A day after bailiffs razed the home of Uganda’s first prime minister Benedict Kiwanuka, cabinet resolved to explore the possibility of rescuing the land on which it sat and turn it into a museum.
Bailiffs acting on behalf of a one Mugabo raided the property at Nalukolongo in Lubaga division on June 3 and demolished it, leaving only the grave of Maxisensia Kiwanuka, the wife of the founding leader of the Democratic Party (DP).
Maurice Peter Kagimu, heir to Kiwanuka, is said to have mortgaged the family property to Mugabo for Shs 600 million to finance his unsuccessful 2016 bid to represent Bukomansimbi South in parliament.
Riding on his father’s legacy, Kagimu represented Bukomansimbi in the 8th Parliament, and also got appointed state minister for Economic Monitoring in 2006, and later Uganda’s ambassador to Nigeria and Switzerland between 2011 and 2015.
Currently unemployed, he failed to clear the debt which has now accumulated to over Shs 700m.
Ahead of Monday’s cabinet meeting, the state minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi briefed President Museveni about the incident. Museveni reportedly asked Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to take up the matter.
Rugunda in turn assigned the Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo and Kiwanda to study the matter and write a brief to form a basis for government’s response.
“Government is interested in what should happen to this place; Ben Kiwanuka was not an ordinary Ugandan, he was the first prime minister of Uganda, and therefore associated with the democratic struggle of our country,” Odongo told journalists.
Odongo and Kiwanda visited the site during Tuesday’s afternoon downpour.
“Government got concerned about what is happening here. At first, we thought it was a private family issue until we learnt that the house had been demolished,” Odongo said.
“This is a historic site; it is here that the people who fought for our independence lived. Ben Kiwanuka’s name is historic, his house is monumental, it belongs to Uganda, government cannot simply watch,” he added.
Before the ministers arrived, there were a few men picking items from the rubble. The previous day, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago recovered a truckload of books and what remains of the car – a shell of a Mercedes Benz -- which Kiwanuka drove as prime minister.
Lukwago dumped the car at Wakaliga police station while he offloaded the books into a house on Stenseera road in Lubaga.
It is book collections like these that government hopes to use in creating a Ben Kiwanuka museum.
“We want to meet the new owner and the family to see how we can rescue it and turn it into a tourism product,” Kiwanda said.
“The good thing is that the grave of his wife Maxisensia was not removed, we want to look for his remains and bring them here, reconstruct the house and turn it into a museum with collections of his speeches, writings, photos among others,” Kiwanda added.
Before Mugabo moved to take possession of the Nalukolongo property, the Kiwanuka family had been locked in a dispute over the management of the estates of Uganda’s first indigenous chief justice.
The wrangling first came to the fore early in 2017 when some of Kagimu’s siblings accused him of taking possession of the Nalukolongo property as his own.
At the time, he had rented it out to some South Sudanese refugees. Kagimu is also said to have sold off other family properties in Kololo, Munyonyo and Ndeeba.