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Luwuliza in cream suit - between then President Obote and Vice President Muwanga

Luwuliza: Busoga's unsung hero

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By Isaac Mufumba

Aug 17, 2005 - 12:37:21 AM

The Secretary General of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Dr. John Magoola Luwuliza Kirunda passed away in a rural Zimbabwean hospital.

The famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar which Marcus Antonius made in his epitaph to the fallen Caesar: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones", strikes a chord with the late former Minister of Internal Affairs.

No sooner had news of his demise broke than memories of the late cocky and boisterous former Minister came rushing back.
The time was in 1983. We had just joined Busoga College Mwiri and the school was in the process of organising a grand fund raising function.
Luwuliza was part of a team of powerful Old Boys and he was very much at the centre of the planning.

This made him a common feature at the school, dropping in every Saturday, but that did not mean that we all got to know who he was.
On one such visit, he entered one of the halls of residence, Annex House, where one of us who did not recognise him stayed seated on his bed.

Luwuliza moved up to him, slapped him twice before informing him who he was and what was required of him whenever he would see him.
"I am Dr. John Magoola Luwuliza Kirunda. Secretary General of the ruling party, UPC, Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief of Police, Special Force and Prisons. So when you see me, you stand up" he told the unfortunate lad.

We all got to know him.

After the fundraising function, which was presided over by Dr Obote, he did not show up at the school again until early in 1985 when he came back to talk to us about our new headmaster, George William Kayondo (RIP).

At the time, the unofficial policy on appointment of headmasters to the school was that the candidate had to be a Musoga OB of the school. Kayondo's appointment was therefore likely to be resisted, a scenario which many an OB who believed that he was the right man to redeem the school were not ready to put up with.
They left it to Mr Fix It to make a statement: That Kayondo enjoyed the full support of the powers that be.

One February 1985 Sunday afternoon saw us summoned to the Dining Hall for a hastily convened assembly at which Luwuliza assured us that he would not hesitate to send any of us to the Uganda Prisons department run Bugungu Reformatory School if we disobeyed Kayondo's orders.
That subdued us.

Those are teenage memories of the man, but what did the others think of him?
The newspapers that broke news of his death shows that he is remembered as the man who on March 10, 1981 banned four newspapers, namely the Weekly Topic, Citizen, Economy and the ag 'Africa and later detained some editors for publishing a story that called for a probe of the wealth of all the President's men.

He is remembered as the man who signed numerous indefinite detention orders as a series of planned activities in a grand counter insurgency campaign.
By May 12, 1982 there were 237 officially behind held under indefinite detention orders. It is believed that by the fall of the Obote II government more than 1000 were being held under those measures largely due to his hand and seal.

Most notable among his detainees was his cousin, John Kirunda, who he had locked up in Luzira for more than six months, his crime having been to destroy a portrait of President Apollo Milton Obote.

He is also remembered for having hounded into exile, Paul Wangoola, the man who on a Democratic Party (DP) ticket, beat him to the Iganga North Constituency seat in the 1980 general elections.

Despite winning the subsequent bye-election, he still went on to lock up Wangoola's elder brother, Phillip Wangoola, in Luzira prison for close to as year.
He would from the foregoing appear to be a cocky, cold and ruthless person, yet there was another side of him, the good side, which in the words of Marcus Antonius, will be interred with his bones.

Well as Busoga's present day leadership is lost in a web of factionalism which is undermining development, the political leaders of Busoga during the Obote II era were united and focussed on the area's development.

Uniting Busoga
That unity and focus was largely the handwork of Luwuliza Kirunda who ably cut himself out as the undisputed leader of the region.
He was the Chairman of what was then known as JIK, a body that brought together MPs and constituency Chairmen from what were then the three districts of Busoga, namely, Jinja, Iganga and Kamuli.

Unlike the Busoga People's Forum which is alternately headed by former Vice President Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, JIK was not only able to identify the region's problems, but it was also able to find solutions to those problems.

While the Busoga People's Forum remains an eternally sleeping giant, JIK was a practical giant that believed in immediate solutions.
According to Bukooli North MP, Patrick Mwondha, who was by then Deputy Minister of Local Government and Luwuliza's number Vice in JIK, Busoga's biggest problems at the time was that there were very few schools and most of them were in a state of disrepair.

New schools had to be built and existing ones had to be renovated.
This culminated into refurbishment of Busoga College Mwiri, Wanyange Girls' School, Kiira College Butiki and a host of others.
Schools like Namasagali College got special financial packages that enabled them to grow.

New secondary schools like Kisiki College, Nkutu Memorial, Bukhooli, Bunhya and Bugobi Secondary schools and Bubinga and Nakabugu Girls' Schools came into existence.
On top of the secondary schools, a string of primary schools were began mostly in Bukhooli, Kigulu and Bunhya Counties.
JIK under Luwuliza's leadership also helped to renovate the Jinja Town Hall and to complete Christ's Cathedral Bugembe, a stubborn Church building that had taken more than 50 years to construct.

Luwuliza Kirunda may not have risen to be Vice President under Obote II, but he scored highly in terms of infrastructural development and forging unity among the people of Busoga. That makes him the unsung hero that he is.

The structures and students that make up the institutions that he helped to start will serve as a constant reminder that he was a true champion of his people, a legacy that many of our present leaders are unlikely to have.