Henry Kyemba’s Role in Shaping Uganda’s History
Henry Kyemba played a pivotal role in drawing international attention to the brutal regime of Idi Amin, which garnered widespread notoriety in the 1970s. He achieved this through his publication of “A State of Blood” in 1977, which highlighted the atrocities committed by Amin’s government. This exposé led to international calls for action to remove Amin from power.
Kyemba’s legacy extends beyond his efforts as an author and activist. He was deeply involved in civil service and national politics, even before the Amin era. Following his graduation with a BA in history from Makerere University in 1962, Kyemba worked in various government roles, providing him with a unique insider’s perspective on the country’s developments.
He witnessed significant events in Uganda’s history, including the 1966 crisis between the Buganda Kingdom and the central government, the transition to a one-party state, and the fall-out between President Obote and Amin. In 1971, when Amin seized power, Kyemba returned from Singapore to serve in his government. He held roles such as Permanent Secretary in the President’s Office, Secretary to Cabinet, and Head of the Civil Service, followed by a tenure as the Minister of Culture and Community Development and, later, the Minister of Health.
However, Kyemba’s departure from Amin’s government in 1977 was a turning point. Appalled by the widespread terror, human rights abuses, economic decline, and the collapse of the state, he sought asylum in Britain, where he authored “A State of Blood.” This book became a significant contribution to the global understanding of Amin’s reign and his regime’s atrocities.
Henry Kyemba’s influence extended beyond his writing. He traveled internationally, urging the world to take action against Amin. His efforts contributed to the dictator’s eventual removal from power in 1979. After Amin’s ouster, Kyemba made periodic visits to Uganda and returned permanently in 1986, after the National Resistance Movement, led by President Yoweri Museveni, assumed power.
From Civil Service to Elective Politics
Upon returning to Uganda, Kyemba resumed his involvement in the civil service, serving on various committees and boards. He also ventured into elective politics, starting as a lower Resistance Council one (RC1) chairman and eventually becoming the RC3 chairman. He was elected as the representative for Jinja Municipality West to the National Resistance Council (NRC) in 1989, where he served as the Minister of Animal Industry until 1994.
In 1994, he represented Jinja West in the Constituent Assembly, which was tasked with drafting Uganda’s new constitution in 1995. Kyemba continued his political career, serving as a state minister for the President’s Office, and representing Jinja Municipality in Parliament from 1996 to 2001. Eventually, he retired from elective politics.
Even after his retirement from active politics, Henry Kyemba continued to serve on various national committees and commissions. Currently, he is in his second term as a commissioner of the Judicial Service Commission.
Early Life and Education
Henry Kyemba was born in December 1939 to Suzana Mutekanga and Suleiman Kisajja, who served as a colonial administrator in Bunya County in Busoga. He attended local primary schools and later joined Busoga College Mwiri for his Cambridge School Certificate (1951-1956). Subsequently, he pursued higher education at Makerere University, where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in History in 1962. His journey in public service and politics began shortly thereafter, marking the start of an eventful and influential life.