Benedicto Kiwanuka

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Benedicto Kagimu Mugumba Kiwanuka (8 May 1922[1] – 22 September 1972) was the first Prime Minister of Uganda, leader of the Democratic Party and one of the early leaders that led the country in the transition between colonial British rule and independence. He was murdered by Idi Amin's regime in 1972.


A member of the Baganda ethnic group, Kiwanuka was a member of the Roman Catholic Church.[2] After attending primary school, he joined the King's African Rifles, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major in the Second World War. After returning from the war, he worked as an Interpreter at the High Court of Uganda.

Wanting to study law, he prepared by attending a matriculation course Law in Lesotho (1950–1952), before proceeding to Britain to attend University College London (1952–1956). He was admitted to the Bar association at Gray's Inn in February 1956.[2] Returning to Uganda, he practised law privately from 1956 to 1959.

In 1958 he was elected President General of the predominantly Catholic Democratic Party. He re-organized the Party and made it popular throughout Uganda. The Democratic Party won a majority in the March 1961 legislative elections (partly as a result of low voter turnout in Buganda), and Kiwanuka became Chief Minister in the Uganda Legislative Council. As a result of the September 1961 Uganda Constitutional Conference held in London, Uganda achieved internal self-government on March 1, 1962 and Benedicto Kiwanuka became Uganda's first Prime Minister in the new National Assembly. However, new elections were held in April 1962, and Kiwanuka's party lost to an alliance of Milton Obote's Uganda People's Congress and the Buganda traditionalist party, Kabaka Yekka, with Kiwanuka's Catholicism making him unpopular with his fellow Buganda, a mainly Protestant people.[3] Uganda achieved independence on October 9, 1962, with Obote as the first Prime Minister of a fully independent Uganda.

Benedicto Kiwanuka was imprisoned in 1969 by Obote's government, but was one of 55 political detainees released by Idi Amin immediately after the coup that brought Amin to power.[4] Amin appointed him as the First Ugandan Chief Justice on 27 June 1971.[2] Kiwanuka soon came into confrontation with Idi Amin's disregard for the rule of law. In the immediate aftermath of Obote's abortive counter coup of 1972 Kiwanuka was arrested at gunpoint by Amin's men as he presided over a session of the High Court.[2] As well as countermanding some of Amin's more draconian orders from the bench, Kiwanuka had also secretly agreed to support a return to power for his former rival Obote, with the proviso that Kiwanuka would be involved in constitutional reform.[3] Kiwanuka was killed by Amin's forces on September 22 at Makindye Military Prison in a prolonged execution which, according to eyewitnesses, involved Kiwanuka ears, nose, lips and arms being severed, a disembowelling and castration before he was finally immolated.[3] Kiwanuka's death was not acknowledged as an execution, with Amin instead publicly blaming it on Obote's supporters and even launching a police investigation.[2] Kiwanuka's killing was the first of a series directed against leading figures in the Baganda and Ankole tribes, aimed at curbing the power these groups held.[5]

Kiwanuka's grandson, Mathias Kiwanuka, played defensive end for Boston College's football team from 2001 to 2005 and was the New York Giants' first round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He is now a starting linebacker for the Giants.[6]


  1. ^ Benedicto Kiwanuka: the man and his politics - Albert Bade - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  2. ^ a b c d e David Martin, General Amin, London: Faber and Faber, 1974, p. 211
  3. ^ a b c Martin, General Amin, p. 212
  4. ^ Martin, General Amin, p. 140
  5. ^ Martin, General Amin, p. 213
  6. ^ Kiwanuka Goes Home, but His Heart Is Far Away