Martin Aliker’s Candle burns out

Dr. Aliker
HABARI DAILY I Kampala, Uganda I Tributes have come pouring in for Dr. Martin Jerome Okec Aliker’s, Uganda’s renowned dental surgeon who traversed the globe for diplomacy and business. He died on Monday, April 15, 2024, at Nakasero Hospital and was laid to rest a week later.

His passing, at a ripe age of 96, has prompted a surge of reaction, with historians and friends hailing his diplomatic achievements as those from a well cultured and intentioned son of the soil.

Born to Lacito Oketch, a Rwot (chief) and Julaina Auma, a daughter of Musa Ali, the first ordained Anglican priest in the region of the Acholi way back in 1928, Aliker became a globe trotter who has been loved by many in the diplomatic and business realm.

All the way from the village of Awaranga, south-west of Gulu, Aliker has sat on the board of directors of nearly forty Ugandan companies. He was an educationalist of sorts, and was the chancellor of Victoria University Uganda, and from 2004 until 2014, and also a founding chancellor of Gulu University.


During the launch of his book titled: The Bell is Ringing, six years ago, in 2018, Aliker was described as a rare breed who has steered many businesses to the pinnacle in the country.

Held at the Kampala Serena hotel, and hosted by Johnnie Walker Blue Label, a brand sold by Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL), a company on whose board he served for 43 years (1962-2005), with several years as the board chairman and a shareholder, he was hailed as a guru and icon.

“Dr Aliker is a rare cask. A cask is a large barrel-like container used for storing quality liquids typically whisky. Very few casks have the quality required to store exquisite drinks like Blue Label. The wisdom he has secured and the inspiration his life’s story gives are not found amongst many,” said Mark Ocitti, the former UBL managing director.


Dr Alan Shonubi, the former UBL board chairman described Aliker as “a bold man set aside from the rest because of the marks of greatness he leaves everywhere he gets a chance to work.”


He was also a fervent writer. In his autobiography titled: The Bell is Ringing,  Dr Aliker describes his childhood in his homeland Acholi, his education throughout high school at King’s College Budo to Makerere University and Birmingham University in the United Kingdom.


He also details his works as Uganda’s first and most successful dentist in private practice, chairman of the Uganda Argus and his life in exile in the 1970s. Aliker also describes the period he worked with Presidents Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa; his role as foreign affairs minister and an emissary for President Museveni to President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan.

He also talks about his marriage to Camille, an American with whom they have four children who include Julie, a teacher, Martin, an athlete, Phillip, an economist and lawyer and Paul Okello, a practicing dentist.


He attended Gulu High School for his primary education, before transferring to Kings College Budo for his O-Level studies. In 1948, he was admitted to Makerere University, the oldest public university in East Africa.

Before he could complete his studies at Makerere, he won a scholarship to Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois, United States, where he studied political science, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Following that, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study dental surgery, also at Northwestern, graduating with a Doctor of Dental Surgery. Later, he was awarded the title of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.


Following his huge achievements in both the public and private sectors, Makerere University honored Dr. Aliker, referring to him as an example of a leader who was outstanding, well cultured, and an educated professional.

“He has not only excelled in the area of academia, but many other things. He was one of Makerere University’s very first and best alumni the University has ever had.”

“He stands high up there with the likes of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, President Mwai Kibaki and a few others,’ one speaker remarked at a ceremony which took place in the University’s main hall in August 2012.

Dr. William S. Kalema, the former Chairman Board of Trustees Makerere Female Scholarship Foundation (FSF) who delivered a public lecture with Aliker as the case study, said he didn’t know of any other person who was as successful both in the academic world, the public world, the business world, and as exemplary.

“Much as he is a dental surgeon, it has not stopped him from venturing into the business world. He is an investor, a shareholder in many companies. Then his name is synonymous with corporate governance.’’

Said Kalema: “In all these companies, he exhibited good exemplary leadership. Look around us. There are many educated people. But why Aliker?’’

“Companies want people who have great credibility and can offer great value and advice to the direction, management and governance of the company.’’

MUK additionally hailed him as “The man who also has been a presidential advisor both to President Yoweri Museveni and the late presidents—Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa—was hailed as hardworking and a good mentor.”


After his doctorate studies in the United States, Aliker returned to Uganda and took up employment as a government dental surgeon. Later, he left the civil service and set up the first private dental practice in Uganda owned by an African. He was the pioneer East African dental surgeon.

Aliker also proved to be a calculative businessman, who, starting in the 1960’s began buying shares in blue chip companies which included former Uganda Commercial Bank, National Insurance Company, Stanbic Bank Uganda, Uganda Clays, Nation Media Group, National Insurance Corporation, East African Breweries, among others. In effect, he became a shareholder in most of these companies and also rose to their helm as board member and in some cases Chairperson of the board.

Aliker has served on many other boards, including Monitor Publications and Uganda Clays Limited.


In 1971, when Idi Amin captured power in a coup d’état, his residence shared the back wall with Aliker’s house. Amin’s security people ordered him to move away from his home because he was deemed a security risk to Amin.

He once narrated a week after the coup, Amin’s private secretary told him that he was a security risk and had to leave his house and acquire Plot No.2 on Summit View. He henceforth embarked on constructing a new house, a process which took him an entire year.

Aliker further said that his former house was taken over by the then Commissioner of Police Kassim Obura, who was to later be kicked out by the then Governor of Kampala, Abdul Nassur Abdallah, after he was impressed by the ambiance of the house.

After Idi Amin’s regime was shown the exit, Aliker had to buy back his house. Upon coming back from Kenya in 1998 following the return of relative peace, he says he had to buy back his house at approximately sh400m, an amount which enticed families who had moved in to vacate it.

In late 1972, he fled to Nairobi, Kenya because of the deteriorating security situation in Uganda. While in Nairobi, he set up a lucrative dental practice, staying there until 1998, when he came back to Uganda. On his return, he was able to repossess his home.

His candle may have burnt out, but his trail of accomplishments will live on for many years to come.


Born in Gulu District in 1925.

Alumnus of Kings College Budo and Makerere University.

Qualified as Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) from Northwestern University, Chicago, 1959.

Influential Ugandan Business Leader and Investor, holding Directorships with a variety of companies including: Uganda Breweries Limited (1961-2001); Cooper Motor Corporation (1962-72, 2000-06); Longman Publishing, Uganda (1965-87); Phoenix Assurance Company of East Africa (1969-93); Coca-Cola Africa Region (1991-2004); Nation Media Group, 2001-11; Heritage Oil, Uganda (2003-10); and many others.

Left Uganda in exile for Nairobi, Kenya, in 1972; returned to Uganda permanently in 1996.

Advisor to Presidents Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa, 1979-80. Senior Adviser, Special Duties, to the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, 1986- . Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, 1996-99. Chairperson, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Fund, Uganda Chapter, 2012-13. Chancellor, Gulu University, 2002-2014.

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