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Amin’s Children and Me

By CONRAD NKUTU

ARTICLE SUMMARY: My life and times with the sons and daughters of my father’s killer.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: Conrad Nkutu is the Managing Director of Greenewus Energy and former Managing Director of the Monitor Newspaper and its subsidiaries.

I was browsing through the Uganda Journalists Facebook page last Saturday when I came across a post by a journalist, Moses Odokonyero, who had been reading the interesting Saturday Monitor series by Jaffar Remo Amin, son of former President Idi Amin, a record of many events not previously published, surrounding the collapse of his father’s regime in April 1979.

In one of the articles, Remo Amin recalls how he and his nine brothers were rescued by presidential security from Kabale Preparatory School, where they were primary school students, and driven to Kasese via Rwanda and Congo-Zaire, from where they escaped via Entebbe Airport.

Moses Odokenyero asked in his post, “So Kabale Preparatory School was considered 'elite' enough for the President's children. I have not been to Kabale before. Does this school still exist? What is it like today?”

 I thought I’d respond with a few lines and found myself writing a full article.

An elite school

My sister Sophie and I were students at Kabale Preparatory School in the 1970s. I was there from 1975-79 alongside 10 to 13 of Amin's children, two of whom, Luyimbazi Amin and Remo Jaffar Amin were my dorm-mates. It was a wonderful school, run by the lovable Headmistress, Ms Mary Hayward (RIP) and Miss Jean Sumner of the British Church Missionary Society.

She was supported by two wonderful and motherly Bakiga teachers, Ms Elizabeth Kigorogoro and Ms Erina Lushaya (sister to the late UPC Kigezi leader Mukombe Mpambara, whose children were in the school though he was in exile in Tanzania). Mpambara’s daughter Anita was a good friend throughout all my years in Kabale.

I did well in most subjects but had great trouble with Mathematics and the teacher, Ms Lushaya, tried her best but was totally frustrated by my performance. But I have the fondest memory of my English Teacher, Ms Jean Sumner and even more of my History Teacher, Mr Naris Tibenderana, who with great patience and encouragement accommodated my inexhaustible pursuit of books, newspapers, magazines and knowledge of Ugandan history and my tendency to write unsolicited history essays.

Kabale Preparatory School, or KPS as it was often called, would, in the 1970s, have been described as an "elite" school, running the UNEB curriculum but with international school welfare and living standards. The school fees were very steep but the food was great and a hotel-style menu variety system was used, with many dining room delights and desserts to choose from.

As the scarcity of essential commodities increased, State House Entebbe supported the school kitchen with many of its needs and at some point, it felt like food at school was better than food at home where sugar and other essentials were sometimes being rationed.

The school had students from a number of elite Ankole and Kigezi families with big farms and we loved visits from parents like those of Stephen Katanywa, Michael and David Baingana and Patience Kanyamunyu (who became a life-long friend and sister). The mothers of these students would come visiting in pickups with large vats of fresh milk, meat and other farm products.

We enjoyed chicken and meat, rice and potatoes, milk, bread, cornflakes, jam, honey, eggs and such luxuries as bread-and-butter pudding through the years until Amin was overthrown. The dormitories were residential houses in which we slept mostly two or three to a bedroom with bathrooms rarely shared by more than four students. There were only 52 boarders at Kabale Prep. If any of Amin’s child had a birthday that term, we were all sure to get a gift from State House and it was cool to have so many of his children in the school.

Some of our fellow students had famous fathers in the government – whom we read and learnt about in our Civics classes - such as Hon. Paul Etiang, whom I recall was Minister of Transport and Communications and later Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity. I was always fascinated by his Range Rover vehicle and his very gentlemanly and dignified bearing.

The other Amin children I recall being at KPS were his much reported-about favourite son Moses (widely believed national rumours circulated in 1979 that his father had killed and eaten him were just not true!), Mayimuna (known as “Mayi”), Machomingi, Lumumba, Aliga, Adam, Mwanga (another reported favourite) and Geriga. In the earlier years, I seem to recall a boy called Mao Amin and two older girls whose names now fade from memory, I think they were daughters of Amin's first wife, Mama Maryamu.

There were no security arrangements of any kind for Amin’s kids at Kabale Prep. The school is located at the top of Kabale’s Rugarama Hill, near the main Protestant Church. Living next door to the school and playing a role in its affairs was the much respected and beloved Bishop Festo Kivengere (RIP), whom I recall as a saintly, charismatic, handsome, always-smiling gentleman, with a dignified kind of “Afro” hairstyle. One always felt you were in the company of an honourable and very trustworthy person when you were in his presence.

Bishop Kivengere flees to exile

Actually, my first sense of something terribly being wrong with the government led by the father of my friends, the Amins, involved Bishop Kivengere. I was eavesdropping on a conversation in Headmistress Mary Hayward’s office in early 1977 when I heard her sobbing and I was perturbed.

I was In P5 and the headmistress was telling Teacher Jean Sumner that Archbishop Janan Luwum, who had a special relationship with our missionary school and had visited about a week or two before he was murdered by Amin, had been reported in a government radio bulletin as having been killed in a motor accident in Kampala but that the “accident” story was totally unbelievable to her and she said Luwum had certainly been killed.

I never heard her say who had killed the Archbishop but had a worried sense it was government-related. I had been born into a Muslim family but brought up as a Christian following my father’s death and I wondered how and why anybody would kill the Archbishop, whom we knew well from his visits to Kabale Prep.

Ms Hayward and Ms Sumner were almost whispering and weeping and I recall a vague reference being made to a letter of protest having been written to “him.” I didn’t understand what they were saying because their conversation seemed to be coded and scared but I was puzzled because in the Civics classes taught by Mr Tibenderana, we were taught to respect the state and the government which existed only to serve and to do good for the people. We loved the national coat of arms, the country’s anthem and the national flag. Could government do bad things?

In late 1979, when I read my uncle Henry Kyemba’s book State of Blood, which exposed Amin to the whole world as a killer, I realized that Bishop Festo Kivengere had taken the grave risk of joining Archbishop Luwum and other Protestant Bishops in writing and signing a letter to President Amin which bravely told him that his government had killed very many people and church leaders were having to console too many widows and orphans. The letter asked Amin to stop the killings immediately and the Archbishop was himself murdered by a furious Amin less than two weeks later.

In a second round of undiscovered eavesdropping by this politically curious 10-year old a few days later, I learnt that Bishop Kivengere had fled the country in the middle of the night. It is 36 years ago and my memory might be faulty on some of the facts but the Bishop’s daughter, former Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere, might be able to fill in the gaps or correct my recollections.

I vaguely recall learning through the eavesdropping that my British teachers had played a role in smuggling the much loved Bishop across the Rwanda border in the school’s white Volkswagen Combi van. I do not recall clearly whether they said the Bishop escaped dressed as a woman or whether they put him in the luggage area and covered him with various luggage items, but MS Hayward and Ms Sumner (whom I think drove the van) were engrossed in prayers of excited gratitude to God for the safe escape to exile of Bishop Kivengere.

Amin the wonderful parent

Most of our school life was less dramatic. Luyimbazi Amin was my classmate and dorm-mate. Amin's kids made up about a quarter of the 52 students in the school. They were all nice, ordinary, sometimes cheeky children, who would get into occasional trouble like the rest of us and did not get special treatment of any kind.

It was a small school with a warm family environment and we were all friends, sharing such house-keeping chores as making our beds and cleaning and tidying our rooms. Neither I nor any of Amin’s children knew that their father had killed my father in 1973 and had his body buried in a secret place.

As a father, Idi Amin's visits to KPS were much anticipated by all the students since he would usually come laden with many gifts and goodies from his foreign travels. As young children, we saw a presidential visit as a great honour that excited us tremendously, especially when the President, a very tall and imposing man with a big smile, who looked pretty good in military uniform, turned up at our school driving himself in his motor rally Citroen Maserati car, followed by a Range Rover, black Mercedes Benzes and several military Jeeps and Land Rovers, most of which had very long radio antennas and were driven by cool-looking bodyguards wearing sun glasses and carrying walkie-talkies. Amin’s love for his children was very visible. This entire presidential aura wowed us young boys completely.

Amin’s kids escape Kabale

I have some recollections of the dramatic final day at KPS for Amin's kids, ahead of their escape from Kabale District, the road route to which had been cut off from the Kampala side by Amin’s Tanzanian enemies. Events of that day have been movingly written recently by Amin’s son Remo. I recall the day of their escape from Kabale as a dark and cold night; I think it was in February 1979, two months ahead of the April 11 capture of Kampala by the invading Tanzanian army.

I was in Primary 7 and still sharing a room with the gentle Luyimbazi Amin (whom I have never seen again since, though I have bumped into Remo a couple of times).

If I recall correctly, Luyimbazi's mother, a Muganda lady, was unknown to the Ugandan public but came from or lived in Mukono District. He was a quiet, gentle, dark-skinned boy with below-average school grades but with very good manners, much quieter than his younger brothers Machomingi, Mwanga, Aliga and Geriga who were often involved in mischievous pranks.

Remo was the eldest or one of the eldest and had a quiet big brotherly stance towards his siblings. He was not noisy or very assertive, however, and I would never have guessed that he would emerge 30 years later as a high profile family spokesman and guardian of his late father’s name.

On that February night, with the liberation war nearing its peak, a stressed and pale-looking Ms Hayward and Ms Sumner stormed our dormitory, woke us up in the middle of the night and informed Amin's children that they had to leave the school and the country immediately and they had just a few minutes to get out of their pyjamas, dress up and board what I vaguely recall as some kind of bus, that had been sent by the President to evacuate them to safety.

We could hear the sounds of heavy vehicles forming the convoy, engines revving outside the residential houses that we used as dormitories.

We were all stunned out of our sleep but I understood what was happening because our history teacher, Mr Naris Tibenderana, had caved into my obsession with news stories and my endless questions about current affairs and updates on the war and he had allowed me access to radio news almost every evening as long as I upheld my promise not to discuss the news or our arrangements with anybody. I knew the Amin government was collapsing under military assault and the Tanzanians were already in Masaka and Mbarara districts.

The soldiers came right into our dormitory, armed to the teeth and Amin's children were given about 15 minutes to get onto the bus or van they were to escape in. The convoy had some vehicles with long radio communication antennas and the soldiers looked tensed up, in a hurry to take off.

I recall the soldiers tossing the Amin kids’ clothes and belongings into blankets which were quickly tied as make-shift ‘bags’ of sorts. Some of the younger Amin children, including Machomingi, cried as they were hustled out of bed and swept into the van in a frantic hurry.

I helped my room-mate Luyimbazi carry his makeshift blanket ‘bag’ to the van, having helped him throw most of his clothes and shoes onto the blanket which we had not tied up properly to hold everything together. We made hurried farewells and they vanished into the night amidst the heavy sound of the vehicle convoy.

Employing Amin’s son Lumumba

Twenty six years later, I later bumped into Remo Amin as we called him then, when he visited the Daily Monitor offices to see a friend, while I was still Managing Director there several years ago. We exchanged a polite nod but did not speak to each other.

Soon thereafter, however, my objectivity was tested more substantively when Monitor's Human Resources Manager, Martha Elimu, and the KFM Radio Programmes Controller, Peter Kabba, made a nervous entry into my office, carrying a blue employee recruitment approval form and a job application letter plus a C.V.

KFM, which I led as Managing Director, was recruiting a Production Executive for advertising commercials and Peter and Martha weren't sure I would approve the recruitment of the candidate who had by far emerged best in the interviews, with other interviewees far behind him in the scores. I asked what the problem was and a nervous Martha just handed me the papers without explaining. Her eyes were on the floor.

The scores showed that the best candidate was one Hussein Lumumba. For a moment, I couldn't understand why they were questioning whether I would approve his recruitment until I looked at his education history and saw the very familiar name of Kabale Preparatory School.

I realised immediately that the top candidate was my former school-mate, Lumumba Amin (as we knew him then), who was a few classed behind me in primary school. I gently chastised Martha and Peter, who knew that Amin had killed my father, for thinking that I could visit the sins of the father (Amin) on the son (Lumumba), whose good work at Capital Radio I heard about. I immediately signed off my approval of the recruitment, asking that he start work right away.

Hussein Juruga Lumumba (as he was now known, having dropped the father's name at the time) did excellent work for KFM and is undoubtedly one of the best radio professionals in Uganda. He was clearly unaware of the terrible tragedy his father had visited on my family and Martha and Peter managed things in such a discreet way that Lumumba never got to know that there had been any questions about whether he'd get the job.

About a year later, however, in January 2005, both Daily Monitor and New Vision ran a lengthy same-day front-page story carrying my family’s announcement that retired grave diggers of the Mailo Mbiri Cemetery in Jinja town had revealed to our family the secret mass grave where, in January 1973, they were put at gun-point by Amin's security forces who ordered them to hurriedly and secretly bury the body of my Dad, former Cabinet Minister Shaban Kirunda Nkutu.

Mr. Nkutu was Minister of Works, Housing, Transport and Communications in the Obote I Government. He was also UPC MP for Busoga South East.

The seven grave diggers were threatened with death if they revealed the burial place, took an oath of silence and held their secret for 32 years. But now, the newspaper stories revealed details of how my late Father was abducted by Captain Issa Habib Galungbe, Military Intelligence Chief of Jinja’s Gadaffi Garrison, and the brave fight for his life put up by dozens of unarmed civilians as an attempt was made by five soldiers to put him inside a car boot.

The story reported the dumping of my Dad’s body in the River Nile, where it was found floating face-down in the water with two bullet wounds to the head and its retrieval by government security forces ahead of his secret burial on the orders of President Idi Amin.

It was a trying day for me because I had to preside over a previously scheduled all-staff Monitor meeting the morning on which the story came out on the front pages of the two main national dailies, but I was able to remain composed and focused on management priorities as I addressed the hundreds of Monitor employees, many of whom were looking on with expressions ranging from shock, curiosity and sympathy as they read the newspaper stories during the meeting.

I could see that many of them were not paying attention to what I was saying as MD and were instead reflecting on the horrific details of my father's abduction, murder and secret burial. The story also revealed that the former First Lady, known as Mama Maryamu Kibedi Amin, who is my paternal cousin, had fled Uganda and gone into exile in Britain following my father's murder.

Our grandfather, Haji Ausi Kirunda and other relatives besieged the First Lady with news that her husband had killed her paternal uncle and secretly buried his body, which they continuously but unsuccessfully asked her to persuade President Amin to release to the family for proper burial.

The story reported that Mama Maryamu's brother, the young lawyer and Jinja politician Joshua Wanume Kibedi, who had been very close to Amin, had resigned as Foreign Minister and fled the country, denouncing his brother-in-law, the President of Uganda, as a murderer in the international media, following the killing of Shaban Nkutu.

Battling their father’s reputation

Soon after the all-staff Monitor/KFM meeting ended that morning, KFM's controller, Peter Kabba, came to my office and reported with a shaky voice that Hussein Lumumba Amin had read the newspaper story in shock and collapsed in Kabba's office.

Kabba sought guidance on what to do as Lumumba had somewhat recovered but was weeping inconsolably and all the KFM staff were discussing the matter after realising that Lumumba was Amin’s son, and that I had knowingly employed the son of my father's killer.

Lumumba had asked Kabba if I was willing to see him in my office to enable him to express regrets for what had happened to my Dad. I consented and he walked into my office trembling and weeping uncontrollably, supported to stand upright by Peter Kabba, and, if recall well, Joseph Beyanga, the station's Head of Production. Lumumba attempted to say something to me and mumbled a vague "I'm so sorry..." but had lost his voice and was inaudible as well as pretty incoherent.

I got the sense that while he had obviously grown up surrounded by press reports describing his late father as a killer, he was living in denial and had possibly never been confronted with a detailed murder case involving his father as the orchestrator. He was in a very bad emotional state and we were all very sorry for him. I asked Peter to get a company car to take him home and later asked Martha to assure him that I held no grudge against him and he could take a few days off to recover from the shock then return to work.

Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, Hussein Lumumba Amin did not return to work at KFM and did not send in a resignation letter. We understood his dilemma and did not pursue him though we remained sorry for how he had found out, and KFM missed his good work.

Revisionist history at play

A few years later, his brother Remo Amin began a PR campaign to clean up his father's murderous reputation. I never tried to find out if they were working as a team but Remo was visibly aided in this regard by senior journalist and Monitor columnist, Timothy Kalyegira, with whom I had attended high school at Namasagali College in Kamuli District in the 1980s.

Aged 17, I was Namasagali’s Minister of Information and Editor of a notice-board school newspaper that published news from the BBC, Radio Uganda and the Voice of America on a regular basis. Robert Kabushenga, now Managing Director of New Vision, was my Deputy Information Minister and Timothy Kalyegira was our Permanent Secretary. We took our newspaper work very seriously as it was the information source for several teachers.

Kalyegira, a brilliant but often eccentric friend and colleague, tested my objectivity as MD of Monitor by writing a series of articles that sought to downplay the extent of violent murders carried out by Amin and his government.

He repeatedly wrote columns in Sunday Monitor challenging anybody accusing Amin of mass murder to send him a list of the names of victims and disprove his strongly held notion that the number of murders caused by Amin's government was actually much smaller than widely believed.

Predictably, not a single victim’s family responded and Timothy proudly declared in an article that he had therefore won the argument, and that Amin actually killed very few people, possibly only about 1,000 victims, far less than the widely held figure of 500,000.

I knew that for the victims’ families, it could never be about the statistics, it would always be about their tragic losses and it was always painful to read Timothy’s revisionist articles.

I was a fairly assertive Managing Director but chose to hold my silence and I did nothing to stop the articles though members of some victims' families, most of whom had suffered the additional trauma of not burying their dead, challenged me aggressively on why I tolerated and exposed them to this injury.

I felt my family history made me too personally involved to take an objective decision as MD and that I might end up in conflict-of-interest issues. In any case, Kalyegira and Remo Amin certainly had the ability to find other channels for their views, outside my control. I recall discussing the matter with our Managing Editor, Joachim Buwembo, who was uncomfortable. The decisive issue for me was that Kalyegira's freedom to opinionate as a journalist weighed more than the pain he was causing the victims of Amin's murders.

I was myself well known to be a passionate and unwavering defender of Monitor's editorial freedom and its bold pro-democracy positioning – constantly under government assault – which stance would later cause the end of my newspaper career as I repeatedly declined to make unprincipled compromises under pressure. I could not bring myself to censor Kalyegira and limit his rights to free expression.

Eventually, Kalyegira’s revisionist history was reported to the Nation Media Group head office by various complainants as a matter that I had not handled well, and senior editor Charles Onyango-Obbo, who had raised his concerns with me earlier, called me after a meeting of senior officials in Nairobi to tell me that head office was putting a stop to it after hearing the pain of people like Businessman Patrick Bitature whose father, Paul Bitature, was murdered by Amin's soldiers in the early 1970s.

I remained on good terms with Kalyegira, who never received a complaint from me about the matter. I have since read Remo Amin's recent articles and have no issue with the facts he has recorded about the collapse of his father's government, some of which I have read about in books, particularly the ground-breaking War in Uganda by Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey.

Remo’s series reveals a lot of unknown history and actually makes very interesting reading. It is pretty good journalistic work by Daily Monitor. My post Kabale Prep interface with the legacy of Amin and the efforts of his sons to repackage him did not end with my tenure as Managing Director of Monitor.

When I left Monitor and KFM in 2007 and was transferred to Nation Media Group head office in Nairobi as Group Business Development Director and later Managing Director of the Nation Broadcasting Division, I ‘Googled’ my father's name one day and the internet search engine brought up a website set up by Remo and Amin's other children to clean up his reputation as a killer of his political opponents.

The most prominent article posted on the website was a declaration by Amin's daughter Mayi, also a former Kabale Prep schoolmate. I am paraphrasing her words from memory since that website now appears to be non-existent. According to Mayi Amin, her father's government “never killed anybody except the Late Hon. Shaban Nkutu, who was an Uncle to our mother, Mama Maryamu."

The article claimed, incredibly, that when the army came to arrest him, "Nkutu's supporters were armed with guns and shot at the soldiers sent to effect his arrest and unfortunately Shaban Nkutu was shot dead in the cross-fire...". That is to say, his death was unintentional!

 The website expressed much regret for the fact that my Dad had met his death at the hands of an army commanded by his in-law, Idi Amin.

Perhaps Mayi Amin hoped the public had forgotten that my father’s driver Abdul Muloyiva and a nephew of his, Twaha Magala, both eye-witnesses to the violent abduction that took place in front of dozens of people on Jinja’s Scindia Road, were with him from the abduction at his supermarket on Scindia Road to the Jinja Central Police Station and finally to the office of the Commander of Gadaffi Garrison where they were the last family members to see him alive.

Both eye-witnesses are still living. My cousin Twaha Magala also personally saw my Father’s body at the river bank where it had been dumped by the army at night.

I recognized that because he is the only prominent Amin murder victim whose body has ever been recovered and because of the depth of detail recently published by Ugandan newspapers about his killing and, finally, because of the Mama Maryamu relationship and the First Lady’s flight-to-exile connection with the case, Shaban Nkutu’s killing was the one murder which was very difficult for Amin’s children to deal with or deny.

Their own mother had fled the country and even they found it difficult to deny that he had died at the hands of their father’s army. Nevertheless I was surprised by the extent they had gone to, not to deny that Amin’s government had killed him, but to create a fictitious story that turned the victim into the cause of his own death, based on allegations about this civilian politician firing back at armed government soldiers with the aid of non-existent armed supporters on a Jinja street.

The “cross-fire” version was a poor and unsuccessful effort at repackaging history by my former Kabale Prep school-mates because it has been widely reported that on the day the body was discovered at the river, President Amin, under family pressure from his in-laws to surrender the body, announced on Radio Uganda that former Cabinet Minister Shaban Nkutu had fled to exile in Tanzania. How do Amin’s children reconcile this fact with Nkutu’s death in a cross-fire while he was being arrested?

The nakedness of that falsehood possibly explains why they took their website offline soon after I posted the true facts on the site’s feedback page. I do sympathise, though, with them given the weight of the baggage they were doomed to carry as a result of their father’s actions, inspite of their innocence.

More Cabinet ministers killed

Perhaps unavoidably, Mayi Amin’s website article chose to ignore the well-known facts about my father's murder, first published in Henry Kyemba's 1977 expose book on Amin, A State of Blood. She also chose not to explain the high profile murders of seven of my father's Cabinet colleagues, a third of the Independence Cabinet, who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried in the 3-month period between the September 1972 exiles’ invasion of Uganda from Tanzania, and January 11, 1973 when Shaban Nkutu had his life taken away.

My Dad’s murdered Cabinet colleagues included seven former ministers of the first Obote government: John Kakonge (Agriculture), Basil Bataringaya (Internal Affairs), Joshua Wakholi (Public Service), Alex Ojera (Information), William Kalema (Commerce), Ali Kisekka (Minister to the East African Community) and James Ochola (Deputy Minister of Local Government).

Chief Justice and former Prime Minister Ben Kiwanuka was abducted by security personnel in broad daylight at the High Court, murdered and secretly buried. His family is still searching for his remains.

Wakholi and Ojera were captured on the battlefield during the September 1972 invasion and executed. The other former ministers were all abducted by the Amin army and his intelligence service, the State Research Bureau and, to use the common phrase of the time, “baabula,” – they disappeared. None of their bodies has ever been recovered or buried by their families. Uganda lost a generation of national leaders whose government had made some major mistakes but who oversaw the successful implementation of many important national development programmes, especially in health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, housing, transport, communications and cooperatives.

This very creative re-writing of the historic facts by Mayi Amin about that fateful day in 1973 that so badly affected our family were a blatant falsehood. I mentioned the claims to my Nairobi-based colleague, Charles Onyango-Obbo and let it pass. Soon after posting an article of my own detailing the true facts surrounding my father's death on the Amin children's website, the website went off-line.

That is the history of my interface with Idi Amin's children at Kabale Preparatory School and the aftermath of events involving our fathers before and after I joined the school in 1975 as a Primary Three student. Amin’s children were good, normal, friendly kids who have absolutely no responsibility for the acts of their father.

In our family home, my sister and I were never told about what had happened to our Dad. It was a no-go topic in our home and we never saw his photos until after Amin's overthrow in 1979 when my mother, who had resorted to her maiden name Christine Namubiru to stay safe during Amin's regime, started receiving many visitors, returnees from exile, who came to console her about the tragedy of 1973.

I have never had the opportunity to point out to Mama Miria Obote that when her husband returned to the presidency in 1980, he made extensive and consistent efforts to support the welfare of our family. Milton Obote and Shaban Nkutu had grown up as brothers and very close friends from their student days at Busoga College Mwiri and they became very close political allies, with Obote appointing Nkutu National Chairman of UPC, making him Second to the Vice President.

And just as I had the opportunity as a child to see the gentle side of Idi Amin that few people would believe existed, I later went to high school with President Obote’s son Tony Akaki at Namasagali College. Tony is a wonderful chap. We became good friends and he exposed me to Obote the family man, a very likeable man whom most Ugandans born much later will never know.

Journalists should stand up for democracy

I got my first detailed account of what had happened to my Father by reading Henry Kyemba's book and later speaking to my Father’s relatives, and my family is very grateful to Kyemba for telling us what happened as well as the various forms of support he gave to our family until he himself fled Amin’s regime in 1977.

I resolved, in my early teens, to become a journalist and play some role in influencing non-violent political debate and dispute resolution for a more democratic dispensation in Uganda.

Most journalists practicing today, and indeed most Ugandans now of adult age were not born or were too young to recall this dark phase in Uganda's history, and many journalists now seem to lack inspiring role models to guide their reporting of Uganda’s many governance and economic problems. While most voters lament about huge national problems but do not resolutely seek to correct them at election time.

Great editors like Wafula Oguttu and Charles Onyango-Obbo, who founded Monitor, emerged as leading pro-democracy activist journalists because of that phase in Uganda’s history when human rights and freedoms were so extensively abused. They were very good mentors and an inspiring example for me even when I was in direct competition with them during my days as William Pike’s deputy at New Vision.

I have no doubt that most of the next generation of good editors and media leaders like Joachim Buwembo, Andrew Mwenda, Peter Mwesige and Onapito Ekomoloit were all drawn into journalism because Wafula, Obbo and Monitor as a newspaper stood up boldly for Ugandan democracy, a stance that is not easy to see in Ugandan journalism today, irrespective of which newspaper one reads.

Kabale Prep School today

Kabale Preparatory School still exists and I had the opportunity to visit it briefly during the mid 1990s. I am, however, not well informed about how the school is currently faring. The British Missionaries and expatriates have long left and the school is, if I recall correctly, now a government school, operating with all the limitations that come with that framework.

It was a great school in the 1970s with almost all students passing Primary 7 with First Grades at PLE and we were given what was probably the best welfare available in a Ugandan school at the time.

When Amin's children left KPS in 1979, the school was depopulated by a factor of 25 percent and my Primary 7 Class was left with only 7 candidates for the final exams; 5 girls and 2 boys. We witnessed great celebration of Amin’s overthrow by all the teachers and support staff, who had for years treated Amin’s kids with much love and kindness.

Most students were still too young to understand the upheaval and were puzzled because they had always known President Amin as Head of State, a cool Dad who was the father of our friends and generous benefactor of our school.

Years after I left the school, I read somewhere that our wonderful Headmistress, Mary Hayward had been awarded the much-deserved honour of Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for her long and dedicated service to education and missionary work in Uganda.

During my last term in the school in 1979, a chubby young boy was brought to KPS for admission to Primary One by his 30-something year old father, who was dressed in a cream-coloured Kaunda suit and ankle-length boots. They arrived being driven back-left in the popular 1970s model Mercedes Benz 200. I learnt that this slender, balding man with a somewhat unkempt moustache, a stern demeanour and an erect military bearing but betraying a visible soft spot for his young son was one of the senior UNLF liberators and was also the new Minister of Defence, Yoweri Museveni.

We had never heard of him before. The boy was introduced to fellow students as Muhoozi Museveni, now better known as Brigadier General Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Most alumni of Kabale Prep have very fond memories of their times at the school and I guess Moses Odokonyero now has his answers.

 

Comments   

 
0 #1 Byenda 2013-05-15 14:41
Conrad

The headmistress was Miss Nun Read not miss Hayward , Ms Hayward was a matron. And the young chubby boy was Philip Muhozi he did not use the Museveni name then.
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0 #2 AMANYA 2013-05-30 10:00
i have learnt alot
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0 #3 Mukesh 2014-12-16 13:56
Joshua Wakhoil's son Justin was my classmate in 1972 just before we Asians were expelled...I wonder if he manage to live though thiose years
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0 #4 Piper 2016-01-28 14:58
Fabulous, what a blog it is! This website presents helpful facts to us, keep it up.



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