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Post by sol_drethedon on Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:43 pm


"Justice Benn Lutta, a retired Kenyan judge says after Uganda's independence celebrations in 1962, Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote arranged for his large Kenyan delegation to visit Hoima district. But what later transpired at Omukama Tito Owiny's place left all the guests bemused"

When Justice Benna Lutta returned to Kenya in 1959 as a barrister from London's Middle Temple, he found himself unemployable. There were no African law firms and none of the Asians and Whites were keen on his services. He headed west which had a substantial number of people from his ancestors' Wanga Kingdom. There, with two former fellow students from the UK, Abu Mayanja and Anil Clerk, he set up a law firm. Those were the heady days preceding independence. Milton Obote a legco member of the country's colonial parliament and head of the Uganda people's Congress, spent long hours at the firm's chambers strategising for independence.

In time, Lutta's firn drafted the UPC constitution and the party proceeded to lead Uganda to independence. Obote became very fond of Lutta and the sentiment was mutual. But Sir Patrick Renison, the then Governor of Kenya, while attending a routine East African Governor's meeting at Government House at Entebbe, to which Lutta had been invited, asked the young lawyer where in Uganda he came from. Lutta told him that he was a Kenyan. What was he doing in Uganda, then, Renison asked. "You peole wont have us", Lutta told him, meaning the white establishment had no time for Africans. To which Renison asked him to apply for a job at the Attorney General's Chambers in Nairobi and Lutta obliged. He returned home to become a Crown Counsel at what is today's Sheria House. Obote released with him with monumental reluctance. If he had way he wouldn't have let his Kenyan friend go. But Lutta was adamant about returning home.


Come independence and Obote asked Lutta to do whatever it took to return to Kampala for the celebrations. Lutta did, as part of a large Kenyan delegation that was headed by Jomo Kenyatta. Luminaries like Jaramogi Odinga, Achieng Oneka, Joe Murumbi, JD Kali and others were in it. After the celebrations, Obote arranged for his Kenyan visitors to visit Hoima, capital of the Bunyoro Kingdom, for a courtesy call on the king. The Kenyans were happy to accept. Here Lutta takes up the story.
"When Obote asked us Kenyans to visit Hoima, we all assumed it was just another event of the festivities. We got there at about one o'clock and had lunch and enjoyed various entertainment activities. At about 6pm, Sir Tito Owiny, the Bunyoro King invited us all into the palace. I don't think anybody else has said this. And the people whom were there are all dead. "When we got inside the palace, Sir Tito faced Kenyatta and told him: 'Go straight there. That is your father's chair.' And it was not an ordinary chair. It was a throne, very ornate. Kenyatta did not ask any questions or hesitate in any manner. He strode majestically and sat on the throne. It is as if he knew everything."

But first, a man called John Kakonge was the one interpreting the proceedings. They were crowning Kenyatta as the king of Bunyoro. The Kenyan delegation sat bemused, not understanding what was going on. But Kakonge was translating, saying Kenyatta isbeing crowned King of Bunyoro. It went on and on and on. Women were dancing. Drums were beaten. After all this Sir Tito said to Kenyatta: 'You are not going back to Kenya because you are now the King of Bunyoro.

"Kenyatta replied, 'but I am also going to be king in Kenya. 'I remember those words very clearly. The Kenyan delegation seemed stunned. Anyway, it went on and on, untill it was finally over. Kakonge was my friend. He had studied in India and on his return he stayed with me in Kampala. However, all people who could corroborate this story, regrettably, are gone," But this was by every measure a festive occasion, far removed from the devastating experience that made Lutta resign his seat as judge of the East African Court of Appeal about 10years later. Again, the story in his own words: " The court used to rotate its sittings around the East African capitals. We sat from Monday to Fridays. One week in 1973, we went to Kampala for our routine sittings. As you kow, by that time, Amin had overthrown Obote and was now ruling Uganda. On the Sunday before the following day's sitting, the Chief Justice of Uganda, Benedicto Kiwanuka, who was a good friend of mine, invited us to his house. During that meeting he told us that Amin was trying to kill him.

"Amin was trying to kill him because his soldiers had arrested a man called Michael Stewart, a British national who was the general manager of Madhvani Sugar Works in Jinja. Stewart's Lawyers had applied for a habeas corpus. Amin told Kiwanuka, before whom the case had come, not to release Stewart. "Kiwanuka told Amin, 'but look Mr. President, if they make out a good case, the law will take its course.' Amin said, 'no! If you release him you will see!' Now, that Sunday night, Kiwanuka told me that he knew he was going to be killed. He was a staunch Catholic and he told me that the previous Friday, he gad received what Catholics call ablution. Before you die, they pray for you and anoint you with oil to prepare you for your death.


"I offered him my car because I had driven all the way from Nairobi to Kampala. I wanted to smuggle him to Kenya. But he firmly refused. He told me, 'If I have to die, I will die in Uganda.' No matter how hard I tried to persuade him, he remained adamant. Nothing happened on Monday. On Tuesday morning, we went to court as usual. At 8:30am, we were dressing for the session when we had a loud noise followed by some commotion. Six soldiers armed with guns burst into the courtroom. They got Kiwanuka, bundled him into a car waiting outside and sped off. To this day, I remember the number of the vehicle, UVH 171. There was a lot of commotion; people were wailing and shouting and crying. It was bedlam. There and then, we knew that they were going to kill him. The president of the court, the vice-president and myself , decided that we should try and see Amin so that we could save Kiwanuka. We tried to see him but he was not available. We tried to see Mr. Wanume Kibedi, the Foreign minister but he was not available. We went to the British High Commission and talked to Sir Richard Slatter, the High Commissioner himself and asked him to talk to his counterpart in Nairobi, with an urgent request that he talks to President Jomo Kenyatta so that he could talk to his fellow head of state Amin. Sir Richard told us, 'no, I can not do that. This is an internal matter.'

"Now we realised that there was very little we could do. We decided to protest by suspending sittings in Kampala. We returned to Nairobi. I said bitterly to myself, if they can kill my friend like this, there is no point serving a system like this.' I decided at once to resign from the court. The other judges were refusing but I asked them, 'how can you serve a system like that? The Chief Justice of Uganda, the army people, they burst into the courtroom and take him away like that? No, no, no. I can't serve a system like that.

We were told that what Amin did was to disembowel Kiwanuka. He removed the liver. When Amin used to kill people, he would eat their livers. Kiwanuka's body was not found because it was dipped in an acid bath. That is what happened to Kiwanuka. "When I told this to my friends, they would say, 'oh don't be emotional, but my mind was made up. I wrote my resignation letter to three heads of state - Kenyatta, Nyerere and Amin. Kenyatta didn't respond. I went to Dar es Salaam and told Nyerere my decision. He agreed. He said we too were candidates to die because we had protested. Then he asked me what I wanted to do next. I told him I was going to Europe to get job with the United Nations. Nyerere said, 'why do you people always think of going to Europe? Why can't you work in Africa? I told him I didn't know of any African country where I could go and look for a job. He picked up the phone and called President Robert Kaunda of Zambia and told him about me. That is how I ended up in Zambia serving Kaunda as his legal adviser and doing some farming until I returned home to Kenya.."



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