Posted by Flavia Serugo on Dec 02, 2018

Henry Kyemba, was born 79 years ago to a royal family with many outstanding public servants, politicians, businessmen including himself. In his long and distinguished career, he served his country in various capacities including as Permanent Secretary and Minister in the government under three presidents - Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, Idi Amin and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

He has been a Rotarian for over 30 years where he has also served in various capacities including as the third indigenous Rotary District governor 1995/96 after the late Sam Owori. He is the author of the famous State of the blood, the inside story of Idi Amin.  He is a Paul Harris Fellow and a benefactor to Rotary foundation. He lives in Jinja with his wife Janet. Our wave correspondent Flavia Serugo, reached out to him to share his story.

Briefly tell us about yourself. 

I am the son of Suleman Kisanjja who was a son of Chief Luba of Busoga who is discredited for murdering Bishop Hannington on the orders of King Mwanga. My father was a prince of Bunya chiefdom and my mother a princess from the famous Daudi Mutekanga family. I come from a very large family with many outstanding public servants, politicians, businessmen. We later produced a Bishop to sort of make amends and erase the stigma that has lived with our family for killing a white Bishop. I was the last born of seven brothers and four sisters, and the naughtiest of the lot! Unfortunately, none of them are living today, God called them home.

And your Career?

I graduated in 1962 from Makerere and  I'm a professional Historian. I decided to join the civil service as a District commissioner in the colonial government so that I could get to serve my people despite the salary being low compared to those who went to private companies. I asked the colonial administrator to post me to Kabale or Mbale because I thought they were beautiful places but instead he offered me a job to work in his office in Entebbe. 

 I later on served as a Private secretary to President Milton Obote, Minister of health during Idi Amin’s Era, member of the Constituent Assembly, member of parliament and a Minster in President Museveni’ s regime. In all these positions I was able to achieve my goal of meeting people from all walks of life including Chairman Mao, the Pope Paul VI, Queen Elizabeth and several regional heads of state. 

Tell us about your Rotary journey

I got to know of Rotary when I was Private secretary to Prime Minister Milton Obote and more when I became a minister during Presidents Amin’s time.  At that time in the 70s, Phan Ntende, the First Black District Governor and Sam Owori had a big project to help a girl who was, mauled by hyenas in Karamoja and had to seek treatment out of the country. Besides being my tribesmate, Phan was my personal friend and the best man at my wedding in 1965.  

I joined Rotary in 1987 as a Vice president and charter member of Rotary Club of Source of the Nile.  I was persuaded by Sam Owori although I had reservations at that time because not only was I serving as a member in the National Resistance Council in parliament, President Museveni had appointed me a minister.  I told Sam that there was no way I would make it for Rotary which by then had strict rules of attendance but he told me I would make up for my absences in Kampala. He asked that I continue serving or else my qualification and Rotary cadreship would be affected including governorship. Everything I am in Rotary is because of Sam Owori. He was very special and I respected him for his principals and attitude to life. I do owe him a lot and proud of him. 

Following in Sam Owori’s legacy to grow membership, are any of your family members in Rotary?

Yes, my daughter-in-law Rosemary Mutyabule is an active Rotarian in the Arch Rotary Club of Kampala and my Nephew Dr. Mutyabule was once an active member in Rotary club of Portbell although now he is a RINO (Rotarian in Name Only) because of his busy schedules but I do hope one day when he retires he will be more active. Apart from that, my other daughter Linda was a Rotaractor and now transited to the Rotary club of Kololo as an active member. My other children live abroad. I guess for one to join Rotary one must have a sense of calling, just like any other professions.  One day they will see the light and decide.

What was your biggest achievement as governor D9200?

My goal was to emphasize the importance of literacy and knowledge. As governor you get a lot of exposure and it’s not just enough to go for conventions but make connections for your district. When I went for the Governor training I got close to Governor Steven Brown of District 9340 and we decided to collaborate on literacy and education. We organized a drive to donate encyclopedias - 200 volumes were distributed to schools within Uganda and later extended to Kenya and Ethiopia. 

What can you add on Rotary’s intervention of service delivery in the health sector?

There are challenges, the more things change the more things seem to remain the same. Uganda had a very good health system. Doctors and nurses were trained, and the Hippocratic oath was taken seriously.  We used to have a population of 5 million in the 70s and now its 40 million. 

It’s a challenge to Rotarians and other organizations to think more of what to do. The government is overwhelmed and their priorities get a bit side-tracked. As Rotary, we have been involved in our project of kicking polio out of the country which has been very successful. We have contributed money to many people we have never seen. Sometime we look as if we are living in outer space in a country where we were born.  

My plea though is for people to put value to service, because even if they give you this whole country you cannot have 5 meals a day. Let’s commit to give good service.

On the future of Rotary in D9211?

During my year, my district was much larger and consisted of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Seychelles, Mauritius, and French Union – Imagine I could go to French Reunion without a French visa! Tanzania then was not part of the district, it came on board after the redistricting. Because of the growth of clubs there is no way you can’t talk about growth of districts anymore.   Good thing is that you can have many districts within a country- Nigeria had many districts within their own country at that time.  With the increase in clubs we are heading to have more districts. The numbers are increasing and we have to double our efforts in service. 

As an active Rotarian and citizen, what keeps you going?

Many people ask me this question but all I can say is that you can have all the visions and ideas but what keeps me going is my belief in God. You can only assist with the process. As a historian, I am passionate about peace and reconciliation and I am currently involved in the national dialogue process. The dialogue has kept me very busy. God has been so good to me and I can never pay him enough for what he has done for me.