By Kavuma Kaggwa
How he put politics aside, to concentrate on industrialization, farming and building Uganda economically
In the last fifty years of Independence, Uganda produced one great man, James Senkali Mulwana, who had exceptional natural intelligence and `political smartness’.
James Mulwana was a fountain of knowledge in industrialisation and modern farming, and when he passed away on Jan.15, the people of Uganda lost a goldmine.
I first knew Mulwana way back in 1958 when both of us were in Katwe as part of a group of young men in Uganda National Congress (UNC) and its newspaper mouthpieces, Uganda Post and Uganda Express.
We were a big team which included AK Ddamba, Jenkins Kiwanuka, Paul Sengendo, Hannington Kiwanuka, James Semugabi, Samwiri Mugwisa, George Mukupe, Gasta Nsubuga, Abdu Kiggundu, Ali Kitonsa, Nuwa Mbowa, Dafala, Willy Mukasa, Kyeyune, Ndide(who was a driver) and many others.
All of us were under the mentorship of three political giants at that time: JW Kiwanuka aka Jolly Joe, Chairman of UNC, Ignatius Kangave Musaazi, President General of UNC, who has a mausoleum in the Heroes Corner at the Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala, and Dr. BN Kununka, who was the Secretary General of UNC.
During those years, Katwe was the centre of all kinds of political and business activities for Africans. Any African who wanted to be known had to have a base or connections in Katwe.
James Mulwana, soft spoken and very careful in the way he handled himself, was very friendly to the people he associated with.
As soon as he entered Katwe and after establishing contacts with well-known people, James Mulwana’s business acumen emerged.
He acquired a lorry and a small car to carry out transport business in Kampala. He secured a contract for carrying Uganda Post and Uganda Express newspapers daily to Masaka and Jinja. He would set off for Masaka at 2am and would be back in Katwe by 10am and then set off for Jinja.
James Mulwana was very instrumental in the building of Wankulukuku Stadium in 1958, by the fiery politician J.W. Kiwanuka.
J. W. Kiwanuka got very much annoyed when he learnt that the British Colonialists who were managing Nakivubo Stadium objected to the holding of the Kabaka’s Cup final on November 19, 1958, which was Sekabaka Mutesa’s Birthday. The reasons for this objection were better known to them.
J. W. Kiwanuka, together with his team of young men went to Mengo and told the Kabaka that he (Kiwanuka) was going to build a stadium at Wankulukuku and the final would be held there. The Kabaka gave them the green light. J. W. Kiwanuka and his team carried trees on their shoulders from Ndeeba and the nearby areas to Wankulukuku and they built the stadium within one month.
James Mulwana also used his lorry to carry iron sheets, timber, cement and sand to build the stadium.
On November 19, 1958 Sekabaka Mutesa II attended the Kabaka’s Cup Final at Wankulukuku. Thousands and thousands of Baganda attended. People applauded Kiwanuka and his team as “great heroes”.
In a speech welcoming the Kabaka, the victorious J. W. Kiwanuka said – “Sabasajja, this is our country, we shall never allow Bazungu to despise us”.
Early in 1959 J. W. Kiwanuka, who had an in-born love for football, grouped together that team of his young men and they founded the now famous Uganda Express Football Team.
James Mulwana’s real entry into serious business was at the time of Uganda’s Independence. He was closely connected to the late W. W. Kalema, who was Minister for Commerce and Industry in the first UPC/KY Alliance government. They were both from Singo County in the Buganda Kingdom.
William Kalema was one of the 21 Buganda Members of Parliament who were nominated by the Buganda Lukiiko as it was stipulated in the 1962 Independence Constitution. William Kalema was the husband of Mrs. Rhoda Kalema, now a retired politician and social worker living in Kiboga.
William Kalema set up some industries when he was Minister and James Mulwana managed them. It was so sad that Kalema was murdered by President Amin’s soldiers in 1972.
James Mulwana took over those industries and started expanding them year after year. As an African, in 1972 James Mulwana was greatly inspired by Amin’s Economic war of 1972 which put the economy in the hands of Africans.
In actual fact Amin’s Economic war ignited Mulwana’s “great leap forward” into industrialisation and later modern farming and whatever he has done until his death. He made international contacts in all his plans to industrialise and above all he moved with Ugandans. He has been a great philanthropist who has been helping all kinds of people in many ways. He built a management network which will make his modern industries and modern agricultural farms survive for hundreds of years to come.
I spoke to James Mulwana in his office at Bugolobi in 2010 during the Presidential Election campaigns and he told me. “My friend Kavuma-Kaggwa, I remember our time in Katwe in UNC before and after Independence but I put politics aside. I concentrate on industrialisation and farming and building Uganda economically. My policy is that the African must win, the African must succeed”. Indeed he succeeded.
Finally, looking elsewhere in the world, I compare James Mulwana to JRD Tata of India, Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat in Italy, Eric Peugeot of France, the indigenous people of Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea who were economically empowered by their governments to develop their countries.
I also compare James Mulwana to Tiny Roland, the British industrialist who was said to have had very little academic education. He first worked as an office messenger in London and later ventured into industrialisation. He built a huge economic empire of hotels and mines in Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe with his enterprise which he named “London Rhodesia” or “LONRHO”.
The people of Uganda will remember James Mulwana forever and ever.
JM KAVUMA-KAGGWA is an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District