Henry Kyemba: A Respected Civil Servant’s Legacy

On a somber Wednesday, Uganda lost a distinguished figure in its history as Henry Kyemba, an 84-year-old former Minister of Health during Idi Amin’s regime, succumbed to complications arising from diabetes. 

The news of his passing was confirmed by a family member. For the past few years, Mr. Kyemba had been residing in Namugongo, a suburb of Kampala, in the company of his daughter, Susan Kyemba.

According to his nephew, Christopher Katagwa, the late Henry Kyemba had been grappling with diabetes for an extended period. While a specific date for his burial is yet to be announced, it has been revealed that Mr. Kyemba will be laid to rest in Wanyama Village, Bugembe Ward, located in Jinja City, which holds special significance as his ancestral home.

In the wake of this loss, condolences have poured in from various quarters. One such tribute came from a prominent figure, who wrote, “We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Hon. Henry Kyemba upon his passing. Hon. Kyemba served his country with distinction in various capacities and played a critical role in preserving the history of Uganda. We pray that the Lord comforts his loved ones in this moment of grief and grants his soul eternal rest.”

Born on February 8, 1937, Henry Kyemba began his career in the Uganda civil service just before the nation’s independence from Britain in 1962. He served as the Principal Private Secretary to then Prime Minister of Uganda, Milton Obote, during this pivotal period of transition. However, his most significant and challenging role came when he joined Idi Amin’s cabinet after the 1971 Ugandan coup d’état. Rising through the ranks, he eventually assumed the role of Minister of Health from 1974 to 1977 during Amin’s tumultuous regime.

In 1977, Henry Kyemba made the daring decision to defect to London, where he chronicled his harrowing experiences and insights from the Amin era in a book aptly titled “A State of Blood.” This publication, a stark and unvarnished account of the brutalities and atrocities committed under Amin’s rule, stands as a testament to his courage and commitment to preserving historical truths.

In 1986, Kyemba returned to Uganda, serving as the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission. He also authored “State of Blood,” a book that still remains a significant reference in the discourse of Ugandan history and politics.

Henry Kyemba’s educational journey was an illustrious one, reflecting his dedication to knowledge and his pursuit of excellence. He studied at Busoga College Mwiri for his Cambridge School Certificate from 1951 to 1956. Furthering his education, he attended Makerere University between 1957 and 1962, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in History. 

He also held a master’s degree in history from Northwestern University in Evanston, the United States, along with a Certificate in African Studies from the same institution. Additionally, he possessed an Honours degree in history from the University of London.

The passing of Henry Kyemba marks the end of an era and serves as a reminder of the critical role he played in the complex history of Uganda. His dedication to public service, his unwavering commitment to truth, and his enduring legacy will continue to shape the narrative of a nation marked by both triumphs and tribulations.

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