala. On the 21st of September, at 8am, as he was going to inspect the houses he was constructing at Rubaga, they met a Peugeot 504 parked at a petrol station at Wandegeya. It gave chase but Kapere the driver sped off and vanished from them. After inspecting the houses and after giving some directives, he started his last journey to the office. On their way back, they passed via Kabusu road. When they reached Masaka road, Kapere asked him: ‘njabye Masaka’? (Should I speed off to Masaka?) to which he objected. He said ‘no let’s go to the office’.
Qn: Did they reach?
KK: They reached. They met the same light blue Peugeot UVS…. waiting at the shell petrol station at the entrance of the High Court. He left the car speedily and entered the office I think to ring Amin and inform him of the strange people chasing after him. He also knew that a Chief Justice (CJ) could not be touched once in his chambers.
Qn: When he entered, his assailants left?
KK: The mean looking men came, went straight to his office. Mugalye the bodyguard at the office door asked them: ‘you want the CJ? They just pushed him away! They went for him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and dragged him out of the office lifting him a bit off the ground like a sick person. He had hanged the coat but they forced it onto his shoulders though he tried to push it off by moving the shoulders. As he waited to be put in the car, one of the arrestors slapped him.
They drove off at full speed towards Sheraton hotel, and then they passed through Lubiri barracks to confuse people, then to Makindye barracks! On hearing the news, the late Jomo Kenyatta (RIP) called Amin and asked him to release the CJ.
Qn: Did Amin respect Kenyatta request?
KK: Amin was scared and he concocted a story which he sent to father to sign saying that ‘the Tanzanians had arrested me but due to President Amin’s audacity, he has rescued me’. Kiwanuka refused to sign the document. They beat and tortured him quite a lot. One witness in the prison later said in the Drum magazine: ‘Kiwanuka was brought in at night, he looked tired and dirty’! Later, in the day, Amin sent the document again asking him to sign it. Still he refused. At 2am he sent for him. They took him to Nakasero state research Bureau next to state lodge. They made him kneel in front of Amin. Amin asked him: ‘why don’t you sign the document’ don’t you know that I can kill you’? He answered: ‘you can kill me if you want but I cannot tell lies’! Typical of Amin, who would be driven into immediate temporary insanity, he got out a pistol and shot him twice in the head. Very sad indeed! May God give some of us the grace to forgive the unforgiveable Amin.
Qn: He is now dead. Was the body handed to the family?
KK: They took the body to Bulange army barracks and 3 bodies were put in 3 coffins. One was of the late governor and the other of Captain Mukasa. This information was given to me by the late captain Miiro from my constituency [Bukomansimbi] who was the army pay master at the time. He went and saw the bodies at the basement of Bulange. He also told me that a certain Sepi/Sebbi was the head of the 3 that arrested the Chief Justice. In the night of 22nd September, they were taken to Luzira prison cemetery. From Luzira the land rover drove out that very night and took them somewhere else but that’s a story for another day.