As Uganda prepared for independence in 1962, a new and heavier burden than those borne by previous governments arose. Uganda was conscious of the statesmanship with which to move into foreign affairs, especially since its new diplomats had to learn on the job to hone their professional diplomatic skills.
When Uganda took its first steps into international diplomacy, a year before 1962, the burden fell on Benedicto Kiwanuka. The DP President General and Uganda’s first Premier had to appoint representatives to the UN in New York, and London. But this was not without tribal and religious dogfight in deciding who takes the postings.
Lord Andrew Benedicto Adimola thus became Uganda’s first black diplomat and opened Uganda Office at Trafalgar Square in London. As Government Agent, he oversaw Uganda and British Colonial Office interests in London. He quickly adjusted and coordinated all programmes and organisation of Independence Delegates for the Uganda Constitutional Conference in London in 1962.
But as the nation readies to celebrate 50 years of independence, Uganda’s pioneer diplomat has passed on. Lord Adimola had lain confined to his living room couch –disabled. He had been humbled by rheumatic arthritis.
As a devout Catholic, Adimola rarely missed the Sunday service, but could only be chauffeured to Gulu Cathedral and no more took up his special seat, which remained empty near the altar. But he still received Holy Communion ministered to him inside his car in the cathedral compound.
When we chatted at his home- five kilometres on the Gulu-Juba Road last year, Adimola’s firm voice and warm smile had belied a painful disorder of the joints that crippled his legs. His souvenirs of chafed books and wall portraits were caked with dust. But Adimola’s most prized portrait remained a framed copy of 1961 Uganda Argus newspaper article which announced his meteoric rise into Foreign Service.
Then with a sparkle in his eyes and euphoria in his voice, he asked me to unhook the framed copy of the article. “Read,” he directed, as I dusted the 50-year-old framework of the article that chronicled a segment of our prized history.
Mr Adimola was appointed by colonial Governor Sir Walter Coutts as Uganda’s first Government Agent in London in March 1961. As a pioneer diplomat, Mr Adimola initiated Uganda’s diplomatic office in London and oversaw Uganda affairs and Colonial Office and the Commonwealth. He also oversaw Uganda’s press, radio and tourism interests and presented briefs to the Government of Uganda.
He sat through all discussions in the British House of Commons that discussed Uganda’s 1962 Constitution, proposed and discussed Bills, and took them to the House of Lords for amendment and approval. Adimola was later called to the prestigious House of Lords, earning the nickname and honour title – Lord Andrew Adimola of Lacorshire.
Lacor, his little village outside Gulu Town, soon also acquired the famous equivalent of the English administrative district or county label of Lacorshire.
In 1961, Mr Adimola won the privilege to receive from Queen Elizabeth of England, the documents and ‘Instruments of Power’ which transferred power from the British colonialists to independent Uganda. He was assigned a special plane to Entebbe, the seat of the colonial government, to hand over the documents to Governor Sir Walter Coutts. He flew back to London on the same day to prepare Ugandan students and British colonial service officers to celebrate Uganda’s independence at the Royal Palace in London.
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