A Presentation at the Conference on

Democracy For Truth, Justice, Peace and Development

A Tribute to the late Hon. Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka

delivered at

                                  Georgetown University, McNeir Hall, Washington DC

December 4, 1999


                                                        Professor Aloysius M. Lugira

A Dedication

Let me start with a word of appreciation. A BIG THANK YOU goes to Mr. John Baptist Nnalumenya Mubiru who originally conceived the idea of paying a tribute, in this manner, to the exceptionally outstanding gallant son of Africa, the late Honorable Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka.

Consequently, this presentation is dedicated to the late Honorable Benedicto Kiwanuka an individual and a public figure whose sense of direction was patterned on the conviction that while truth liberates, justice divinely humanizes. The tenacity, the firmness, the uprightness, and the sense of purpose he exhibited in pursuit of Truth and Justice for Peace, should make the late Honorable Benedicto Kiwanuka rest assured that he is in company of the front running profiles in courage of this expiring century.

This intrepid compatriot and intellectual colleague of ours distinguished himself as a devoted son of his parents regardless of what. He distinguished himself as a significant service man during the Second World War, which the world waged against the Dictatorship of the dictatorships, namely, the Nazist scourge of the twentieth century. He distinguished himself as an outstanding High Court Clerk and Interpreter in the history of legal administration in Uganda. He distinguished himself as a patriotic student leader while he pursued his matriculation studies in Southern Africa and his legal studies in London. While a law student in London, as an activist he tirelessly fought for the return to Buganda of Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa II from the British exile. He distinguished himself as a selfless attorney and advocate who manifested the interest he had at heart, in serving as the people's lawyer. And in a particular accentuation he distinguished himself as a Ugandan Husband and Father.

This is the exceptional personality who in his homeland could patriotically make such homeruns, as within a period of two decades to have held the position of leader of the Legislature, the position of the Prime Minister under whose headship of the Government of Uganda the political independence of Uganda from British colonialism was shaped.

Finally he did also become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda.

Such is the personality who would openly not shy away from articulating that whatever he became was by the shaping of an institution he was exposed to in the course of his human development. The institution was the Catholic Church and its contribution to integral human development in Uganda.

The Topic

The topic of this presentation is the Catholic Church and Development in Uganda. For some elaboration on this topic we shall together proceed by considering four pivotal points:

1.   The People of Uganda as the basis of a vigorously Christian human factor in Uganda

2.   The Catholic Church in Uganda

3.   Contribution of the Catholic Church to Development in Uganda

4.   In Search of Truth, Justice and Peace

1.  The People of Uganda as the Basis of a Vigorously Christian Human Factor in Uganda

Regarding the people of Uganda as the basis of a vigorously Christian human factor, it may be advantageous to remember the observation of an ancient African playwright by the name of Publius Terentius Afer, [c190-159? B.C.] who is commonly known in English parlance as Terence. In the then African official language, he laconically observed that  " Homo sum humani nil a me alienum puto” that is  " I am a human being and there is nothing human I consider to be alien to me." [Brothers, A.J. 1988:48]  By divine orderliness as well as by earthly and human disposition, Christianity implies a potentiality by which it is open to being received by humanity without any monopolization. The people of Uganda are endowed with the disposition of what Archbishop Desmond Tutu has identified as Ubuntu or Obuntu Bulamu if applied by a Ugandan context. He describes: “We Africans speak about a concept difficult to render in English. We speak of ubuntu or botho. You know when it is there and it is obvious when it is absent. It has to do with what it means to be truly human, it refers to gentleness, to compassion, to hospitality, to openness to others, to vulnerability, to be available for others and to know that you are bound up with them in the bundle of life, for a person is only a person through other persons." [1994:125].

With this, one may further observe that Ugandans, as part of the African humanity and humanity the world over, are human beings who by nature are sapient, that is that, they enjoy the human propriety of wisdom. They are by nature rational, social, political and religious. They are as human beings not backward, as some people would wish us to believe. Their religiosity disposes them to welcome the bringers of the good news, who have worked and still work under the divine injunction that “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” This missionary instruction has in the course of time, worked for the nations of the world including Uganda where Christianity was extended, for the first time, during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The tradition of Christianity we have in Uganda comes as a result of a missionary appeal made by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley. While at the court of King Muteesa I of Buganda, this Anglo-American explorer admired the people of Buganda so much that he desired they were Christians. He decided to call upon Christian Europe to send missionaries to Buganda. In his appeal which was published in the Daily Telegraph of November 15,1875 to show how important his message was, among other points he made the following: “ The bishops of Great Britain collected, with all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge, would effect nothing by mere talk with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hand to anything, like a sailor – this is the man who is wanted.” [Faupel, J.F. 1962:11].

In a period of barely two years after the publication of the missionary appeal, the British Church Missionary Society had succeeded in sending two missionaries who arrived in Buganda on June 30, 1877. Two years late on February 17, 1879, two Catholic missionaries, of the French “White Fathers Society of the Missionaries of Africa”, arrived in Buganda. From that time on the Christian scenery in Uganda was dominated by the impact of Anglican and Catholic Christianity.

2.  The Catholic Church in Uganda

At this juncture the components of the exteriorly originated religions in Uganda included: Islam, Anglicanism and Catholicism, all of which, wanted to excel in Buganda. They all aspired to catching the ear and the eye of the King. Rivalry with all its challenges and weaknesses became unavoidable. This became the order of the day during the reigns of King Muteesa I, King Mwanga II including a not so subtle of its manifestation even in these times we happen to be living in. Such animosity which has continued to the present day very often exhibit such Christian unchristianity about which Ugandan Christians ought to be ashamed of themselves.

On October 19, 1884 the late King Muteesa I died in the arms of his faithful servant Joseph Mukasa with Jean Marie Muzeeyi, the Princess Royal and the Guardian of the Twin Umbilical Cord, in attendance. His son, Mwanga II, succeeded him. Under Mwanga II, a persecution of Christians took place from 1885-1887. Twenty-two of the persecuted Christians who were martyred for their religion were Catholics and about twenty-five were Anglicans.  From this time on Mwanga II became a controversial King whose disastrous end is blamed to the flatteries of his sycophants.  King Muwanga’s failure to take note of advice from concerned seasoned advisers plunged the kingdom into transiting from the cross to flag.

For Buganda the late 1880s and early 1890s saw three things happen.  They included:  the intermittently divided royal loyalty, the European imperialism, and the loss of political independence on the part of the Kingdom of Buganda.  The years 1885-1889 witnessed war and battles between Christians and Muslims.  Meanwhile it should, here, be taken note of that in 1884 Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany called for the notorious Berlin Conference.  It is at this conference that European nations divided the African continent among themselves.  Colonialism, as a system by which Europeans subjugated African peoples was formally inaugurated at the Berlin Conference.  In 1890 after Christians in Buganda had vanquished the Muslin faction, Buganda was now in the hands of Christians.  But the tragic heritage of the Reformation in Europe, which has been described in Africa, as a scandal, began to play its role.  The Anglican missionaries being English by nationality and the Catholic ones being French by nationality occasioned an animosity.  Baganda followers of the English religionists taunted the followers of the French religionists calling them Bafalansa, while the latter taunted the former by name calling them Bangereza.  

The situation in the region was markedly affected by the appearance of the Imperial British East Africa Company on the scene.  This is what Roland Oliver describes as, “By the beginning of 1889, however, two new factors had entered in the situation, which were radically to affect the future of Buganda and were to draw both the C.M.S. missionaries and the White Fathers deep into the political affairs of the country.  First, news reached the missionaries at the southern end of Lake Victoria that the Imperial British East Africa Company had received a Royal Charter, and German governments had agreed upon a boundary between their respective ‘spheres of influence,’ running from the Indian Ocean to the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, but no farther.”  (The Missionary Factor in East Africa, 1952: 134-135)

In December 1890 in the name of the Imperial British East Africa Company, Captain Lugard arrived in Buganda with a hundred men purported to ensure peace among the fighting factions.  Note should be taken of the fact that the Company was short of money and the C.M.S. headquarters in England paid for Lugard’s upkeep for almost a full year.  It would not be surprising if Bangereza expected protection from him.  In January 1892 as tension grew high, the Bangereza asked for guns from Lugard for self-protection.  He issued them some four hundred and fifty guns.  The Bafalansa understood this to be a declaration of war.  On the following day, Sunday, January 25, 1892, the Battle of Mengo took place between the Anglicans and the Catholics.  When the Catholics advanced towards the Anglicans, Lugard opened fire with his machine guns and secured an Anglican victory.  He proceeded on to rule the country through the Anglican Baganda chiefs.  In 1893 measures were taken by the British government to establish a British Protectorate out of Buganda.  A treaty to that effect was ratified the following year.  From that time on the protectorate carried a transliterated name from Buganda to Uganda Protectorate.  Thus the Kingdom of Buganda lost its political independence by becoming a subject of the British Empire.

This is what Bishop Alfred Tucker summarizes as, “But perhaps the greatest of all these moulding political forces, to which from to time to time in the course of my story I have alluded, has been that of the British administration, established at the coming of Sir Gerald Portal in 1893.  The power of that moulding force has been very largely what is has been through the wise and judicious way in which from the very beginning it has recognized and striven to work in harmony with those stronger moral and spiritual forces exerted by the Christian Missions, which by strenuous labor had for well nigh sixteen years been preparing the way for that unifying and consolidating influence commonly known as ‘Pax Britannica.” (Eighteen Years in Uganda & East Africa, 1908: 359)

Pax Britannica implies peace as imposed by the colonializer on the colonialized.  Whether it is Pax Britannica or Pax Germanica the people colonialized and the area and contents therein were regarded as property of the colonialists.  A case in point regarding Buganda is in the case of Germany renouncing its claims on Buganda in exchange for Heligoland, a strategic island on the north coast of Germany.  After Buganda Kingdom had lost its political independence to Pax Britannica, the British annexed kingdoms, principalities and peoples to Buganda and formed the Uganda Protectorate into what today is known as Uganda.  The area covered by the Uganda Protectorate became so British in perception, that it can be easily contextualized with a Latin saying:  Cujus regio ejus religio, that is “He who controls the area, controls religion.”[Anonymous Latin proverb see John Bartlett. 1992:109.9].  Anglicanism being the official religious denomination of the British government, became the de facto, preeminent religious denomination of the Uganda Protectorate.  All heads of ethnic kingdoms, the heads of the local Government of the Uganda Protectorate, all heads of sectional governments and all heads of anything that politically mattered in the Protectorate were expected to be Anglican by religious profession.  Briefly, positions of leadership were presumed to belong to Anglicans, civil servants were deemed to be Catholics, while Muslims stood anywhere between and after.

At this juncture allow me to make a remark and a suggestion.  The remark:  Uganda has been dogged by the pernicious hang over of the Pax Britannica.  It is by this same hang over while still in the state of intoxication, that has brought craziness on ourselves as to throw away Benedicto Kiwanuka as if he was a piece of trash.  Let us redeem ourselves.  Let us change and resolve to obliterate the root causes of the religious craziness, which continues to bedevil our community not only in Uganda but also in the Diaspora.  A suggestion:  In 1953 the Roman Catholic hierarch was established in Uganda.  That implied the erection of Kampala as the only one Metropolitan Archdiocese, at that time.  In other words the Catholic Church in Uganda had transited from being a Roman Catholic Mission to being an autonomous entity duly understood as being the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda.

On April 16, 1961 the Archbishop of Canterbury inaugurated an Anglican Church Province in Uganda.  This meant that what was until that time known as the Native Anglican Church had transited to an autonomous status, which by a misnomer continues to be known as the Church of Uganda.  Constitutionally speaking there is no provision anywhere in Uganda, which provides for the existence of a Church of Uganda.  This misnomer leads into temptations to a variety of attitudes, which hinder a religiously and socially egalitarian development and understanding in Uganda.  By calling a spade a spade it is more constructive to refer to Anglican Christianity in Uganda as the Anglican Church in Uganda.

3.   Contribution of the Catholic Church to Development in Uganda

Speaking about development relative to the contribution of the Catholic Church one would be facing a gap if one would not give some attention to the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI titled Populorum Progressio that is “The Development of Peoples.”  For the purpose of this presentation the poignant conceptual terminology and phraseology are two.  One, while ‘development is the new word for peace,’ two, ‘authentic development’ is what should be aspired for with a clear understanding that integral development and/or progress should not lose sight of the proven wisdom that Mensa sana in copore sano, that is “a sound mind in a sound body.” [Juvenal. 1918. Satires X, line 356]  It is within this context that the contribution of the Catholic Church to development and progress in Uganda may be deciphered.  Since the arrival of Catholicism on the Ugandan scene development has been affected in a variety of areas that include:  1. Religion  2. Education 3. Healthcare  4. Economics and  5. Jurisprudence and Politics.   If the formation of indigenous people to man and head departmental areas of development is indicative of the concern of the Catholic Church for development, it becomes glaringly clear that there are ample evidences for the work well done.  In the area of religion one can site spirituality and personnel as representative of development.  Uganda has spiritually produced the first canonized saints in sub-Saharan Africa in the spiritual personalities of the Martyrs of Uganda.  By the elevation of the late Archbishop Kiwanuka to a position of an indigenously sub-Saharan African bishop sixty years ago, Uganda struck a first in as far as the localization of Church leadership in Africa is concerned.  In the area of education the Catholic Church in Uganda has shouldered the leadership of establishing educational facilities at all levels including the numerous primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions of education which are exemplified by the existence of Catholic founded colleges, seminaries and the Uganda Martyrs University at Nkozi in Uganda.  In economics the late Joseph M. Mubiru as the founding General Manager of the Uganda Commercial Bank, and subsequently the founding Governor of Uganda’s Central Bank, the Bank of Uganda, traces his vital formative stages in the educational and developmental contributions of the Catholic Church in Uganda.  In Jurisprudence and Politics, as a representative personality one identifies the late Benedicto Kiwanuka who as the most effective indigenous lawyer during the pre-independence years was eventually raised to the position of the first Prime Minister of Uganda and the first indigenous Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda.  In short, the contribution of the Catholic Church to development in Uganda is indelibly written in the annals of Uganda for every one to know.

4.      In Search of Truth, Justice, and Peace

The divine injunction assures that truth makes us free.  Fraudulence, lying, and treachery contribute to human enslavement.  One needs not make effort to notice the culture of fraudulence and the culture of killing which bedevil the so-called African Great Lakes region.

During the politically turbulent period of 1933-1945 of European history, Pope Pius XII headed the Catholic Church.  The prevailing signs of the time inspired Pope Pius XII to adapt a rallying motto, which says: “Opus Justitae Pax,” which translates that ‘the end result of working for justice, is peace.’  In other words, while justice engenders peace, injustice breeds chaos.  It may, circumspectively, be asserted that no Ugandan political leader has addressed himself  better to this altruistic tenet than the late Honorable Benedicto Kiwanuka.  For anyone who has the interest of Uganda at heart, it is important to stop and do some stocktaking regarding the root causes of the predicament that has faced Uganda, particularly since 1953.  Carefully reading a new biography titled Benedicto Kiwanuka:  the Man and His Politics, by Albert Bade might help many Ugandan patriots to do a bit of soul searching.

As many Ugandans know, and as the world may have observed through the extensive media reporting, Benedicto Kiwanuka was silenced for his unfluctuating championing of the tenets of truth and justice.  Beshamingly, as the Chief Justice of the land, he was violently dragged out of his official chambers in the High Court Building in Kampala as he insisted on carrying out his responsibilities by justice and truth.  He was taken away.  To this moment neither his physical personality nor his remains have been seen again.  The common understanding is that he was violently murdered.  Following the legacy of the canonized Martyrs of Uganda, Benedicto Kiwanuka literally became a martyr in witnessing for truth and justice in Uganda.  The last hurrah connected with Kiwanuka’s witnessing for justice came first with his opposition to the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, in an unconstitutional manner; second was his involvement in accepting, as Chief Justice, to hear the case of Daniel Steward, a British national who had been imprisoned by General Idi Amin.  Some of Kiwanuka’s friends advised him that, “If the rest of the judges have refrained from handling the case, why don’t you drop it too?  Just go out of the country, quietly, like the rest of the hundred citizens.”  (Bade 1996: 156)

As a personality of courage he replied to his friends insisting that he, as Chief Justice, “would not go into exile because it was his duty to uphold the rule of law and to defend helpless individuals against arrogance and abuse of power.” (Bade, 156)  Then his wife the late, Maxencia Kiwanuka asked her husband, “What would happen if they kill you now?”  Kiwanuka’s answer was:  “They would kill only the body.  The spirit is beyond them.”  (Bade, 159)  The following reproduction of Albert Bade’s presentation is important for a reflection of what one may present as being Benedicto Kiwanuka’s Martyrdom: 


“On 21 September 1972, after he attended Mass at Rubaga, Kiwanuka told his wife that he was going to the office.  He entered his care and his driver, John Baptist Kapere, drove.  No sooner had Kiwanuka settled at his desk than men in plain clothes stormed into his office wielding special weapons.  They grabbed the Chief Justice, forced his coat and shoes off and dragged him to a waiting car.  They drove him to Makindye barracks where they took away his clothes and then tortured him.

                A dense sense of horror and apprehension descended over the city.  Every newspaper and radio reported the stunning news, and its implications threw the country into pandemonium.  The international community condemned this sordid affair and demanded the immediate release of Kiwanuka.  Kenya’s president, Jomo Kenyatta, rang Amin and advised him to release the Chief Justice.  Amin promised to do so.  However, he was rattled by the prospect of losing his face if Kiwanuka was released without charge.  So he concoted a document to the effect that the Chief Justice had been abducted by Tanzanian guerrillas but had fortunately been rescued by Amin’s security men.

                Kiwanuka refused to sign the fabricated document.  “I cannot deceive the world and shield the root of our country’s evil,” he said.  When on Friday 22 September 1972, Amin learnt that Kiwanuka had refused to sign the false document, he was furious.  He drove to the barracks and Kiwanuka was dragged from his cell to face the angry president.  “Don’t you know that I can kill you?  Asked Amin coldly.  “I do,” Kiwanuka answered.  “But I cannot deceive the world.  Go ahead and kill me if you like.”

                What followed Amin’s interrogation is by no means clear.  There have been a number of versions concerning Kiwanuka’s death.  One of these is the Amin suddenly produced a revolver and fired at point-blank range through Kiwanuka’s head, twice.  Another version is that Amin chopped off Kiwanuka’s head with a dagger.

                This information was derived from Amin’s intelligence personnel who supplied it to Kiwanuka’s family either for money or out of sympathy.  What is clear, however, is that Amin was anxious to ensure fool proof concealment of Kiwanuka’s body.  He therefore ordered that the body should be destroyed beyond recognition and the remains deposed of secretly Luzira.

                Those who witnessed Kiwanuka’s death or recognized his charred remains were also murdered to conceal evidence about his fate.  These include Kigonya, the Commissioner of Prisons and Father Clement Kiggundu, Editor of “Munno Newspaper.”  Fortunately, one of the people who buried Kiwanuka’s remains, a man called Kabwa, survived to tell the story about the Benedicto Kiwanuka tragedy.  Kabwa now lives in Tooro in Western Uganda.  The only other person who know the real secret of the murder of the murder of Kiwanuka is Amin himself.” [ 1996:159-160].

           The authoritative killers of the late Benedicto Kiwanuka are alive.  Their whereabouts are known.  It is mind boggling when a few days ago Dr. Rugunda  [Monitor, November 29, 1999] proclaims Idi Amin to be a coward because he killed Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka.  If Dr. Rugunda and the people he works for wish not to be seen as cowards, then they should bring Idi Amin to justice.

I would recommend that we do not let Benedicto Kiwanuka’s legacy slip away as unimportant.  Let us memorialize his ignored contribution to sanity in Uganda.  Let us resolve, organize, and work for the establishment of a Benedicto Kiwanuka Institution for Democratic Ideals.

Thank you for your attention.


1.       Bade, Albert.  1996.  Benedicto Kiwanuka: The Man and His Politics. Kampala:Fountain Publishers.

2.       Bartlett, John. 1992. Familiar Quotations. Boston:Little, Brown and Company

3.       Juvenal, Decimus Junius Juvenalis AD c60-140. Translated by  G.G. Ramsay. 1918. Cambrigde Massachusetts:Harvard University Press.

4.       Olive, Roland.  1952. The Missionary Factor on East Africa. London:Longman

5.       Rugunda, Ruhakana. 1999. Monitor, November 29, 1999.

6.       Tucker, Alfred.  1908.  Eighteen Years in Uganda. Vol II. London:Edward Arnold

7.       Tutu, Desmond.  1994.  The Rainbow People God. New York: Doubleday.