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MY STORY: We had guns at school in Kisubi (PART IV)
Monday, 14th January 2013

Ben Kiwanuka's legal arguments angered Idi Amin

In the last part of our series, MZEE EVARISTO NYANZI 79, talks to MICHAEL MUBANGIZI about his early childhood, how they had guns at St. Mary’s College Kisubi and how he joined politics. He also talks about former Chief Justice and DP President General, Benedicto Kiwanuka.


I was born on November 5, 1930 to Paulo Lwanyanga and Constancia Nambi at a village called Musa, in Kamengo Sub-county, Mawokota County, Mpigi District. I was about the seventh in a family of 11 children.

I started school (Primary One) at the age of 13. Nobody could start school before he was 10. Those who started at 10 years were children living near missions. My father was reluctant to take me to school but was persuaded to do so by a chief of a nearby area.

This chief liked me. He had a grandson, a friend of mine, whom he was supporting at school and so he wanted me to study with his grandson.I went to a nearby primary school at Nsumba for two years before I went to Nkozi Primary School in Mpigi in 1946 for four years.

By then primary education lasted six years. Then one would go to Junior One to Three, and then Senior Four to Senior Six. I did Primary Five and Six the same year because I was clever. This was unusual but one morning towards the end of first term of Primary Five in 1948, a teacher called me and said: “We want to take you to Primary Six; get your books and go.”

This was good for me as well because I was frustrated; I was getting 100% in all tests and exams. We had external exams such that those who passed Primary Six went to Junior One.

I passed with flying colours and was admitted at St. Edwards Bukuumi in Bungangaizi where I spent three years. The brothers in charge of Bukuumi at the time used to source students from any school. They had an indication that three of us were interested in joining their school, so they set us an exam which we sat before admission.

There was no common examination like UNEB. Each school or section of the school set its own exams. There was one examination for all schools affiliated to Rubaga [Archdiocese].

I had a friend in that school who persuaded me to join Bukuumi. He talked nicely about it and I thought it was a better school than any other at the time. The school fees were also affordable for me, a son of peasant farmers.

I can’t recall most of my OBs at Bukuumi but DP’s Prof. Joseph Mukiibi was also a student in that school at the time. Bukuumi stopped at Junior Three so after that I went to St. Mary’s College Kisubi.
Academically, Kisubi was one of the most important Catholic secondary schools in Uganda. They had a lot of activities, including a cadet course where students got military training.

GUNS IN SCHOOL

We had a brass band where I was a bugler and had real guns - SMGs in the school. During our cadet training, we were taken to Jinja where we spent about one month. We were trained in things like marching, firing guns…

This training was part of the school programme and was encouraged by the colonial government. They used to get people to join the Army, Police, and Prisons from people who had undergone this cadet course.

In fact, the late Kigonya, a former commissioner of Uganda Prisons, studied the cadet course at Kisubi. So the colonialists were introducing us to the military and recruiting us to join any of these security agencies.

I liked the training because I am an adventurous person. It instilled discipline in me. The guns were never misused. There was an armoury which would only be opened when we were marching. We would return them thereafter and the armoury would be locked. Nobody would touch the guns thereafter.

There was no instance of someone misusing them during the marching. You couldn’t fire because they never had bullets. Even now soldiers and policemen march with guns the way we used to do. In fact, we were soldiers in the making.

We were 45 in my class at Kisubi and that must have been the biggest class in the school at the time. We were very ambitious youngsters. We sat the Cambridge School Certificate examination which came from abroad and passed. By then it was very difficult to enter Makerere University. Our school would take about five students, Kings College Buddo about 10. But in our year, Kisubi sent 20 students to Makerere, which was the biggest number admitted to the university from a single school at the time.

ENTRY EXAMS

I joined Makerere in 1955. Some people wanted me to do sciences but I wasn’t interested. Science students studied Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine or Human Medicine, but I didn’t feel capable of handling a dead body, or being in a mortuary.

So I specialised in Arts subjects - History, English, Geography and Literature. I had done similar subjects at Kisubi. The present UACE wasn’t there, so at Makerere University we did the first two years as intermediaries.

After the two years, we would do intermediary examinations which are an equivalent of the present UACE before admission to the university. I did my intermediary examinations in 1957 before admission for a Bachelor’s degree in History, which I finished in 1960 with honours.

It wasn’t my childhood dream to be a historian. You see coming from a peasantry background, we did not have those ambitions. Those ambitions developed as we proceeded in school. That is when we cultivated interest in certain areas. I wanted to be an administrator.

Wherever district commissioners visited our place, I would see they were given a lot of ekitiibwa (respect) so I said, “Well, why don’t I study and become like them?”
So even at the university, my dream was to be an administrator in a ministry. At that time, the Public Service Commission would come to universities and interview people for particular jobs even before they completed their course.

So they interviewed me and offered me a job, subject to passing my degree exams, which I did and was appointed Assistant District Commissioner in Buganda.

JOINING DP

As I read History, I developed interest in politics. I preferred property ownership and I could see that DP was a party that respected private ownership of property. I couldn’t see the same thing in UPC. When I looked at individuals like Ignatius Musaazi, Milton Obote, I could see communism, not capitalism, in their way of life.

So I said no, “Me I want to have private property.” That is how I joined DP.
By then I was still at Makerere University. Around 1957, people like Paulo Ssemogerere, Benedicto Kiwanuka used to come to speak to us. Ssemogerere was an old friend of mine. We went to the same school in Kisubi and later Makerere.

Among the people I joined DP with was Michael Kaggwa, who was my classmate at Makerere. Ssebaana Kizito was also a student at Makerere at the time. However, after the university I had to earn bread, so I joined the civil service where I was gagged. We couldn’t speak politics but as a political animal, my political views and thinking remained.

I was posted in Buganda and later Busoga as Assistant District Commissioner until September 1962, just before independence. Instead of being posted to other districts, I was transferred to Kampala to the Ministry of Education as assistant secretary. One started off as assistant secretary, then senior assistant secretary, principal assistant secretary, under secretary and then permanent secretary.

The Bazungu were going [following independence], so they trained some people to take their positions. I jumped one rank and was appointed principal assistant secretary around 1964. In 1966, I was appointed under secretary, until 1970 when I was appointed commissioner for budget in the Ministry of Finance.

That was when I left the Ministry of Education. I stayed in Finance up to 1974 when I was transferred to the East African Community as the Regional Director for East African Posts and Telecommunications based in Uganda. There were other regional directors in Kenya and Tanzania.

MEETING AMIN


That is the time I interacted with Idi Amin. He invited me to his office, I think at the present parliamentary building, and we talked for about an hour. I went alone and he was alone with one of his security persons.

We talked about East African Community affairs. He wanted to know why the posts and telecommunications sector wasn’t efficient in Uganda, and I explained to him. When he came out, he went straight to his cabinet and blasted the minister of Communication; I think it was Mathew Obado.

The minister could have taken offence (thinking I was the one who reported to Amin), but I was doing my work. If the President calls you, you must go, and if he asks you questions, you must answer. That is what I did. I didn’t want to risk my neck.

When I met him (the minister) the following day, he told me: “I understand you were with the President? I told him yes, he invited me and I talked to him candidly about what was happening.”

You see, the Community was in shambles. There was a shortage of foreign exchange in Uganda to buy the requirements. In fact, he (Amin) gave us foreign exchange and we bought the equipment and machines we wanted.

It is a fact that Amin was deadly. If he had no problems with you, nothing would happen to you, but if he had a problem with you, you would not survive even for a day.

BEN KIWANUKA

I think Ben Kiwanuka didn’t realise that he was dealing with a very deadly person. He thought perhaps that he was an ordinary person whom he would argue, discuss and disagree with.

Ben Kiwanuka disagreed with him on mainly judicial-political issues. Ben wanted to act as a judge, lawyer and decide a case the way a judge or lawyer would, not knowing that this man would not accept the intelligent, legal arguments. For him if he decided that you were wrong, then that was it. He never saw the other side of the argument and wanted you to agree, but Kiwanuka didn’t, and I think that was his undoing.

In 1977, the East African leaders dismantled the EAC because they couldn’t agree. So we became jobless. I went out of public service and became free.

DP TREASURER

I joined real politics towards 1980, after Amin had been overthrown. DP officials were elected in an open contest, so in 1980 I offered myself for election as DP Treasurer General and was elected. That was the time people like Ssemogerere and Francis Bwengye were elected DP President General and Secretary General respectively.

I contested in Mpigi North West constituency, which now comprises Mawokota North, Kakiri and Kyengera areas. Around the same time, I was also elected DP chairman Mpigi District. Around 2000/2001, I wanted to become DP President General but things didn’t work out because of confusion in the party.

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