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OBITUARY: Ssebaana Kizito (1934-2017)

Ssebaana Kizito: Born at right time, dead at wrong time

Kampala, Uganda | ANDREW S. KAGGWA |  THE political will he left for the country may have been contained in one of the last interviews he gave to a local TV station a few weeks before his death.

“Leaders should not rule for the whole of their life and Museveni (President) should not change the constitution to remove the age limit,” veteran politician and businessman John Ssebaana Kizito who at 83 years succumbed to a stroke on July 3 in Nakasero hospital where he had been admitted about three weeks ago told NTV in one of his last interviews.

By coincidence his death was also on a day that the media awash with stories that the ruling NRM party which enjoys an overwhelming majority in Parliament had finalised a bill removing the age limit in paving a way for Parliament to amend the constitution  allowing Museveni to stand again in 2021 when he will be over 80 years old.

Ssebaana was the second pre independence veteran politician and former political party president to pass away in a space of about three months after the demise of former Conservative Party leader Joash Mayanja Nkangi in March. Ssebaana is the third former DP executive member to pass away in six months after the demise of former DP Secretary general Matia Nsubuga passed on in December last year. Last month Maria Mutagamba who was DP deputy secretary general but was given a ministerial post in the NRM government without rescinding her DP membership who passed away last month.  Apart from the late Nsubuga, the other three had also occupied ministerial positions in Museveni’s government.

EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

The late Ssebaana Kizito was born in 1934 in Mpadde village, Nyimbwa subcounty, Luweero District.  He attended Ndejje Junior School for primary education, the prestigious Kings College Budo before joining the then Makerere College before it was promoted to a university.

In 1960, he went to the University of Oregon, USA where he graduated with a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Economics.  He later joined the Switzerland Institute of Insurance where he trained in insurance.

SSEBAANA THE BUSINESSMAN

In an interview with The Independent in 2012, Ssebaana said he chose coming back to Uganda though he had been offered an opportunity to pursue a PhD at Oregon. On returning home from Oregon in October 1962, he became investment executive at the Uganda Development Corporation, the holding company that managed all government-owned enterprises.

He served as an Executive Officer of the Uganda Development Corporation and General Manager of Crusader Insurance Company (1964). He was also a Director in the Central Bank of Uganda (1966-1970). From 1977 to 1980, he was the chairman of National Insurance Corporation.

Ssebaana could have been one of the wealthiest politicians without a reputation tainted with corruption scandals and is said to own many properties and land in the prime locations of Kampala City.

In an interview with the Independent five years ago, he gave out one the secrets to his wealth: I was born at the right time, went to the right schools at the right time and started work at the right time.

But there must be another secret to his success. Those who have worked for Ssebaana talk of his stinginess with money and abhorrence for people who want free things.  For this Ssebaana used to say if one wants to keep money he or she should be ‘friends with the money’ and not just give it away.

His first private insurance company, Statewide Insurance Company (SWICO); which he started with business associate, Joseph William Kiwanuka in 1982 is still strong 35 years after.

Ssebaana also built his business on trust. He separated his company from personal finances and delegated responsibilities while maintaining a rigorous supervision regime. He was a hardworking man and  even after suffering a stroke about years ago, Ssebaana remained the Board Chairman of SWICO and would appear at his office in his multi-storied building at Sure House, Bombo Road until he was hospitalised.

ACTIVE POLITICS

Ssebaana joined active politics at the age of 29 and by the time he was 30, he was a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (between 1967 and 1977).

In 1980, he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Kampala South Constituency where he won over 90 percent of the vote. He  said being on the opposition during Dr. Apollo Milton Obote’s rule at a time when current president Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) was waging a guerrilla war based in his home area in Luweero was a tricky situation. The popular opinion was DP had won the 1980 general election and its leader Paul Ssemogerere – not UPC’s Obote – should have become president.

“Other parties preferred an armed struggle but because DP didn’t believe in violence the option we had was to boycott Parliament,” Ssebaana told the Independent.

However, Ssebaana explains that DP ruled out the boycott because in their calculation, it would have convinced Obote that they backed rebellion and his forces would kill many of their supporters in reprisal, especially since the so-called Luweero Triangle was predominantly DP and more so his it was his home area.

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