Uganda is a country that was referred to as “The Pearl of Africa” by Sir Winston Churchill in 1907 during his travel tours in Uganda. The country has gone through many tremendous changes in economic, social and political spheres of life. Uganda offers an experience that is as varied ranging from colonial British colonial rule, dictatorial regimes, and a wide range of civil wars as well as modern democracy. What you see and experience are only limited by your imagination and sense of adventure. Jenkins Kiwanuka is one of the people who have witnessed these changing situations in the country. In his book titled “The Son of A rat Catcher”, he does share his memoirs – memoirs of one of Uganda’s exceptionally talented journalists who turned himself into a remarkable public relations officer and diplomat in Uganda’s Foreign Service. A man with no full formal education, this ‘son of a rat catcher’ presents to us a story of great determination, hard work and self-confidence, thereby fulfilling the advertiser’s remark that ‘when you follow your passion, success follows you. In his words, Prof. Samwiri Lwanga-Lunyiigo, describes these as memoirs of ‘a tailor, carpenter, builder, clerk, journalist, politician, public relations practitioner, diplomat and business executive’. “It’s that versatility,” says the Professor, “that enabled Kiwanuka to seize.
Son of a Rat Catcher, although relatively small, is just about everything in life. There are so many things to read and wonder about: Kiwanuka’s very humble beginnings; how he missed out on higher education; how he rose from working (as a clerk) in the King’s African Rifles to journalism, foreign service, journalism again, then business as an executive and progress from that phase to his present working life as a newspaper columnist and author.
Whom didn’t he meet and where didn’t he visit in his long service in both public and private services? He rubbed shoulders (literally) with such figures as Prime Ministers Harold Wilson of Britain, Holyoake of New Zealand and Indira Gandhi of India (who served him a glass of water when he dozed off in a conference), Pope John Paul II (now a Saint), Sir Andrew Cohen (a former Governor of Uganda whom he gave a lift in his car), Chairman Mao Tse Tung of China and many others.
As for his foreign service exploits, apart from serving at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at home, he served at our missions in London, Washington D.C., New York, Ottawa, Bonn and the Vatican. He wrote tributes to a host of people who have passed on and those of Pope John Paul II, Abubakar Mayanja, Daudi Taliwaku, Dan Zirimenya and James Namakajjo form part of the book.
Kiwanuka ends his book with 20 ‘Reflections,’ which are fascinating to read. In fact, if there is a section of the memoirs the reader should re-read, this is surely the one. There are lots of lessons to learn from these memoirs, the outstanding one being that if you have passion for your life and determination and self-confidence, the blue sky is your limit.
This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary life told by a man with an extraordinary pen at his disposal. I have read many memoirs in my life, but these are among the best I have come across.