Mr. Benedicto Kiwanuka, was our First Prime Minister of Uganda in 1961, leader of the Democratic Party (DP) and the first Ugandan Chief Justice before he was murdered in 1972.
He had humble beginnings much as he was a son of village chief. This was because his father and his family did not support him to achieve his education at an early age. He had to work hard to achieve whatever he did. We may say he grew up in very hard life and tough times.
He attended Villa Maria Primary School where he was helped by Rev. Fr. Benedict Nsubuga. He then went on to attend Bikira Primary School and later Nsambya. When his father died, he took over the responsibility of supporting his family. WWII broke out and young Kiwanuka had no more funds to finance his educational ambitions. He was thus recruited into the Kings African Riffles (KAR) and joined the war. He rose to the rank of Sergeant Major. He returned to Uganda in 1946 and married Maxencia Zalwango in 1947
After returning from the war, he worked as an Interpreter at the High Court of Uganda. Later, he left for South Africa (Basutoland) to do a matriculation course in Law which he passed with distinction. He was then admitted to London University where he studied Law. He earned the LL.B., Barrister-at-Law and Commissioner for Oaths. It should be noted that Mr. Kiwanuka was forced to sell all of his family land holdings and cattle in order to finance his studies abroad because the Buganda government authorities were not willing to offer financial assistance to a Catholic.
While a student in London, the late King Muteesa II was exiled by the Colonial authorities. Many of the Ugandan students distanced themselves from their King in fear of the British withdrawing their scholarships. It was Ben Kiwanuka and Emmanuel Mbaziira as young law students who worked very hard and diligently with King Muteesa II throughout those troubled times. When Matayo Mugwanya went to London to pursue the King’s release, it was those two law students that provided him with much of the support in the legal intricacies including finding for him a famous British lawyer, Mr. Duncan Foote who successfully put together the legal case against the Colonial authorities and won the release of King Muteesa II.
In 1956, Hon. Benedict Kiwanuka returned to Uganda and begun his Law Practice. He soon became very popular throughout the country especially after successfully defending Bishop Kiwanuka against Ssemakula Mulumba malicious accusations. Kiwanuka was elected President General of the Democratic Party in 1958.
He re-organized the Party and gave it a national outlook that it lacked before his leadership and made it very popular throughout Uganda. Because of his commitment to education, he secured and offered over 300 Scholarships to Ugandans irrespective of their tribal or religious affiliations to acquire education in schools abroad.
Kiwanuka’s political battles were mostly with the Mengo establishment whose religious bigotry could not tolerate a Catholic politician’s aspiration for leadership. He won the 1961 general elections and became the First Prime Minister of Uganda. As Prime Minister, he raised the minimum wage for workers and also the prices of cash crops (coffee and cotton). This pleased the electorate and increased his popularity but frustrated the colonial government. The Mengo establishment conspired with the British to remove Kiwanuka from office prior to the scheduled elections of 1964. The British on their part recalled Governor Andrew Cohen, a moderate, and replaced him with Governor Coutts assisted by R.C. Peagram to ensure that Kiwanuka was ousted from power prior to full independence. The Mengo clique formed a tribalist political party, KABAKA YEKKA (KY) which later teamed up with UGANDA PEOPLES CONGRESS (UPC) in an alliance that was to bring down Kiwanuka and give rise to Dr. Milton Obote who subsquently became President of Uganda.

Hon. Benedict Kiwanuka was to be later imprisoned in 1969 by A. Milton Obote, and was later released by Idi Amin who appointed him the First Ugandan Chief Justice. Kiwanuka very sson came in confrontation with Idi Amin’s disregard for the rule of law. There were numerous occasions when Idi Amin wanted to circumvent the law but the Chief Justice could not cooperate. Kiwanuka’s defense of Mr. Daniel Stewart against the State of Uganda was the last straw. On September 22, 1972 after refusing to sign false documents, he was murdered in cold blood.

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