Frank Kalimuzo, Makerere’s First Vice-Chancellor who was Picked up by Amin’s soldiers and never seen again. 

“Years later, Rt. Hon Kintu Musoke, who was a prisoner at Makindye Barracks at that time, in an interview with Mr. Nkutu recalled that he had seen Kalimuzo brought into the barracks and immediately taken to ‘Block C’ a building known to the prisoners as Singapore, ‘the House of Death’ where no prisoner came out alive.”

Intellectualism at Makerere

An old 1969 archival newspaper from the Nation reports a public debate on democracy at Makerere University College. In it, the then Permanent Secretary to the President’s Office, Mr. Frank Kalimuzo, fervently opines that democracy had suffered perhaps more than any theory at the hands of man. 

In an exposition of the nature of intellectual discourse at Makerere at the time, he tacitly nuanced his argument by contending that no brand of democracy was applicable universally without variations since he believed that democracy was ‘no more than the implementation of the will of the people.’ 

Perhaps owing to his official capacity as a civil servant, he held the view that in practice, democracy was dependent on the circumstances present in each society and therefore its application had to be related to the needs and psychology of the people. 

In 1969 when President Milton Obote announced his famous ‘move-to-the-left’ policy, it became the responsibility of all Uganda People’s Congress intelligentsia to crusade and convince the rest of the country of its merits. A year later, as the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Kalimuzo, presided over the opening of the Mengo North East Constituency seminar at Kabanyolo in Gayaza, and made a passionate case for this ideological reorientation of the UPC government.

Addressing the branch chairmen and party members at the event that the Milton Obote Foundation had organised, Mr. Kalimuzo argued that turning to the ideals of the ‘move-to-the-left’ strategy was not merely an academic pursuit but rather a practical one. 

He further averred that to understand this move, one had to understand President Obote’s definition of socialism which was; ‘unto everybody according to his ability.’ This ‘definition’ was from the phrase From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”  which was popularised in Karl Marx’s 1875 critique of the Gotha Program. Its original ideological purpose was to envision equitable access and distribution of goods, capital, and services.

“This could only mean equal opportunity for all, fair competition, encouragement and assistance to every citizen to work his hardest and achieve his highest.” Mr. Kalimuzo said. 

Early life 

Born on the 24th of September, 1925, in the Kigezi sub-region which covered the modern-day Kabale, Kanungu, and Kisoro districts, Mr. Kalimuzo Frank went to Kigezi Junior High School and later joined Nyakasura School and Kings College Budo for his secondary education.

He studied Education at Makerere University and graduated in 1946, and thereafter proceeded to get an Economics degree from the University College of Aberystwyth in Wales in 1955, and an Overseas Course B from Wadham College in Oxford the following year.

As an Assistant District Commissioner (ADC) of Mbarara in 1956, shortly after the completion of his studies, Kalimuzo met his wife, Esther, in Rwanda, through a friend, and the two got married two years later on the 4th of October, 1958. They went on to have four daughters and two sons.

Kalimuzo the Public Servant

From Mbarara, Frank Kalimuzo then became an establishment officer in Entebbe and his mandate there was to recruit native Ugandans into civil service. He was then transferred to Kitgum as an ADC. 

As the winds of independence were getting stronger, the colonial administration prepared for its inevitable exit, and as consequence, the Wild Constitutional Commission was put in place to hold nationwide consultations on the new constitution. Mr. Kalimuzo was appointed as the Secretary of this commission.

In 1962, after Uganda got her independence, he then became the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Head of  Civil Service, and Secretary to the Cabinet.

He was appointed Vice-Chancellor on 1st July 1970, by President Apollo Milton Obote on the day Makerere became a national university after it had been a college under the University of East Africa. 

Mr. Kalimuzo’s contribution to Makerere was significant even though he only served the university for three years. Under the previous dispensation of the University of East Africa, Makerere had focused on Human Medicine and the training of medical personnel leaving Engineering to Nairobi and Law to Dar es Salaam. 

It was after the appointment of Mr. Kalimuzo that commerce, forestry, law, technology, and veterinary medicine were introduced at Makerere University. Music, Dance, and Drama were also introduced as diploma programs. He is also credited for the extension of the Main Library and the Albert Cook Medical Library. 

Political turmoil

The UPC government was overthrown in 1971 following a coup d’etat by Idi Amin. What this meant for Makerere was a change in the university leadership since it was policy and practice for the sitting head of state to occupy the Office of the Chancellor. President Idi Amin went on to become the Chancellor of Makerere. 

In an interview with journalist Conrad Nkutu, Mrs. Esther Kalimuzo said, “On January 25, 1971, we heard gunfire we had never heard before. The government was overthrown. Frank locked himself in a room for the whole day. He said the coup was the worst thing that had happened to Uganda.” In many ways, he was not wrong because this unfortunate military-political transition was characterised by general insecurity, arbitrary arrests, and wanton killings of civilians. Unfortunately, Makerere University students and faculty were not spared.

On the 2nd of August, 2009, former Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba narrated, in The Observer, how Mr. Kalimuzo had saved him from being arrested by Amin’s security operatives. 

Prof. Kanyeihamba, then a young lecturer at Makerere, had just completed a manuscript where he had explicitly stated that the military was unfit to govern. An excerpt from the manuscript was published in the Uganda Argus bringing him unwanted attention from the security establishment. 

With soldiers asking around for Kanyeihamba, Mr. Kalimuzo summoned him and quickly organised for him to leave for Nairobi immediately. This was the state of affairs in Uganda under the then-new political dispensation. Makerere was at the centre of the attack on intellectualism and academic freedom in Uganda. 

As a senior civil servant, Kalimuzo’s relationship with Idi Amin was not very clear from the beginning. Having been a senior member of the UPC politburo, he was treated with suspicion from the very beginning by the new regime. Idi Amin had a meal at Kalimuzo’s home the day he was installed as the Chancellor despite denying him an appointment on several occasions before that day.

Mr. Kalimuzo’s personal experience with the notorious State Research Bureau came days before the 1972 abortive invasion. His house at Makerere was surrounded by anonymous people one night, and despite their efforts to lure him out by ringing the bell, Kalimuzo did not open the door. The people left and the next day when he contacted security services about the incident, they acknowledged that it was indeed them and that he had made a grave mistake by not opening the door. The next day, he was arrested, taken to Makindye for questioning, and released on the same day.

Mbarara and Masaka were attacked shortly after the Kalimuzos had travelled to Kisoro for a burial. Mrs. Esther Kalimuzo says that they had left their children and personal effects in Kampala and so they had to return immediately after they received the news.

After the defeat of the 1972 invasion, Idi Amin’s efforts to clean the house intensified. With an altered internal security dynamic, people who had strong ties to the previous Obote Administration were now suspected of having played a direct role in the abortive invasion or were generally thought of as saboteurs. 

Former President Idi Amin demonstrating the use of a shoulder weapon.

Shortly after their return to Kampala, Radio Uganda, UTV, and BBC announced that Vice-Chancellor Frank Kalimuzo had disappeared to Rwanda with the former Interior Minister, Bataringaya, and Mbarara businessman and UPC activist, Nekemia Bananuka. Esther recalls that they had already learnt about the death of the other two and that Frank was shocked to learn about his disappearance along with them. 

He immediately called the president and informed him that he was at Makerere. That night, Joseph Mulenga, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, came to his house and offered to smuggle him to exile but Kalimuzo refused, insisting he was innocent.

The next morning, on the first Sunday of October 1972, Kalimuzo was picked up by three state research bureau agents and bundled into the backseat of a Toyota car in front of his family, never to be seen again. 

Years later, Rt. Hon Kintu Musoke, who was a prisoner at Makindye Barracks at that time, in an interview with Mr. Nkutu recalled that he had seen Kalimuzo brought into the barracks and immediately taken to ‘Block C’ a building known to the prisoners as Singapore, ‘the House of Death’ where no prisoner came out alive. 

“That Sunday afternoon, I was taken to another officer’s house to do chores. On returning, I found all my 20 colleagues devastated. The 45 police and prison officers plus the Ojeras had been taken to the House of Death where Kalimuzo had been taken earlier. (Prince) Bikaju and the others, who saw the bodies, told me the Kalimuzos suffered death by hammering and battering of their heads.” Kintu Musoke said.

Commemorating Kalimuzo and Makerere

In 2019, Makerere University lecturer, Mwambutsya Ndebesa called upon the institution to commemorate Mr. Kalimuzo as a pivotal figure in Uganda’s education history. He observed that other institutions were already ahead of Makerere in this endeavour. The Church of Uganda celebrates Janan Luwum and the Central Bank of Uganda officially remembers its first Governor, Joseph Mary Mubiru both of whom met their untimely demise at the hands of the Idi Amin government. 

This year, as part of its centennial celebrations, Makerere is holding its inaugural Frank Kalimuzo Public lecture in his memory, to impart on the Makerere community and beyond, the Lessons for Universities in Cultivating a Culture of Service and Distinguished Leadership.”


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