During her keynote address, Prof.Joy Constance Kwesiga, former personal secretary to Kalimuzo noted that despite his great contribution, his name had been left in books and in the memories of those who lived what is now history.
Makerere University has finally recognized and honoured
the contributions of Frank Karemeera Kalimuzo, the institution’s first
Vice-Chancellor whose life was cut short during the brutal regime of President
Kalimuzo who had served as the first Permanent Secretary
to the Presidency and head of Public Service for independent Uganda was
appointed Vice-Chancellor of Makerere in 1970 after the disintegration of the
University of East Africa into its constituent parts.
His appointment was announced by President Milton Obote
during a tea party giving him five years to transform Makerere into a Ugandan
University as the President had argued that the institution which had lasted
for nearly 48 years was in Uganda but not for Uganda.
However, Kalimuzo who is commonly referred to as the
pride of Kigezi, could not complete his first term of office when he was
kidnapped and disappeared from his official residence at Makerere and was never to be
During her keynote address, Prof. Joy Constance Kwesiga,
former personal secretary to Kalimuzo noted that despite his great
contribution, his name had been left in books and in the memories of those who
lived what is now history.
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Now, as part of the centenary celebrations, Makerere
University decided to remember and honour Kalimuzo, one of the distinguished giants on
whose shoulders the institution is standing, by naming one of the teaching
facilities in his name.
Ironically, intended or not, the foundation of the
building which has been renamed Kalimuzo was laid during President Amin’s reign
which is believed to have been behind Kalimuzo’s murder. However,
the construction of the said building had been abandoned for more than forty
years until recently when the current regime obtained a loan from African
Development Bank to facilitate its completion.
Apart from renaming the building, Makerere University has also
initiated a public lecture where his short but impactful contribution to the
oldest institution of higher learning in the region will be remembered every
During the inaugural Frank Kalimuzo Memorial Lecture held
on Thursday afternoon, speaker after speaker pointed out that honouring this
great administrator was long overdue.
While delivering a keynote address, Prof. Kwesiga,
currently the Vice-Chancellor of Kabale University, took the audience down the
memory lane and pointed out the different contributions of Kalimuzo for the two
years he was at the helm of Makerere.
Prof. Kwesiga noted that Kalimuzo’s great achievements
were born out of hard work, tactic, humour, charm and resilience given the fact
that he was never given a warm welcome to the institution as he was seen as an
outsider to the academic world not to mentioning the sectarianism tendencies at
the ivory tower and student strikes.
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She, however, added that with his vast administration
knowledge as a civil servant, the newly appointed vice-chancellor within no
time had made strategies to turn the tide which saw him win over his
adversaries without asserting authority.
Before his appointment to Makerere, Kalimuzo had served
as one of the first African district commissioners, an establishment officer
charged with the process of Africanisation before independence and later
permanent secretary in the office of the president.
Kwesiga noted that with full control of the University
management, staff and student body, Kalimuzo made a remarkable change that was
to change higher education in Uganda forever by opening up the institution to
the masses from the elite cocoon, as it had been known.
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After opening up to the wider society, Kalimuzo hoped to
turn Makerere into a real native institution whose curriculum and programmes
could be tailored to suit the aspirations of the local community. This was a
view shared by many Pan Africanists at that moment as they looked at what had
been termed decolonization.
However, 50 years on, Makerere University is still longing to fulfill
this aspiration but their curricula and research are still influenced by foreign
donors. This particular issue was raised during the recent 72nd graduation
ceremony where top dons noted that it's high time the institution started
focusing on creating a solution to challenges affecting the local community.
During his brief tenure, the list of disciplines offered
expanded to include commerce, forestry, law, and technology. Veterinary
Medicine, which was being offered at Nairobi University, was also introduced
while Music, Dance and Drama became diploma subjects. it was under his leadership
that The Main Library and Albert Cook Medical Library were extended.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the reigning Makerere
Vice-Chancellor, also praised his predecessor to have built a strong foundation
on which the university continues to offer excellent service to humanity.
Prof. Nawangwe described Kalimuzo as a martyr of high
education having lost his life in defence of academic freedom which was a
strange phenomenon to the reigning state at that time. However, Prof. Nawangwe who
has been in the spot line of curtailing academic freedom had to explain what
the term meant to drive his point home.
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Before he delivered his speech, Prof. Nawangwe was briefly sent
into shock by the day’s modulator when he was told to imagine being whisked
away from campus.
“That is not a prophecy I hope,” Prof. Nawangwe softly replied.
In the room, the question and Nawangwe’s response attracted laughter but to
Easter Kalimuzo this invoked memories.
When she was given an opportunity to speak, the
soft-spoken old lady shared the good and last bad memories with his dear
husband whom she met in 1957 at a certain function in Rwanda.
Mrs Kalimuzo also recollected the dark day when her
husband was taken away by the notorious Public Safety Unit – one of Amin’s
feared secret police at the time when the university was preparing its jubilee
Kalimuzo’s disappearance came shortly after Obote’s
abortive attempt to invade Uganda from Tanzania. Although his body has never
been recovered, it is assumed that he was murdered by the likes of Ben
Kiwanuka, and Archbishop Janan Luwumu among others.
Mrs Kalimuzo narrated they were secretly told by the then
Education Minister Edward Rugumayo that Kalimuzo had been killed on that very
day he was taken from the vice-chancellor's house.
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She added that for many years, they continued to hear
stories that the former vice-chancellor had managed to escape. She noted that
for some time they hoped that he could be somewhere alive but hope faded as
years passed by.
Recalling the dark moment of the 1970s, Mrs Kalimuzo, who
said that she is shocked with similar stories of disappearing people and
premature deaths to date, urged the young generation to elect leaders who value
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Meanwhile, the former Premier, Ruhakana Rugunda,
challenged the public not to limit Kalimuzo’s legacy to the short time he spent
at Makerere University. Rugunda noted that the dear departed had long curved
out a mark in Uganda’s history during his time in public service before and the
year after independence.
He explained that Kalimuzo was also at the centre of the
transition from the colonial government to the independent state of
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With Makerere University finally remembering and honouring Kalimuzo,
his family noted that they are highly happy as generations to come will know
about their father’s contribution. Our reporter understands that the family had
tried to hold a memorial for him but they were reportedly advised that this was
a huge task that should be done by either Makerere or the government.