WHEN THE GUN BECAME SUPREME TO DP's TRUTH AND JUSTICE
It is December 1969, and an assassination attempt is made on the then President of Uganda, Apollo Milton Obote.
According to The Daily Monitor of June 17, 2018, the police investigations and interrogations of the culprits, Benedicto Kiwanuka – a lawyer, Uganda’s first prime minister and then president-general of the Democratic Party (DP) – was the chief architect of the plot to assassinate Obote.
Earlier, in the May 1962 general elections, Obote had defeated Kiwanuka. And so it would seem that Kiwanuka had a personal vendetta against the man who denied him the opportunity to lead Uganda to independence. Later, Kiwanuka involved Princess Ndagire of Buganda kingdom, who enthusiastically bought the idea.
The then CID boss, Mohamed Hassan, who testified in court in Kampala, said from Masaka District, Kiwanuka recruited a one Yusuf Kisule, who in turn recruited Mohamed Sebaduka, a Kampala-based taxi driver and a Muganda Muslim radical to be the assassin, and another Muganda Yowana Wamala. Sebaduka had also been dismissed from the Uganda Army after the 1966 crisis. In all, about six men were involved in the assassination plot.
While testifying before the High Court Judge in Kampala, CID chief Hassan claimed Kiwanuka had imported firearms from Soviet Union purposely to assassinate Obote. Once the firearms arrived into the country, they were kept in Masaka by Mzee Kisule, 67. Hassan further told court that six men, including Sebaduka, the would-be assassin, had during interrogation, revealed just as they confessed to court that the DP president-general met Sebaduka, Wamala and Princess Ndagire – one of Kabaka Mutesa’s daughters – at her home in Kampala for the last briefing on the execution of the mission. The last meeting was held in the morning of December 19, 1969.
The day before, Mzee Kisule had managed to bring the firearms and a hand grenade from Masaka to Kampala undetected, in spite of the military roadblocks staged in Buganda since 1966. The day chosen was December 19, 1969. It was chosen because it would be the last day of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) annual conference at Lugogo Indoor Stadium. The conference had lasted three days. Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Mubutu Sese Seko of then Zaire [now DR Congo] and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, had graced the opening of the function but had all left a day before the closure of the function. The function had also attracted the big-shots of the ruling UPC party, as well as ordinary supporters.
Thus, the plotters saw a loophole where they would beat security and hang about the premises disguised as party supporters dressed in party colours. The plot had started in June 1969. By December, Sebaduka and Wamala had secured party cards and on that day, they were dressed in UPC party shirts. The trick worked.
The mission was suicidal, but Sebaduka and Wamala were determined to execute it. At about 9:30pm, the assassin-to be and the driver of the getaway car arrived at Lugogo. They parked among the other vehicles in the parking area. Armed with a Czechoslovakia-made pistol and a Chinese made-hand grenade, Sebaduka spotted a Cypress tree as the best cover.
Time check was about 9.45pm. Amid blaring music from the army band, without anyone suspecting anything, President Obote came out of the hall and straight into the would-be assassin’s target. Everyone was busy clapping and singing the new UPC song, “Uganda is moving forward” along with the army band. It was then the would-be first assassination of an African leader was about to happen. But like the African saying goes; “when your time has not come, you will jump your grave”, and because Obote’s time had not come, he jumped his grave – though not without injuries and permanent physical and psychological scar.
From behind the cypress tree, about 10 metres from Obote, with maximum precision, Sebaduka aimed and fired his pistol. It is not clear how many bullets were in the pistol and how many he intended to pump into Obote’s head, but during the interrogation and before the court, Sebaduka said after the first bullet, the pistol changed firing angle. The single bullet that went through Obote’s mouth broke two teeth and went through the cheek.
Determined to execute the mission, another would-be assassin standing nearby hurled a grenade at the President – but it did not explode.
Meanwhile, as the Obote’s bodyguard flung him down in protection from any other bullets, Sebadaka dropped his pistol and attempted to run away. Someone grabbed him and handed him to security. It is said one of the infuriated Obote’s bodyguard shot Sebaduka twice. Henry Kyemba, who was then the principal private secretary to the president, told the Sunday Monitor that he recalls security personnel wanted to kill Sebaduka, but he stopped them because they needed him as a culprit to tell it all to the authority.
In panic, the security personnel went into a random shooting, which caused astampede; and in the fracas, Sebaduka escaped.
Meanwhile, Wamala, who was standing by Sebaduka, had picked the pistol and hid it in the branches of the cypress tree. Later, when investigators came to the scene, they picked the gun. It was Wamala’s finger prints that incriminated the assassins. Because Sebaduka had been bleeding from the gun wounds, it left a trail from the scene of crime to the stolen-getaway Ford Anglia car. Although Sebaduka had been wounded, he managed to drive the car from Lugogo to Nateete, a Kampala suburb. In an attempt to destroy evidence, the would-be assassins burnt the car. But still, police was able to trace it and finally, Sebaduka and others were arrested; incredibly in less than 24 hours.
After interrogation, they revealed that Benedicto Kiwanuka was the chief architect of the attempted assassination plot. On December 20, 1969, Kiwanuka and others were arrested and the following day, DP was banned as a political party.
The trial court handed a three years imprisonment sentence to the accused including Ben Kiwanuka. If it had been the Museveni era, the accused would have been charged with terrorism before the military Court Martial and detained without trial for decades until they would either die or ask for amnesty. Less than two years later, President Obote was overthrown by Iddi Amin.
Ben Kiwanuka was released from detention and one year later appointed Chief Justice. The appointment did not please the exiles who were opposing Iddi Amin because it was rightly construed as rallying the DP supporters and the Baganda in particular behind Iddi Amin. The exiles kidnapped and killed him and his body was never seen. This took place five days after the exiles from Tanzania had overrun Mutukula border post but only to be defeated in Mbarara and Kalisizo.
It is almost 50 years now but the DP is still stuck with TRUTH AND JUSTICE when its founding father, Ben Kiwanuka had resorted to using the gun.