He was a very hardworking, very social and extremely intelligent. He was tough, uncompromising and never entertained sloppy work.
Whichever way you describe the late Dr Suleiman Kiggundu, there is no doubt he has left an indelible mark on the numerous lives of the people he interacted with.
Kiggundu succumbed to cancer on Friday, June 20 in South Africa. At the time of his death he was the national chairman of FDC.
In death just like in life, Kiggundu’s legacy remains alive.
Already diplomats, religious leaders, traditional leaders and politicians from either side of the political divide have sent in their condolences, some hailing him as a distinguished academician, others as a good administrator and some as an astute politician.
Kiggundu, 61, rose to prominence as governor Bank of Uganda between 1986 and 1990–– and in a way he helped lay down the financial framework on which Uganda’s economy operates today.One of the bigger projects he oversaw was the 1987 currency reform, where the Central Bank knocked off three zeros and additional 30% from the currency. If one for instance had Shs 10,000 after the reform the value went to Shs 10 and then settled at Shs 7. The reform was meant to stem the hyper inflation at the time, although many people cried foul after their savings lost value.
Kiggundu also over saw the liberalization of the foreign exchange sector, meaning that any one, as long as he/she was licensed, could deal in foreign exchange unlike previously when trading in forex was a preserve of the Central Bank.
In May 1990, President Museveni issued a statement, dismissing Kiggundu together with his deputy, Perez Bukumunhe from the Central Bank. The duo was replaced by Kikonyogo Nyonyitono and Dr Ezra Suruma respectively.
The New York Times, quoting Reuters news agency then, described Museveni’s move as a “surprise”.
Five years later, he together with other business partners founded Greenland Investments whose flagship company was Greenland Bank. The bank instantly became a peoples’ favourite for its flexible working hours as well as its simple procedures and requirements for opening a bank account. Usually, the bank opened its doors at 8.30 am and closed at 9.00pm, something unusual in a country where most businesses close by 5.00pm. Little wonder that it was the preferred choice of many down town traders, who did not want to retire home with vast amounts of money.
At the bank, Kiggundu according to a former employee, is said to have lived a rather grandiose life.
He had a lift reserved for him and his guests. And to get to his spacious office one had to go through a string of secretaries.
Once in a while he came down to the banking hall and interacted with clients and employees while noting their concerns.
Later under his stewardship, Greenland Investments diversified to encompass interests in insurance, hotel and real estate.
On April 1, 1998, the bank was closed down by Bank of Uganda, after what the Central Bank referred to as a string of bad debts. Many of the bank’s assets were seized and in 2002, Kiggundu served time in Luzira prison after failing to pay $ 370,000 (Shs 600 million) he owed the bank.
In an interview with The Weekly Observer in 2006, he claimed the bank had been closed because government was not impressed with Greenland’s decision to buy UCB.
He said: “As a result of that successful [UCB] purchase, the President closed Greenland Bank because Greenland had the share certificate and the only way for him to get hold of the share certificate was to close it. The certificate was grabbed from the bank illegally and it was sold again. But if there was a sane government, this would be a matter of inquiry.”
Partly because of his bitterness towards government, in 2005, he immersed himself into politics and in November the same year he was appointed chairman of FDC. In this role he was expected to marshal the support of the Baganda. But in practice, Kiggundu took on a more advisory role, stepping into the fray occasionally.
He is the second senior FDC official to die in two years after the death of the Prince Vincent Kimera, a party vice-chairperson in March 2006 incidentally also from cancer in a South African hospital.
Kiggundu was born in 1947. He was educated at Gombe Primary School, Gombe Secondary School and Kings College, Budo. He later did Economics at Makerere University, before proceeding to Boston University in the United States, where he acquired a Masters’ and a doctorate degree. Between 1980 and 1986 he was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and mobiliser for the NRA/NRM. His body is expected into the country on Monday. Upon arrival it will be driven to Mulago hospital, then to Kibuli Mosque for prayers. Thereafter, it will be taken to FDC headquarters at Najjanankumbi after which it will be driven to his Kololo home. Burial arrangements are yet to be communicated. More details later…