NEW TWIST: Woman says DP icon was buried in Nakasongola
The Democratic Party recently said it would exhume the body of former Chief Justice and Uganda Prime Minister Ben Kiwanuka, which they believe was buried in Luzira.
However, as Sadab Kitatta Kaaya & Siraje Lubwama report, Kiwanuka may have been buried on land presently occupied by the UPDF in Nakasongola district. While events that led up to Uganda’s independence in 1962 are well-documented, the death and subsequent burial of Benedicto Kiwanuka, the country’s first indigenous prime minister, remains shrouded in mystery.
Kiwanuka, the founding president general of the Democratic Party, one of Uganda’s oldest parties, who also served as chief justice, died at the hands of Idi Amin’s forces on September 22, 1972. It has been speculated that he was buried in Luzira prison.
The Observer, however, recently talked to a woman in Mugoye sub-county, Kalangala district, who claims to know where Kiwanuka was buried. Margaret, now 60, (she has requested that her full identity be withheld) was about 20 years old at the time.
She recalls that on the day of the mysterious burial in 1972, a Land Rover truck packed with soldiers came to their home at Kiguuli in Lwampanga sub-county, in what is now Nakasongola district. The soldiers ordered her father, Yokaana Katende Kiggundu (RIP), to board the truck with an axe, machete and hoe. The truck then drove towards Wajjala, a village about two miles in the direction of Lake Kyoga.
When her father returned home, he narrated to her the story of Kiwanuka’s burial but asked her to keep it to herself until a better government came to power. She, however, remains fearful that the government may go after her. As such, she neither allowed us to take photographs of her nor record her voice.
According to her father’s story, while at Wajjala they branched off the main road into a bushy area where they found three other trucks loaded with heavy machine guns and several soldiers. Another man who had been picked from their neighbourhood joined the soldiers in digging a grave. Kiwanuka’s body, according to her father, was carried on one of the trucks with two other bodies.
Being a DP activist who had previously worked as Kiwanuka’s agent in Buruuli county, her father was able to identify Kiwanuka’s body but could not identify the other two bodies.
Kiwanuka’s son, Maurice Peter Kagimu Kiwanuka, has previously said that his father was buried in the same grave with the former Bank of Uganda governor, Joseph Mubiru, and one Captain Mukasa. Kiwanuka’s body was allegedly dressed in a suit, and had a wristwatch.
According to Margaret, once the burial was over, the soldiers stamped over the grave, which they later covered with tree branches so that passersby could not easily identify it.
One of the soldiers who spoke Luganda then warned the civilians who had taken part in the burial [including Margaret’s father] never to say anything about their task that day.
When Margaret’s father returned home that night, he appeared overwhelmed by the experience.
The following morning, a growing discomfort reportedly drove Kiggundu to the Ssaza headquarters where he reported the matter. He was, however, seriously warned against talking about such a sensitive issue as it would endanger his life. Kiggundu died seven years later in 1979, ironically the year that Amin’s government fell. Throughout our interaction, Margaret remained cautious and would pause each moment anyone, including her own children, came close.
After increasingly getting suspicious about what his wife was discussing with one of us, Claudio, Margaret’s husband, suddenly halted the renovation works he was doing on their house. He then went to one of the bedrooms next to where we were seated and quietly followed the story. After awhile, he called Margaret to the house for a hasty, hushed discussion and the word ‘problems’ was heard.
“He is not comfortable with this interaction, and he has asked me to stop it,” Margaret would report back to us.
Immediately, Claudio himself emerged to tell us that it was risky for his wife to appear in the news as the source of such a sensitive story.
“It will make me comfortable if you don’t publish her name,” he told us.
With the big man having vetoed the conversation, Margaret referred us to someone who, she said, could corroborate her account.
“You can go to Kiguuli trading centre, there lived a man called Kaggwa who used to operate a shop; he was a close friend to my father, and has more information,” she said.
She was not sure if Kaggwa is still alive but she hoped his family members could know something.
When The Observer visited the area last week, it established that Kiguuli island, where Kaggwa used to live has no residents anymore as the land was reportedly taken over by the ministry of Defence for security reasons. Whereas some people went to Kasenyi island, others went to Kibuye island, still in Nakasongola. After combing various places, The Observer found out that the Kaggwa referred to by Margaret died three years back.
“The Kaggwa you’re looking for one time discussed the issue of Ben Kiwanuka’s secret burial in a secret place at Wajjala but though he did not tell us the exact place, he said it is near the big stone which is like a hill. Unfortunately part of that land is currently owned by the army,” said Majid, an elderly man in his 70s who said he knew the late Kaggwa.
When The Observer reached Wajjala, we found a sparsely populated trading centre and the few people we spoke to had never heard of Kiwanuka’s burial site.
“Most people who are around are new in this place, some people left because the army is also interested in the remaining place we’re occupying,” a middle-aged woman told us.
Efforts to talk to Kaggwa’s relatives were futile as none were at home or in the vicinity.
At the Ben Kiwanuka family home at Kisaabwa village, Kibinge sub-county, in Bukomansimbi district The Observer was told that the search for his remains was still on. A caretaker at the home declined to reveal her real name, saying Kiwanuka’s heir, Maurice Peter Kagimu Kiwanuka (Uganda’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland), had warned her against talking to journalists.
Although she was cagey about the search, she said they had proven that their father was not buried at Luzira as had been previously thought.
“We are now looking for leads to where he was exactly buried such that we can accord him a descent burial,” she said.
On September 20, during a memorial service at Christ the King Church in Kampala to commemorate 40 years of his death, the family launched fresh appeals for anyone with helpful information regarding where he was buried.
“We have distributed about Shs 2m in different churches for special prayers such that God can show us where he was buried,” the caretaker said. “We are hopeful that God is going to answer our prayers, and we believe that one day, someone is going to come up with that information.”