One of the still-unresolved murder mysteries in Ugandan
history is that of the former Chief Justice and DP party president Benedicto
Most people believe that Kiwanuka was murdered personally by President Idi
Amin, or on orders of Amin, or by Amin's henchmen, while a few others believe
that Amin's Foreign Minister Joshua Wanume Kibedi was partly behind it.
The truth, as with most other events in Ugandan history, is far from that and
more spine-chilling that most people realize.
On June 27, 1971, five months after the military coup, President Idi Amin,
swore-in the President General of the Democratic Party, Benedicto Kiwanuka,
also a lawyer, as Uganda's new Chief Justice. He had, in all probability,
been nominated for the job by Amin.
Always outspoken and militant, Kiwanuka oversaw many cases in the High Court
in which he stood for the oppressed and was not afraid to tell Amin what he
thought. Amin did not seem bothered by Kiwanuka's attitude and seemed to
Late in 1971, letters started to come to Uganda from Tanzania, written to
prominent public officials, ostensibly from their collaborators among the
exiled Ugandan community in Dar es Salaam, in which these prominent public
officials in Kampala appeared to be working with the exiled groups in
Tanzania to overthrow Amin.
Amin told his cabinet ministers and army officers to turn these letters over
to security, some of which bore the names of a L. Col. David Oyite-Ojok and
were purportedly from this army officer loyal to Milton Obote.
It has been claimed over the last 30 or so years that Kiwanuka ruled in a
court case that did not please Amin, spoke out on Amin's human rights
violations, and Amin sent Kiwanuka an oblique warning, referring to a
"prominent Muganda from Masaka" as being a collaborator against his
Even if this were so, it presents some difficulty in laying the blame for
Kiwanuka's abduction and subsequent murder on Amin.
Amin was a decisive, open, action-oriented man. He believed in taking action
in the open. He believed he needed to explain his actions to the public. When
Museveni's FRONASA guerrillas were arrested in Jan. 1973, their trial was
public, their execution even more public, in their home towns with crowds
When Janani Luwum, the Anglican Archbishop, was arrested in Feb. 1977 under
suspicion that arms intended to overthrow Amin's regime had been smuggled
into Uganda through him, diplomats, the cabinet, army officers, the media,
and the public were kept fully appraised of the developments.
A public gathering was called at the Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala, the
proceedings aired on Radio Uganda and Uganda Television, and published in the
government newspaper, the Voice of Uganda, the next day.
The fact that this was the Anglican Archbishop, in the centenary year of the
Anglican church in Uganda, did not faze Amin and he did not respond to public
Likewise, he would have had no reason to sent state security agents to the
Uganda High Court in Kampala to seize the chief justice from the premises and
then make him disappear without a trial or public reprimand.
In 1972, Amin was much more popular than he was in 1977 and if he went out
openly to call for Luwum's trial, there would have been no reason to fear
public anger if Kiwanuka was arrested and tried in 1972, with Ugandans
grateful at Amin's recent decision to expel the much-resented Asians and with
the euphoria still high after the track athlete John Akii-Bua having won
Uganda its first ever Olympic Gold medal at the Munich Summer Olympic Games.
What, then, happened to Benedicto Kiwanuka?
After Benedicto Kiwanuka was abducted, Amin summoned a meeting of the Defence
Council at Bulange in Kampala. Senior intelligence officers were also asked
to attend the meeting.
Later, during a conversation at the army officers' Mess at Nakasero in
Kampala, some State Research intelligence officers said the three men who had
abducted Kiwanuka had come to the High Court carrying State Research Bureau
One of the men, dressed up in a women's traditional robe, the Busuti, a wig,
and heavy make up, walked up to Kiwanuka and said: "You are under
A source who was in the 1970s Uganda Airforce once told this writer that two
intelligence officers, Lt. Ali Willa and Sergeant Frank Besigensi of the
State Research Centre (or Bureau) carried out investigations into Ben
They said their evidence showed that the people who abducted Kiwanuka had
entered Uganda from Tanzania through the Mutukula border area via Kyotera.
On Jan. 9, 1973, the government's Security Committee sat at a meeting and
produced its report on several prominent Ugandans who had gone missing since
This is what it reported on Kiwanuka:
"Ben Kiwanuka: Former Prime Minister in the Democratic Party government
and Obote detainee at Luzira. Released by the government and made Chief
Justice. Was arrested by three unknown persons on September 21, 1972 at about
8:30 a.m from the High Court.
These three unknown persons were traveling in a saloon car Peugeot 504 light
blue, bearing registration number UUU 171, came to the High Court Chambers
where Ben Kiwanuka was working, identified themselves as security officers
and said that he was required at their office. They were armed with
pistol[s]. They hand-cuffed the Chief Justice and took him with them in their
car driving at a very high speed in the direction of the Kampala
International Hotel. The men were all dressed in plain clothes and when they
took him away most people working in the High Court witnessed the incident.
When some of these bystanders tried to follow they were threatened to be
shot. On investigation, the government discovered that the people who posed
as security men were not, in fact, members of the Security Forces and the
number of the Peugeot 504 car which they were using belongs to a Volkswagen
saloon car of the Uganda Armed Forces, P.O.Box 7069, Kampala. It is therefore
clear that the planners of this plot wanted to confuse the country that the
people who arrested Ben Kiwanuka were members of the Security Forces, using
an official vehicle.
The Government investigated this matter thoroughly but so far no evidence has
come to light as to who arrested the Chief Justice and where he is. In this
connection, the [military] spokesman drew the attention of the country to a
press statement appearing in a foreign paper, Sunday Post, of December 31,
1972 where it was alleged that the Chief Justice was tied up in a jeep which
was then set ablaze by members of the Security Forces on the Kampala/Entebbe
The country will realise that Entebbe/Kampala Road is an international route
where people always pass up and down, night and day but no-one has ever seen
the alleged car burning on that road at any time since Kiwanuka disappeared.
This is another clear example of the enemies of the country trying to cause
confusion in the country."
Later, after the 1979 war when exiles started returning home, several were
heard to speak in a way that suggested that Kiwanuka had been abducted by an
Amin in 1973 stated and would thereafter state that Kiwanuka had been
abducted and killed by a guerrilla group called FRONASA led by a guerrilla
and former intelligence officer called Yoweri Museveni.
Speaking on or about June 25, 1975, Amin said "the highest rate of
disappearance was during 1971...President Amin said there was a high rate of
disappearances in September 1972. He explained that there was the FRONASA
guerrilla organisations, then, creating confusion in Uganda by kidnapping
General Amin said in 1972 Uganda was invaded from Tanzania by guerrillas who
killed many Ugandans including the former Chief Justice, Mr Kiwanuka
Amin reiterated that an evil organisation called FRONASA which led by a man
called Musebeni [Museveni] was in the early years kidnapping important people
in Uganda, on behalf of guerrillas, just to cause confusion and disunity. By
then he said guerrillas were training hard to come and invade us amidst that
confusion created by Fronasa for their benefit." (Voice of Uganda,
June 26, 1975, p. 1, 6)
A source in 2005 said he had got information from a former FRONASA operative
who admitted that it was indeed FRONASA that had abducted and killed
In 2005, a man went to the offices of the Daily Monitor newspaper in
Namuwongo in Kampala. He was very frightened. He spoke to the then Executive
Editor Peter Mwesige and said he knew where Ben Kiwanuka was buried.
He appeared to know the circumstances of Kiwanuka's murder, too. However, he
insisted that before he could reveal anything, he first had to be guaranteed
an international amnesty.
It seemed odd. This man was clearly frightened and looked nervously around
Mwesige's office. Why would he be so frightened?
Idi Amin, the man who allegedly killed Kiwanuka had died two years earlier in
2003. Amin's military government had fallen from power in 1979 and most of
Amin's henchmen had neither power, nor money, nor the connections to threaten
this man in anyway, should he speak out on Kiwanuka's murder
Who was he so afraid of, that he should seek an international amnesty? The
man left the Daily Monitor offices and did not return to continue with
Former FRONASA guerrillas know very well the story of who ordered the murder
of Kiwanuka. They know very well that Benedicto Kiwanuka was not murdered by
Amin or anybody in Amin's regime. In time, they will start to speak out to a
role in Ben Kiwanukas murder