Mystery of Ben Kiwanuka’s murder. Compare with Kalimuzo’s, you will then learn more

Ben Kiwanuka

Amin was a brutal killer but he was not the buffoon he was portrayed to be in funny overseas media. He also killed by proxy but in many cases, if not in most. Killings or their cause was from the people near the victims: rivals, family members settling wrangles, job completion, etc. The example of one victim [Prof. Kalimuzo, whose killing and details leading to it have been talked of by Bedonians and contemporary Makerere staff in the recent past) is brought in the discussion of Chief Justice Kiwanuka’s murder to show that the search for the solution of the mystery of Ben’s murder should start with looking at his political/carrier rivals at the time. The post does not agree with Timothy Kalyegira that Idi Amin was a foolhard who did not consider any consequence of his actions, so as to kill Ben as openly as he did the captured 1972 invaders. Even in Archbishop Lumum’s case, he tried an alibi, albeit a fake one.

1/4. Kalyegira seems to think that Amin was indeed a buffoon who could not distinguish between the consequences of killing a Muganda Chief Justice and head of a very big political organization, and an Acholi Archbishop from an ‘arch-enemy’ and competing tribe (in military terms).

Amin was no buffoon and knew the difference!! Kiwanuka had no army and killing him publicly would have alienated his Baganda close friends like Jumba Masagazi (though Moslems), etc.For Kalyegira to try to impute that Idi Amin was predictable and unreasonable at the same time is the most unscholarly input one may ever see on this forum. Amin was a survivor and knew how to tread each case differently. He was a murderer but no buffoon.

2/4. The murder of Kiwanuka, by Idi Amin’s forces and burial in a common grave (at Luzira, by prisoners?) is beyond reasonable doubt (he was seen by some co-prisoners and it is therefore strange that, if he was killed by outsiders, he would end up in a GoU holding facility).

3/4. Carrier or political competition/settling of scores:

(i). One angle that should be explored further though: Like in the case of Prof. Frank Kalimuzo, the death of Kiwanuka, though at the hands of Amin/his men, most probably originated from competing/envious forces – people who wanted the post for themselves or for their like. Why the comparison here? Just before Kalimuzo was picked, he had acted as Adi Amin’s interpreter in his home area of Kisoro, when the General was launching a ‘paratroop landing zone’. He had gone further to entertain them at his ‘tourist’ facility/home by the shores of L. Bunyonyi, where Amin dotted on Kalimuzo’s kids admiringly mainly because he thought that, Obote, by replacing Kalimuzo with his kin and Trade Unionist Abdalla Anyulu as Head of Public Service, had been very unfair.

(ii). So how had the circus played out and how did people eventually come to know that Kalimuzo was killed by “Makerere”, not just Idi Amin, unprompted?: On reaching Makerere as first Vice Chancellor 9after the dissolution of the University of East Africa), Kalimuzo was met with hostile protests of “Go Home”, instigated by those that thought an insider should have been considered for the VC post. Kalimuzo replied “I have come home” [he had been there in 1944].But, most important, he soon settled to become Makerere’s most popular Chancellor to date, mainly assisted by his OB’s from Budo in the early 40’s and those he had taught there in the late fourties.

(iii). His death: According to narrations at his memorial in two years ago, Kalimuzo was picked twice for murder. The forts group came to him saying, “H.E. wants you”. He called Amin and asked, “Your Excellency do you want me”, to which Amin answered in the negative. The team went away ashamed. Soon after, ‘bad eyeing and funny behaviour from some of his faculty subordinates continued, which caused his friends to advise him to go into exile, this being in the wake of Tanzania invasion of 1972. Kalimuzo only answered: “I have done no wrong so have no cause to ran away”.

(iv). The next time, a few weeks later, another team came, with a similar message, “Some on in State House wants you” followed by arguments as to who that could be. They said, “we wait for a call”. The members of the murder squad looked at each other for long till Kalimuzo bid farewell to his wife and he giving a verbal will. He said. “Let’s go”. He was never seen again. Only former PM of Uganda Kintu Musoke reported recently to have seen the professor, without shoes, at Makindye ‘go-down’, being bundled from a lorry and later on to a lorry for those to be killed either at Karuma or elsewhere.

(v). It was later proved, by later/recent investigations, that indeed the murder of professor Kalimuzo was started/procured by envious faculty members and Amin, reportedly, did even know about his murder till the BBC and diplomatic circles tasked him. He of course gave unreasonable explanations which led some to believe that Kalimuzo had been ‘whisked to England’ by the imperialists.

4. Conclusion: How does the death of Prof. Kalimuzo come into the discussion of the death of Chief Justice Kiwanuka? It is brought in only to show that Amin was a butcher and his regime provided fertile ground for people to settle old scores, with impunity. Even families took a chance to kill their unwanted kin to settle land wrangles, all in the guise of “Amin wants you”. One should therefore not go as far as Tanzania to look for those who killed Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka. Amin could have killed him, himself or by proxy but the most likely cause of his death, if not its carrying out, most likely lies in the immediate facility, oiled by political and professional/job rivalries.

R.I.P Ben.

Christopher Muwanga,



By Timothy Kalyegira
One of the still-unresolved murder mysteries in Ugandan history is that of the former Chief Justice and DP party president Benedicto Kiwanuka.

Most people believe that Kiwanuka was murdered personally by President Idi Amin, or on orders of Amin, or by Amin’s henchmen, while a few others believe that Amin’s Foreign Minister Joshua Wanume Kibedi was partly behind it.

The truth, as with most other events in Ugandan history, is far from that and more spine-chilling that most people realize.

On June 27, 1971, five months after the military coup, President Idi Amin, swore-in the President General of the Democratic Party, Benedicto Kiwanuka, also a lawyer, as Uganda’s new Chief Justice. He had, in all probability, been nominated for the job by Amin.

Always outspoken and militant, Kiwanuka oversaw many cases in the High Court in which he stood for the oppressed and was not afraid to tell Amin what he thought. Amin did not seem bothered by Kiwanuka’s attitude and seemed to encourage it.

Late in 1971, letters started to come to Uganda from Tanzania, written to prominent public officials, ostensibly from their collaborators among the exiled Ugandan community in Dar es Salaam, in which these prominent public officials in Kampala appeared to be working with the exiled groups in Tanzania to overthrow Amin.

Amin told his cabinet ministers and army officers to turn these letters over to security, some of which bore the names of a L. Col. David Oyite-Ojok and were purportedly from this army officer loyal to Milton Obote.

It has been claimed over the last 30 or so years that Kiwanuka ruled in a court case that did not please Amin, spoke out on Amin’s human rights violations, and Amin sent Kiwanuka an oblique warning, referring to a “prominent Muganda from Masaka” as being a collaborator against his military government.

Even if this were so, it presents some difficulty in laying the blame for Kiwanuka’s abduction and subsequent murder on Amin.

Amin was a decisive, open, action-oriented man. He believed in taking action in the open. He believed he needed to explain his actions to the public. When Museveni’s FRONASA guerrillas were arrested in Jan. 1973, their trial was public, their execution even more public, in their home towns with crowds watching.

When Janani Luwum, the Anglican Archbishop, was arrested in Feb. 1977 under suspicion that arms intended to overthrow Amin’s regime had been smuggled into Uganda through him, diplomats, the cabinet, army officers, the media, and the public were kept fully appraised of the developments.

A public gathering was called at the Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala, the proceedings aired on Radio Uganda and Uganda Television, and published in the government newspaper, the Voice of Uganda, the next day.

The fact that this was the Anglican Archbishop, in the centenary year of the Anglican church in Uganda, did not faze Amin and he did not respond to public pressure.

Likewise, he would have had no reason to sent state security agents to the Uganda High Court in Kampala to seize the chief justice from the premises and then make him disappear without a trial or public reprimand.

In 1972, Amin was much more popular than he was in 1977 and if he went out openly to call for Luwum’s trial, there would have been no reason to fear public anger if Kiwanuka was arrested and tried in 1972, with Ugandans grateful at Amin’s recent decision to expel the much-resented Asians and with the euphoria still high after the track athlete John Akii-Bua having won Uganda its first ever Olympic Gold medal at the Munich Summer Olympic Games.

What, then, happened to Benedicto Kiwanuka?


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