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Remembering Kale, unsung African hero

John Muhima Komuluyange Kalekezi may not be very well known in the annals of Ugandan political history but that doesn’t take away his contribution to the independence struggle.

At the Pan-African Freedom Square near Queensway last week, John Kale, the late father of Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, was remembered and honoured. It was during an occasion to mark 50 years since this unsung African liberator and patriot passed on.

He died in a plane crash on August 17, 1960 at Kiev, Ukraine, on his way to Moscow, in the then Soviet Union. At the time of his death, Kale was based in Cairo, Egypt, where he served as Foreign Secretary of the Uganda National Congress (UNC), and one of the permanent secretaries of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation.

“Although his revolutionary contribution to Uganda and Africa was brutally cut short, Kale without a doubt, had one of the greatest impacts in bringing colonialism to its end in our country Uganda, and Africa as whole,” said retired Supreme Court judge, Joseph Mulenga.

President Museveni honoured John Kale alongside other African liberators, including John Garang of Sudan, Rwagasole of Burundi, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Ali Ssenyonga of Uganda.

Ms Majoro Grace Kaboyo, executive director of the Pan-African Movement, Uganda chapter, explained that Kale’s name is not well documented in the annals of Uganda’s pre-independence history because the colonial government had banned all his literary works.

Kaboyo noted with sadness that post-independence leaders, commentators and authors, didn’t reverse this deliberate suppression of Kale’s work but rather perpetuated it.

“That President Museveni is now honouring John Kale, in recognition of his national and Pan-African contribution, is indeed redressing a historic injustice to him, his family, friends and associates, as well  as the whole country,” added Maj Gen Kahinda Otafire, chairperson of the Pan-African Movement, in his key note speech titled ‘John Kale the Pan-Africanist’.

Kale’s Day was organised by the Pan-African Movement Secretariat in conjunction with the President’s Office, and was attended by dignitaries from Burundi, Congo, Sudan and Tanzania.

These dignitaries included the children of prominent freedom fighters like Uganda Police chief, Kale Kayihura, Mabior Garang, Francois Lumumba, Madaraka Nyerere and Rose Irabagiza. These, together with the children of Ssenyonga, received plaques on behalf of their fallen fathers.

President Museveni said he would erect a monument in remembrance of John Kale, who he described as “a true hero”.

The Observer later spoke to Maj Gen Kale Kayihura and his son Kale Rudahigwa, who seemed to be reading from the same script in describing their father and grandfather respectively.

John Kale, an old student of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, was expelled from Makerere University where he was studying veterinary medicine because of his links to anti-colonial movements in Africa. He was instrumental in coordinating anti-colonial struggles at home and abroad.

His passport, according to the family, was consequently confiscated to restrain his movements.
“Initially we were told that it was confiscated, but Justice (Joseph) Mulenga told us the other day that it was taken from him by officials of the Special Branch,” said one family member.

Because of the limited and repressive space at home, John Kale went to Cairo, Egypt, where he continued his anti-colonial struggles. While in Egypt, the family says, President Abdu Nasser allowed him to use the state radio to propagate his anti-colonial agenda in Uganda.

“Together with people like Ssenyonga, he used to broadcast in Luganda from Cairo to people in Katwe,” the family reports.

John Kale is also said to have attempted to petition the UN, demanding Uganda’s independence only to be blocked. He then joined the Cameroonian delegation that was demanding for the country’s independence.

Pan-African Square

Besides his son, Kale Kayihura, who presented a paper titled, ‘John Kale my father, my inspiration’, other speakers included Adrian Sibo, who presented an inspirational paper on ‘John Kale my friend’, that left many mesmerised.

Kale’s writings were read by Dr Jolly Mazimhaka and Kale’s grand children, before Qwela Band mimed Bob Marley’s Redemption song.

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